The Fiat Yamaha Team moves to Spain for the Grand Prix of Catalunya this week and after Valentino Rossi’s home race in Italy last time out it is now Jorge Lorenzo’s turn in the spotlight as the local hero. After a thrilling race in Mugello the pair now lie second and third in the championship and another exciting spectacle beckons this weekend at the high-speed Montmeló track.
Mallorcan-born Lorenzo lived in Barcelona for much of his early career and after a brief hiatus in London last year he has now returned to live in his beloved home city. Following two wins and a brilliant second in Mugello the 22-year-old lies just four points off Casey Stoner in the championship standings and after disappointment on his last visit to Spain earlier this season he is determined to reach the podium in front of his fans this time out. Last year he was forced to miss the Catalunya round through injury after a crash in practice but he has won there previously in 250s and knows that home success is something special in front of the passionate and knowledgeable Spanish fans.
Montmeló has been a happy hunting ground for reigning World Champion Rossi in the past and he has no less than eight victories to his name there, but he has finished second for the past two years and would like a return to the top step at what is one of his favourite tracks. Last year he made an impressive charge through the field from ninth on the grid to take the runner-up spot but he is keen to strike back with a win this weekend to add to his victory in Jerez a few races ago and claim back points on his team-mate, whom he trails in the standings by five points.
The Circuit de Catalunya is similar to Mugello in that it features one of the longest main straights in the world. The rest of the track is characterised by long radius, medium and high-speed sweeping corners, with two tight left-hand hairpins thrown into the mix. This variation combined with regular changes in camber makes the circuit particularly demanding on chassis balance and means that front-end feel is a key concern for every rider. After the limit on testing this season, the Monday after the race will allow the teams their first chance to test since before the first race and it promises to be a crucial day of development before the busiest stage of the season.
Jorge Lozenzo Speaks…
"I’ve had a great season so far but it hasn’t all been perfect and I made a big mistake in Jerez when I tried to pass Stoner, so hopefully I can do better for my home fans this time! After Mugello and Le Mans we know that anything can happen and you just have to keep calm and focused. Now we’re going to my home, the closest place to my Island of Mallorca and one of my favourite tracks. I’ve always been fast there, right back to when I went there for the first time when I was in 125s and got my first second row start. My main aim this time is to have a better weekend than last year and to completely forget what happened. I improved on last year in Mugello so hopefully I can do the same again in Barcelona."
Valentino Rossi Speaks…
"Mugello was disappointing but still we took some good points and now, entering one of the most important phases of the championship, this is very important. We still haven’t found the perfect answer to make my M1 exactly how I want but Barcelona is a good track for us so hopefully we can make the final step there, also since we will finally have a chance to test on Monday. Barcelona is, along with Mugello and Phillip Island, one of my favourite tracks and I always love racing there. I have taken one Spanish win so far this season so I am hoping for another this weekend. We need to keep focused and use what we learnt in Mugello to put us in the right shape. Finally I am hoping for good weather because I don’t think these flag-to-flag races in the wet and the dry suit me very well!"
Lorenzo Team Manager – Daniele Romagnoli Speaks…
"Going to Barcelona, Jorge’s home race, lying second in the championship is absolutely brilliant and it gives us great motivation; we are feeling very strong right now after two good results in a row. This year the championship is very close and we need to be consistently on the podium in order to stay in touch. We’ve done very well in the last two races in the strange weather conditions but I think everyone would prefer a ‘normal’ race this time so let’s hope for some Spanish sunshine."
Rossi Team Manager – Davide Brivio Speaks…
"We’re still on target and close to the top of the championship but this weekend we need to try to gain some points on the two ahead of us in the championship. We have to work at our hardest this weekend. Usually we’re good in Barcelona but there are a lot of others who are also strong there and we know that it’s going to be a hard battle which we have to be involved in! On Monday we have our first test since the start of the season and it’s going to be a very important day which will hopefully give us some good information to help us over the second half of the championship."
Lives: Tavullia, Italy
GP victories: 98 (72 x MotoGP/500cc, 14 x 250cc, 12 x 125cc)
First GP victory: Czech Republic, 1996 (125cc)
First GP: Malaysia, 1996 (125cc)
GP starts: 215 (155 x MotoGP/500cc, 30 x 250cc, 30 x 125cc)
Pole positions: 52 (42 x MotoGP/500cc, 5 x 250cc, 5 x 125cc)
World Championships: 8 Grand Prix (1 x 125cc, 1 x 250cc, 1 x 500cc, 5 x MotoGP)
Lives: Barcelona, Spain
GP victories: 24 (3 x MotoGP, 17 x 250cc, 4 x 125cc)
First GP victory: Brazil, 2003 (125cc)
First GP: Jerez, Spain, 2002 (125cc)
GP starts: 116 (22 x MotoGP, 48 x 250cc, 46 x 125cc)
Pole positions: 32 (6 x MotoGP, 23 x 250cc, 3 x 125cc)
World Championships: 2 (250cc, 2006/7)
Montmelo': Record Lap
Pedrosa (Honda) 2008, 1’42.358
Montmelo': Best Lap
Stoner (Ducati) 2008, 1’41.186
Grand Prix Results: Montmelo’ 2008
1. Pedrosa (Honda) 43’02.175
2. Rossi (Yamaha) +2.806
3. Stoner (Ducati) +3.343