EUROPE CALLING MotoGP is heading to Jerez this weekend for the first European round of this year's world championship. After the historic opening race at Qatar, held at night earlier this month, the premier class teams return to Spain for what...
MotoGP is heading to Jerez this weekend for the first European round of this year's world championship. After the historic opening race at Qatar, held at night earlier this month, the premier class teams return to Spain for what is always one of the most popular events of the calendar.
The Kawasaki Racing Team, fielding riders John Hopkins and Anthony West, is looking forward to getting stuck in to another round and, having recently visited the circuit for the official IRTA test in February, where it ran the latest incarnation of the remarkable Ninja ZX-RR, hopes are high for some good results.
Hopkins, while still not completely recovered from a muscular injury sustained in a crash in Australia in January, nonetheless feels more than ready for another race, having had some time since Qatar to concentrate on his rehabilitation.
West remains disheartened by a disappointing opening round but will not allow that to affect him as the practice sessions begin at the end of this week. The Queenslander is more determined than ever to make his mark.
The Jerez circuit first hosted MotoGP in 1987, a year after its construction, and the championship has made an annual pilgrimage to the track (it is always the venue for the first European round of the year) since 1989.
Situated in south west Spain, not far from the coastal city of Cadiz and on the outskirts of Jerez de la Frontera, it is a popular venue for both motorcycle and Formula 1 testing during the winter months.
It has a complex layout, offering riders a real challenge. It boasts 13 turns over its 4.42km distance, so teams will be looking to set the bikes up for some hard braking with shorter, sharper bursts of power out of the corners. Given the circuit's curvaceous nature, the machines spend much of their time at an angle, so the Kawasaki squad, along with their tyre partners Bridgestone, will aim for good stability and drive.
As the 18 riders who make up the 2008 grid take their places for Sunday's 27 lap race, there will no doubt be a very substantial crowd there to watch them. Last year, Jerez saw 132,168 spectators visit the circuit on race day with a staggering 244,461 fans attending during the whole of the weekend.
Practice sessions begin on Friday and continue, along with qualifying, on Saturday, with the race itself starting on Sunday afternoon at 2pm local time.
John Hopkins - Kawasaki MotoGP Pilot #21
"The abductor muscle I tore at Phillip Island in January still isn't completely fixed but everything's going okay and I've been training hard. I've been in Miami, the sun's been out and I've been taking care of myself before Jerez. We've had some more MRI scans done, which show the injury is still definitely there, unfortunately, but it's not been keeping me from working on my fitness. Despite the muscle problem, I really feel 100% ready for the race and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm definitely going to improve on the position I got at Qatar. We'll work on tyre choice and a good set up and it'll be great to head back to Europe to race."
Anthony West - Kawasaki MotoGP Pilot #13
"I really wasn't happy with my performance at Qatar. Riding around at the back isn't why I'm here and I need to get it together. My confidence was shot when I crashed a couple of times and, after that, I never really found my pace. My main aim is essentially to raise my game. I need to have more faith in the bike and the set up, especially when it comes to turning it in to the corners. This is a weak spot for me, of sorts. Still, I'm really looking forward to the Jerez race. I really want to prove myself and I'm hoping this is where I can start doing that."