Podium Beckons Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso will have their eyes firmly fixed on a podium finish at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix at the fabulous Mugello circuit. The beautiful hills of Tuscany provide the backdrop...
Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso will have their eyes firmly fixed on a podium finish at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix at the fabulous Mugello circuit. The beautiful hills of Tuscany provide the backdrop for round five of the 2009 MotoGP World Championship and the factory Honda pair arrive in Italy looking to build on their strong showing at the last race in France.
Pedrosa will be keen to extend his run of three podium finishes in the last three races and comes to Mugello on something of a high. Having shaken off pre-season injury to produce a remarkable start to his 2009 campaign, the 23-year-old Spaniard is now on the way to full fitness - as proved by his pole position at the last race in France and his devastating speed in the closing laps of the Grand Prix. Pedrosa won the 250cc race at Mugello in 2005 and was within 0.167s of pole position last year. His MotoGP form at the demanding circuit is fourth in 2006, second in 2007 and third in 2008, and he'll be satisfied with nothing less than another podium this weekend to set him up for his home race in Barcelona, which follows in two week's time.
Dovizioso is relishing the visit to his home Grand Prix as a factory Honda MotoGP rider. The 23-year-old Italian was born in Forli, just 60 km from Mugello, and he'll certainly not be short on motivation this weekend, having come so tantilisingly close to his first podium for Repsol Honda at the French Grand Prix.
Dovizioso expects to get an extra boost from the Italian crowd this weekend as he tackles the challenging and demanding 5.245km (3.257-mile) circuit featuring several fast direction changes which call on physical strength from the rider and agility from the bike. Mugello also features a long straight where the riders hit speeds in excess of 325km/h (202mph).
In a season that has seen rain play a big part in three of the first four races, riders and teams will be fully aware that wet weather is not unheard of at Mugello either. Practice for the Grand Prix of Italy begins on Friday at 13.55, with further practice and qualifying sessions on Saturday before Sunday's 23-lap race, which begins at 14.00.
DANI PEDROSA -- World Championship position 4th - 57 points
"The race at Mugello is always a special one because the circuit is really challenging and the fans are so passionate about racing. I'm going there in a good frame of mind. We're heading into the busy part of the season and our position in the championship standings, considering the problems I had over the winter, really isn't too bad. Plus I was pleased with my pace in France, which proved to me that my physical condition is improving and I can go fast right to the end of the race. That's an important point for Mugello because it's a physically demanding track to ride, especially in the fast direction changes, and you want to be at full strength to be able to ride aggressively there - which you have to do in some parts of the track. I think it will be a tough race because it's the home event for my team-mate and for many of our rivals - plus some teams have tested here quite a lot. But I'm looking forward to the challenge. We must continue to work on our machine package and get the maximum possible result."
ANDREA DOVIZIOSO -- World Championship position 6th - 43 points
"I really look forward to the GP of Italy. Mugello is a unique place in terms of atmosphere and, although it's part of the World Championship, for me it's an event that stands alone. It's like a kind of ritual with so many memories from previous years: Tuscany, the colours and smell, the people, the food and the passion of the fans. Mugello itself is a track that requires a lot of respect. It's important to get into the right rhythm from the very beginning of the lap, but that's not easy. You need to find the correct flow from chicane to chicane and then you're faced with the most demanding part of the circuit: the three turns Casanova Savelli, Arrabbiata One and Two. Although I'm Italian I don't actually ride much at this track because we don't test here, so we come back after a full year away. We know the key places where we have to get the set-up right but it always takes a while to master the track again. There are a lot of fast changes of direction and that means riding here requires a lot of physical energy. It's bumpy too which complicates things further. As an Italian rider, the support of the fans gives me an extra drive, and the hour before the race is really special. It's important to use that boost to lift your performance and that's what I'll be aiming to do on Sunday."