Italian GP: Honda preview

This weekend MotoGP looks forward to one of its all-time greatest events -- the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello. The fourth round of the 2010 MotoGP and Moto2 World Championships is hugely popular with everyone: riders, teams...

This weekend MotoGP looks forward to one of its all-time greatest events -- the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello. The fourth round of the 2010 MotoGP and Moto2 World Championships is hugely popular with everyone: riders, teams and spectators.

Mugello has got it all: a superb high-speed circuit nestling in a beautiful Tuscan valley, the hillsides thronged with some of the world's noisiest, most enthusiastic race fans. And outside you'll find some of the world's best restaurants, and only 35 kilometres miles away is Florence, cradle of the Renaissance.

The MotoGP circus always gets an extra special welcome in Italy because five of the best riders on the grid are Italian, three of whom ride Honda machinery: Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V), Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) and Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V).

Dovizioso goes into his home Grand Prix in perfect shape, fresh from a brilliant podium result at the French GP, his second top-three finish from the first three GPs. In last year's wet-and-dry race at Mugello, the former 125 World Champion finished less than a tenth of a second off the podium, following an entertaining duel with reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha). Dovizioso has only climbed the podium once at his home GP, when he finished third in the 2006 250 GP, aboard a Honda RS250RW.

Dovizioso's team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) had a 2009 Italian GP he would rather forget, a heavy race tumble leaving the Spaniard battered and bruised. However, Pedrosa has excelled at Mugello, winning the 250 GP at the track in 2005 and achieving top-three MotoGP results in 2007 and 2008.

Top privateer Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) aims to continue his impressive and super-consistent start to the 2010 MotoGP season with another strong ride. Sixth at the Qatar season opener and seventh at Le Mans two weeks ago, de Puniet has an extra reason to do well at Mugello -- team owner Lucio Cecchinello is an Italian, and himself a former Italian GP winner. Cecchinello won the 2003 125 race at Mugello, beating a certain Dani Pedrosa by seven tenths of a second! Dovizioso was fourth in that race, just another tenth of a second behind!

Italian star Melandri is currently riding a strong curve of improvement, having scored his best result of the season so far at Le Mans. The former 250 World Champion finished sixth at Le Mans, using Showa suspension for the first time this year. Melandri has good form at Mugello -- he won the 2002 Italian 250 GP and has two other podium results in the minor classes -- but has yet to make the top three in the elite category.

Team-mate Simoncelli has also enjoyed success at Mugello, in the 250 class. The hard-riding MotoGP rookie won the 2008 250 GP at the track, on his way to that year's world title, and finished second last May after a tough battle with Alvaro Bautista, another 2010 MotoGP rookie.

Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V) is another continuing his MotoGP apprenticeship at Mugello. The last-ever 250 World Champion knows that the complex nature of the Italian track will pose him his biggest challenge so far on a MotoGP bike. Mugello is the kind of venue that rewards experience, so Aoyama and his fellow MotoGP beginners have a challenging weekend ahead of them.

The new Moto2 World Championship is sure to provide plenty more nail-biting action at Mugello -- the fastest track the new Honda CBR600-powered class has visited so far. The first three races of the inaugural championship have already given it a reputation for thrills and spills, with 41 riders fighting for every one hundredth of a second. At Le Mans two weeks ago Moto2 made history, with the closest grid in more than six decades of Grand Prix competition. At the end of qualifying just 0.969 seconds covered the top 27 riders!

Toni Elias (Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki) is currently the man on form, with two wins from the last two races giving him the points lead. Now one of an elite group of riders who have won Grand Prix victories in four classes, Elias (who has won GPs on 125s, 250s, MotoGP bikes and now on a MotoGP machine) would dearly love to make it a Moto2 hat-trick at Mugello for his Italian team boss Fausto Gresini.

Qatar Moto2 winner Shoya Tomizawa (Technomag-CIP, Suter) was one of several fallers at Le Mans but still lies second on points. The Japanese struggled to produce his usual qualifying pace in France and ended up 15th on the grid, which got him caught up in the pack once the race started.

Italian Simone Corsi (Jir Moto2, Motobi) scored his first Moto2 podium in France and will be out to repeat that performance on home tarmac. Italy's second best-placed Moto2 man is Roberto Rolfo (Italtrans S.T.R, Suter), currently ninth on points. The 30-year-old has Mugello podium form -- he took second in the 2001 Italian 250 GP. Last year's Mugello 250 winner Mattia Pasini (Jir Moto2, Motobi) is 14th on points in the Moto2 series, with two non-scores from the last two races.

Mugello is the kind of fast, flowing track that really allows MotoGP bikes to unleash their awesome horsepower. The circuit is as popular with riders as it is with fans and is also reckoned to be one of the most challenging, with a thrilling blend of fast and slow turns, rapid direction changes, plentiful off-camber corners and an ultra-rapid main straight. Mugello's complexities are further heightened by a bumpy surface, which, combined with numerous adverse-camber corners, makes front-tyre choice particularly crucial.

Honda has enjoyed great premier-class success at Mugello, first with the NSR500 two-stroke, then with the RCV four-stroke. Honda's Mugello NSR winners are Freddie Spencer (1985), Mick Doohan (1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998), Loris Capirossi (2000) and Alex Barros (2001). Valentino Rossi won the 2002 and 2003 races on his RC211V.

The Mugello event has become one of the most popular GPs since it joined the calendar full-time in 1991, first as the San Marino round and then as the Italian GP. The circuit hosted its first bike GP in 1976 but only became a regular venue after total refurbishment in the early 1990s.

After Mugello the MotoGP World Championship has one weekend off before going into a frantic run of three races on consecutive weekends: the British GP on June 20, the Dutch TT on June 26 and the Catalan GP on July 4.


Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso says: "We're arriving at Mugello in a good situation. Two weeks ago at Le Mans I was able to ride fast, we had a good race and I ended up with a great podium finish -- plus we were quite close to the two Yamahas. I think that if I had been able to qualify further forward, we could have got an even better result. So that result has set us up well for Mugello which is a very special track for me. The circuit is really fascinating to ride - it's so challenging and demanding to get right and this is what makes it so appealing. Plus the support of the Italian fans is incredible. I like everything here: the people, the circuit, Tuscany, Firenze, the food... I really look forward to racing at Mugello. It's also a special appointment also for my fans gathered at the Casanova Savelli turns, so I'll do everything I can to put on a good show for them this weekend."

Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa says: "Mugello is one of the circuits you always look forward to because the atmosphere is incredible. It's very similar to Spain, people are very passionate, the viewing areas are normally full from the first day of practice and it helps you to get quickly in the mood for the Grand Prix. We will have to work hard this weekend, for sure, but we are very motivated to improve on the final result we got in France. We are working well with the team, adapting the bike to get the best package possible for each track, and we need to get it absolutely right for the race. I hope we can do that in Italy. This season we go there in much better shape than last year and that's important because Mugello is a physically demanding track to ride, especially in the fast direction changes. The strategy for the weekend is simply to be totally focused and get the maximum out of every session."

LCR Honda rider Randy de Puniet says: "I like Mugello very much but I have never obtained a good result there in the premier class so far. Last year I finished the race in eighth position in strange conditions but I feel more confident this year on this bike. There's the longest straight of the season and you need to have a really good bike set up to exit the last corner because during the race you can easily get passed by other riders. We will fix the engine mapping to be as fast as possible and we will keep on working in the same direction because our target is to maintain the sixth place in the World Championship."

Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) says: "I am happy to be going to Mugello with a more positive mentality than recent races. I had a good race at Le Mans and now I am sure we have the right base to start with at Mugello and can continue to work well. I love this circuit and your home Grand Prix is always a special occasion. Hopefully the weather stays stable, at least for practice so that we can work well and prepare for the race, whatever the conditions are on Sunday. I am feeling positive and looking forward to racing at a circuit I like, with its changes in pace and fast corners and all the fans banked around the circuit -- it is a unique and fantastic place."

Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) says: "Mugello is upon us and considering the fact that I could have come away with a much better result at Le Mans than I did I am confident about this one. We made a few changes to the bike in France after warm-up but in the race they didn't seem to work -- maybe it was because of the higher temperatures. It was a shame because I'm sure I could have made up a few more positions but I'm thinking positive and looking forward to being even faster this Sunday. I have always liked Mugello a lot -- I won there in 2008 and last year in the rain I had a close battle with Pasini but unfortunately lost out at the line. Seeing all the people on the hillsides gives you an extra boost to do well. "

Interwetten Honda MotoGP rider Hiroshi Aoyama says: "Mugello is one of the most difficult tracks on the calendar. For me, this track is not very easy. It is a difficult and technically special track. You need to have a really good experience to be up at the front at Mugello. Anyway, I like the circuit. At Le Mans I improved on my performance from the race before, but I want to be better again and to keep improving. I know that we have the potential to be better, so we will try and we will see where we can be."


Technomag-CIP rider Shoya Tomizawa says: "I cannot wait to get to Mugello. I don't want to have another weekend like we had at Le Mans where I didn't qualify so well, which really hurt us in the race. So I will do my best on the track and concentrate on setting up the bike. This is important for me and the team."

Gresini Racing Moto2 rider Toni Elias says: "The Moto2 series is still very new, so it's difficult to know what will happen this weekend. I have won the last two races, but no one knows what will happen at Mugello. The lap times are so close, so it's very easy to be first at one moment, and then in tenth place the next. As usual, I will work hard with my team in practice and then give my full focus and concentration during the race. I am looking forward to it."

JIR Moto2 rider Simone Corsi says: "Mugello has always been an exciting race, either because it's one of the most fascinating circuits of the championship or because it is my home GP, therefore the hills are filled by supporters and fans. Here Italians can give that little more. I'm happy and relaxed, because I come from a good podium in Le Mans which pays back the work done by the team and realises the continuous advancements we've made since the first race. I'm confident I'll give a good performance, a victory is our real aim but the objective is to continue to improve, collecting as many points as possible for the championship. We'll have to work hard on our performance in qualification, in order to start at the front and not let anybody get away."

-source: honda

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Alex Barros , Randy de Puniet , Mick Doohan , Marco Melandri , Alvaro Bautista , Andrea Dovizioso , Marco Simoncelli , Lucio Cecchinello , Roberto Rolfo , Toni Elias , Freddie Spencer , Hiroshi Aoyama , Shoya Tomizawa , Dani Pedrosa , Simone Corsi
Teams CIP