Repsol Honda RC212V riders Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden will be joined by wild card team-mate Tadayuki Okada at the Italian GP. Venerable HRC test rider Okada contests this one-off event to give Honda's pneumatic-valve-spring RC212V engine its ...
Repsol Honda RC212V riders Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden will be joined by wild card team-mate Tadayuki Okada at the Italian GP. Venerable HRC test rider Okada contests this one-off event to give Honda's pneumatic-valve-spring RC212V engine its MotoGP debut.
Pedrosa aims to return to his winning ways in Italy after a tough French GP where he scored his first non-podium finish in five races. The Spanish star was fourth in France and still holds joint second place in the World Championship standings. Last year Pedrosa finished a close second at Mugello. In 2005 he won the 250 GP at the track. Hayden is still chasing his first top-three finish of the season and will be aiming to repeat the Mugello podium he achieved in 2006 on his way to winning that year's MotoGP crown.
Okada returns to GP duties to give HRC's new RCV engine its MotoGP shakedown following an intensive testing programme. The 41-year-old Japanese rider is well known at Repsol Honda -- he raced for the team from 1996 to 2000, winning a total of four 500 GPs and finishing second overall to Mick Doohan in the 1997 500 World Championship. He made his GP debut on a Honda NSR250 in 1989 and went on to win two 250 GPs and finish second in 1994 250 world series.
Mugello is a hugely challenging circuit for riders and engineers, with plenty of fast corners, high-speed direction changes and changes of elevation. The track rises and falls through a picturesque Tuscan valley and features one of MotoGP's longest straights. In fact the straight isn't quite straight -- the left-hand kink towards the end of the start-finish sees riders leaning left with the front wheel in the air at around 320km/h-200mph!
After Mugello the MotoGP action switches to Spain for the following weekend's Catalan GP outside Barcelona. This is MotoGP's busiest period with six races over eight weekends.
"We made some positive forward steps when we tested at Le Mans after the race, so we will be working hard to get back up front at Mugello. We have many races over the next few weeks, so it's important to get into a good rhythm and maintain that rhythm. Mugello is a great circuit in an amazing valley full of people which makes the atmosphere fantastic. The circuit is one of the most complicated in the championship. It's a very high-speed track, so if you want to be fast you need to concentrate 100 per cent everywhere and take a lot of risks. You need as much corner speed as possible and you need a very stable bike that's also fast through all the direction changes. You have to find a balance of riding aggressively and smoothly, using hard tyres because this track is quite hard on the tyres. It's about time the track was resurfaced because it's getting very bumpy."
"Mugello will be another hard one, because right now we're missing a bit -- we know it's there, we've just got to put it all together. Mugello is awesome, I'd say it's one of the best tracks, the best races we go to all year, the atmosphere is pretty unique. The track has a little bit of everything. The big front straightaway looks straight and easy on TV but when you're in the saddle it's got a little kink in it over a rise. The wheel's off the ground through there, so you can't be leaning too much or sawing on the 'bars! The track has got lots of chicanes, though they're fast chicanes, not the little Mickey Mouse go-kart chicanes you see at other tracks, they're quite quick switchbacks. There's also a lot of elevation changes and a few downhill corners that are tricky so you need a front end with feeling, you've got to trust the front end a lot. The surface is getting well used, quite bumpy and abrasive."
"My last grand prix race was at Phillip Island in 2000, so it's more than seven years since I last raced in GPs! I am really looking forward to Mugello -- the long straight should suit my machine with pneumatic-valve engine. Finally, it is ready to race now. I scored some good results on 500s at Mugello. I finished on the podium in 1999 but in 1998 I was battling for the lead with Mick Doohan when I highsided and broke a wrist. The track is a very technical course with tricky right and left corners."