DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM RETURN TO EUROPE FOR SPANISH CLASSIC
After a fantastic opening to the 2008 season under the floodlights of Qatar, where the Losail circuit played host to another masterclass from Casey Stoner, MotoGP returns to Europe this weekend for one of its classic fixtures - the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez de la Frontera.
Despite setting the fastest lap in wet conditions during the Official Test here in February, when he also found excellent race pace in the dry, the reigning World Champion is also aware that the Andalusian track is one of only four venues where he didn't manage a podium finish on his way to the title last season.
However, Stoner is not the type to look at past results - be they good or bad - and he is ready to work 100% with his team to achieve the highest possible finish this time out.
Stoner's team-mate Marco Melandri heads to Spain in the same spirit after finding a good feeling and rhythm with his GP8 during the second half of the race in Qatar. He can't wait for the next Grand Prix as he targets continued improvements.
A fortnight ago, Casey Stoner and Marco Melandri attended the international media launch of the new Bridgestone Battlax BT-016 tyre at Jerez using a Ducati 848 equipped with the new hypersport tyres (photos attached)
LIVIO SUPPO, MotoGP Project Director
"Last year Jerez was one of the most difficult races for Casey but during both tests here in November and February he managed to improve his performance a lot and ended up very fast in both sessions. He is in incredible form, as he showed in the first GP in Qatar. His confidence in the bike and tyres is definitely even higher than it was a year ago so I think that at Jerez he can also be amongst the frontrunners. We're also expecting an improved performance from Marco, who we think learnt a lot in the first race. There is no doubting his talent - it is only three races since the penultimate round of 2007 at Sepang when he produced an outstanding display to finish second behind Casey. Now, with the improved feeling he found with the Desmosedici during the race in Qatar, I'm sure the results will start to come for him too."
CASEY STONER, Ducati Marlboro Team
"You could say that Jerez last year wasn't one of our best races, but winter testing went well there and with the general improvements we've made since last year I think we can be competitive next weekend. We worked well with the Bridgestone technicians there and tested a lot of different types of tyre, so we should be well prepared to pick the right one for the race. There are a lot of riders who have started the season strongly, especially the rookies, amongst them riders who will want more of the same and riders racing at home, so they'll be very motivated. We just have to try and make sure we do our job well and then try to achieve the best result possible."
MARCO MELANDRI, Ducati Marlboro Team
"Jerez is one of the circuits where we did a lot of testing in the winter and where we tried a lot of different set-up solutions. It is quite a demanding circuit but for me the first race was very important to understand certain things, more than we'd managed during the tests. I definitely have to decide on a direction during practice and follow it without making too many modifications so that we're ready when the moment arrives to put in a qualifying tyre. Starting closer to the front gives you the chance to be fast from the first laps, something we couldn't do in Qatar. The first race certainly wasn't at the level we want to be at but there were positives to take out of it, especially in the second half, so we have to keep working because we can and must improve."
Built in 1986, Jerez hosted its first Grand Prix the following year and has stayed on the World Championship calendar ever since. It is a race that the majority of riders look forward too thanks to the special atmosphere created by the Spanish fans and the characteristics of the circuit layout, which reward good riding. Many of the 13 corners flow into each other, requiring a precise and smooth racing line and a well-balanced machine set-up. The track also demands good front grip, whilst a host of slower corners also oblige the riders to control the rear wheel as it slides under acceleration on the exit. The latest resurfacing took place six years ago and the circuit infrastructure was also given a recent facelift.
Circuit Record: Valentino Rossi (Yamaha - 2005) 1'40.596 - 158.284 km/h
Best Pole: Loris Capirossi (Ducati - 2006) 1'39.064 - 160.732 km/h
Circuit Length: 4.423 km.
MotoGP Race 2008: 27 laps (119,421 km)
MotoGP Schedule 2008: 14:00 CET