The Istanbul Circuit, with its dramatic changes of elevation, is a rollercoaster track and a veritable theatre for race fans. It is also a circuit that holds special memories for Team Honda Gresini rider Marco Melandri, winner of the Grand Prix of...
The Istanbul Circuit, with its dramatic changes of elevation, is a rollercoaster track and a veritable theatre for race fans. It is also a circuit that holds special memories for Team Honda Gresini rider Marco Melandri, winner of the Grand Prix of Turkey for the past two seasons.
Expectations are high for a race that is being touted as the first true challenge of the season in terms of race strategy and tyre choice. Unlike Qatar and Jerez, the riders did not complete any preseason testing at this circuit so tyre choice for the weekend will be made 'on the drawing board', based on the characteristics of the circuit and recent tests following the Grand Prix of Spain.
After enjoying positive results in those tests at Jerez, both Marco Melandri and Toni Elias are looking forward to the third round of the season with confidence. The Italian is determined to repeat his victories from the past two years at the Turkish track and maintain his record as the only rider in MotoGP to win there since it opened in 2005. After taking fourth place at Jerez, Toni Elias is also aiming high and looking for an even better result at a circuit where he holds the lap record -- set in the race last year.
MARCO MELANDRI: "The Jerez test was really important for Sunday's race because we were able to try out a couple of interesting solutions aimed at improving the feeling on the front end, which has given me some problems during the first two races. We've taken a step forward and that allows me to look ahead with confidence to Istanbul, a special circuit that holds wonderful memories for me. I scored my first MotoGP victory there in 2005, the first time we had visited the circuit. In 2006 I repeated the win after a breathtaking battle with Casey Stoner. I like the track a lot -- it is balanced and technical, characterised by frequent changes in direction and pace. I'm confident that the feeling we found in the test, my determination to have fun and the good memories I have of this circuit will give me the ammunition I need".
TONI ELIAS: "I feel really motivated ahead of the trip to Istanbul. That fourth place at Jerez and the work we completed in the test after the race has given me optimism because we took a big step forward with the set-up and the feeling with the tyres has improved once again. Istanbul is a circuit I like a lot because there are so many elevation changes, hard braking areas, a mixture of fast and slow corners and I have always been fast there. Last year I made a good fight-back from twelfth to fifth place and even set a new circuit record! Bridgestone should be bringing some new stuff to Turkey so I hope this can help me improve more on the rear. This will be the first race where we have to make our tyre choice without any previous data because we've never ridden here with the 800 and for us it will also be the first time with Bridgestone".
Focus: The tyre challenge
Bridgestone certainly won't be unprepared for the next two rounds, which represent one of the biggest challenges of the season for the Japanese firm. Last year the Bridgestone tyres struggled at Istanbul, despite the pole position set in the damp by Chris Vermeulen, who eventually finished seventh -- one place behind the top Bridgestone rider Loris Capirossi. "Turkey is a demanding circuit," comments Hiroshi Yamada, Bridgestone's Motorcycle Sport Department Manager. "With respect to last year we need to find more grip and consistency so we will take a mixture of medium and hard tyres for all the teams. We have opted for the new generation compound that we tested at Jerez. Without any previous data for these machines at this track, we have looked closely at the technical demands of the circuit and the data from 2006, adapting that to the 800cc specification. We will make our final choice during the week before the race depending on the latest weather forecast."