Heated MotoGP battle heads to sunny Catalunya

After two consecutive flag-to-flag races for the first time ever in MotoGP, blazing sunshine was a welcome relief for the FIM World Championship paddock as they gathered at Montmeló on Thursday for the Gran Premi Cinzano de Catalunya build-up.

Basking in both the sun and the glory of his favourite football team’s recent success, Jorge Lorenzo provided the first media event of the day with the unveiling of a special livery and helmet. The only Spaniard in MotoGP not to hail from the Barcelona area, Lorenzo is nonetheless a big fan of the city’s football club, and showed off the F.C. Barcelona colours on his Fiat Yamaha M1 in front of two of their delegates.

Lorenzo later featured in the press conference alongside Dani Pedrosa, Toni Elías, Sete Gibernau and series leader Casey Stoner -the winner of the previous round at Mugello in Italy.

When asked by journalists whether he felt extra responsibility this weekend on home soil, as he prepares to make his premier class Barcelona race debut, a confident Lorenzo replied.

Jorge Lorenzo Speaks…

"I don’t feel any extra pressure. For me riding here is just as important in terms of the championship as riding in Australia or Malaysia. Of course it would be great to get a good result because I have my friends and family here, but all the races in MotoGP are important."

Meanwhile, in his own calm and collected style the level-headed Stoner previewed the weekend’s action by stating:

Casey Stoner Speaks…

"Although I’ve had some ups and downs here I’ve always enjoyed this track. Mugello worked out very well for us even though we’ve had some problems this year, lucked out in a couple of races and made some bad decisions. We have always had reasonably good pace at races where we weren’t normally fast and I think we’ve got a better chance here than last year."

The remaining trio in the press conference have all had their injuries in the past few months, the most recent rider to pick up damage being Repsol Honda Pedrosa. In his first conversation with the media since confirming his presence at his home round, he said of the hip/femur injury:

Dani Pedrosa Speaks…

"I was in a lot of pain on the bike in Mugello but things have improved in the last two weeks. In everyday activities it has got much better but I won’t know how well I can ride until I actually get on the bike on Friday and test it out." Pressed on whether rumours that he had signed a new contract with Honda for 2010 were true Pedrosa responded: "We have not even had that conversation yet."

Ducati satellite veteran Gibernau had to miss races at both Le Mans and Mugello with shoulder damage, but is back for his own local round -and in high spirits.

Sete Gibernau Speaks…

"After listening to what Dani and Toni have been through recently I think I’m absolutely fine!" he joked. "My shoulder is getting much better and I feel ok. The whole project with this new team in 2009 has been a big job but I love riding and I still feel I can show my potential again this year."

The riders will get their first runout at the Circuit de Catalunya on Friday afternoon, as practice begins for round six of the 2009 season.