England's historical Silverstone circuit will host Round 5 of the 2010 MotoGP season this weekend, the modified 3.66-mile circuit considered the fastest venue during this year's 18-race schedule. And since it'll be the first time MotoGP riders will be competing on the track since 1986, the circuit is relatively unknown to every rider on the grid.
But with the huge return of GP racing at Silverstone, the series lacks its superstar Valentino Rossi. This weekend's Air Asia British Grand Prix will be the first time the nine-time champion will not start a Grand Prix after 229 consecutive starts. The 31-year-old Italian is recovering from a broken leg that he sustained during a horrific high-side at Mugello, and Fiat Yamaha has opted to not replace him this weekend.
Fiat Yamaha Team Manager Lin Jarvis told the media that Rossi won't be making an appearance at the British Grand Prix, but to please the many VR46 fans in the UK, or all the British Isles, Fiat Yamaha will display both of Rossi's YZR-M1 machines in their paddock, keeping a chunk of his presence alive. This is sure to please fans, considering Rossi has a close relationship with them; he resided in London for several years.
But excitement will still be rampant for MotoGP fans, especially the Yamaha lovers. Fiat Yamaha's other player, Jorge Lorenzo, enters the circuit with two wins and two second places, leading the championship with 90 points. The 23-year-old Spaniard won on British soil en route to his 2006 250cc Championship, taking the win at Donington Park, where MotoGP held its British GPs from 1986 until last year.
Lorenzo's premier-class races are a different story. During his rookie year at Donington, he finished sixth, and at last year's meeting, he crashed out while in the lead. Unknown to the track, Lorenzo says his only experience comes through Play Station, so he'll do some laps on a machine much slower than his YZR-M1.
Jorge Lorenzo says: "I will do some laps with the scooter on Thursday; I don't always do this but I think it's very important because so far I've only seen the track on the Play Station and it's changed quite a lot. My aim is once again to get on the podium, but I was disappointed after Mugello and I want to do a better race in England. I am happy with my lead in the standings but I want to keep improving and this weekend we will try to find some more traction for my M1."
"Last week I went to the Isle of Man to see the TT, which was an incredible experience and I even rode a lap, but quite slowly! On Wednesday I will go to Lord's Cricket Ground for a press conference and it will be the first time I've seen cricket, because we don't play in Spain. I think it will be interesting to discover this sport, and maybe even play! Finally I want to send again my best wishes to Valentino, I am glad he is recovering well and we will miss him in these busy weeks."
Just 25 points (one race win) behind Lorenzo is his fellow countryman, Dani Pedrosa. The Repsol Honda rider is coming off a dominating performance at Mugello - pole position, race victor and new lap record setter. Besides the win, Pedrosa's only other time on the podium was second at Jerez, and the 24-year-old seems to be adapting better to his RC212V.
Dani Pedrosa says: "We arrive at Silverstone in good shape after the victory in Mugello. We had a very good weekend in Italy and myself and the team need to make the most of it to maintain this momentum. I cannot say much about Silverstone. I've seen some races on video from the past to check the circuit a little bit, but they have made some changes and I think the layout is also a bit different compared to Formula One, so we will need to find out for ourselves.
"From what I've seen I can say it's a fast circuit, high speed overall, with many right-hand corners which are taken with the throttle open. It looks like an old-fashioned circuit, maybe comparable to Assen before they shortened it. We will start on Friday without prior knowledge, but it's the same for everyone so I hope we can adapt as quickly as possible to prepare for the race. We will have three races in a row now - Britain, Holland and Catalunya - and it will be very important not to make mistakes and to maintain consistency in the results."
Rossi maintains third in the championship, with 61 points, but with him being out Pedrosa's teammate Andrea Dovizioso can possible slip up a spot with positive results this weekend. The 24-year-old Italian has three third-place finishes this year, two of those consecutively from the last two meetings in Mugello and Le Mans.
Dovizioso has only been about 10 seconds behind the race winners in the first four rounds this season, and has luck on British soil considering he took his maiden MotoGP victory at a damp Donington last year.
Andrea Dovizioso says: "I'm really excited to go to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix. We used to race at Donington Park, which was a track that I really liked and where only myself and Valentino had won in all the Grand Prix classes - 125cc, 250cc and MotoGP. But despite this I'm very much looking forward to Silverstone. It's a new track for everyone and we have no previous reference data for the circuit, which gives us one more challenge for the race weekend.
"From the layout, it seems a very fast track and this could be favorable for our RC212V, but we will have to wait and see first hand to get a true idea of how we're going to perform. We arrive at this race in very good shape, with three podiums from four races, and we're feeling especially good after the podium at Mugello - my home race - because this was really significant for me. Now we have to take another step forward because on Sunday I want to fight for the win."
Currently fifth in the championship with 39 points is Nicky Hayden. The Ducati Marlboro rider of Kentucky had three consecutive fourth-place finishes in the first three races, but crashed out on lap six at Mugello after running his GP10 wide and sliding into the gravel. His teammate Casey Stoner has had bad luck for most of the season, crashing out at Qatar and Le Mans, but raced to a best finish of fourth at Mugello. The Australian, who is also the 2007 Champion, is currently in eight in the championship with 24 points.
Nicky Hayden says: "I like the idea of going to a new track - it is exciting and it's a challenge for the riders and for the team. I have seen a video of the track and obviously the team have the layout, which we have looked at together and talked about what gear ratios we might need, things like that. It looks like a fast track and we have a fast bike so that is a positive start. We have an intense run of races coming up and even though unfortunately the race at Mugello didn't go to plan we did a good job in practice there and we'll be looking to do the same thing here."
The highest privateer currently in the championship is LCR Honda rider Randy de Puniet, who sits in sixth place with 36 points. But only four points behind is San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Melandri, who like Stoner also had his highest finish of the season at Mugello with fifth.
According to the MotoGP official website, San Carlo Honda Gresini's Marco Simoncelli currently leads a group of three rookies that includes Ben Spies (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Héctor Barberá (Páginas Amarillas Aspar) and all will continue their education at Silverstone. Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech3), Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda MotoGP Team), Aleix Espargaró (Pramac Racing) and Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) will all be targeting progressive points hauls, whilst Mika Kallio (Pramac Racing) and Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) will hope their respective injuries do not hinder their early season progress any more than has already been the case.
Silverstone, located in Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire, was first used for impromptu car racing in 1947, the track no more than a disused airfield. Motorcycles first raced on the track in 1977, and the venue was the home of the British Grand Prix until 1986. The following year, the British Grand Prix was held at Donington Park, the series competing there until last year. The last three riders to win at Silverstone were all on Hondas - Randy Mamola in 1984, Freddie Spencer in 1985 and Wayne Gardner in 1986.
And as for many skeptics that said there will be a dropout in fan participation without Rossi, Silverstone's numbers proved otherwise - general admission tickets for race day were sold out on Monday. First practice for the British Grand Prix takes place on Friday afternoon, with qualifying on Saturday and the 20-lap race on Sunday.
SPEED TV will air the British Grand Prix at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, June 20, and again at 5 p.m. Coverage of Moto2 will follow at 6 p.m. Sunday.
MotoGP Point Standings (after 4 rounds):
1. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha Team 90
2. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team 65
3. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha Team 61
4. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Repsol Honda Team 58
5. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati Marlboro Team 39
6. Randy de Puniet (FRA) LCR Honda MotoGP 36
7. Marco Melandri (ITA) San Carlo Honda Gresini 32
8. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team 24
9. Marco Simoncelli (ITA) San Carlo Honda Gresini 23
10. Ben Spies (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 20
11. Colin Edwards (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 19
12. Hector Barbera (SPA) Aspar Team 19
13. Hiroshi Aoyama (JAP) Interwetten-Honda MotoGP 18
14. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) Pramac Green Team 16
15. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 13
16. Mika Kallio (FIN) Pramac Green Team 12
17. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 8
From a Dorna Press Release
UK fans will also get the chance to see the Moto2 class up close in its debut season as the early Championship battle develops, and as each round goes by more and more riders are contributing their names to the fight for the inaugural 600cc title.
Toni Elías (Gresini Racing Moto2) arrives at Silverstone having stretched his lead at the top of the standings by a single point to 19 with his fifth placed finished at Mugello, with Shoya Tomizawa (Technomag-CIP) and Simone Corsi (JiR Moto2) separated by just four points after placing sixth and third respectively in the previous round. Andrea Iannone’s (Fimmco Speed Up) home win and Sergio Gadea’s (Tenerife 40 Pons) second place mean they have both also moved up the standings and will aim for further points and momentum. So far Elías, Corsi, Gadea and Gabor Talmacsi are the only riders to have scored points in all four rounds, and Fimmco Speed Up rider Talmacsi is scheduled to mark the milestone of 150 GP starts at Silverstone.
Marc VDS Racing Team rider Scott Redding will be optimistic that home support can help him to a strong result. The British rider will be hoping for a repeat of his home GP win at Donington in the 125cc class in 2008, when he became the youngest ever GP winner. Home hopes will be doubled by the presence of wildcard rider Kev Coghlan for the Monlau Joey Darcey team.
In the 125cc class home representative Bradley Smith, who is still in search of his first podium of the campaign, will be marking this race down as one at which he will be desperate to please the British fans.
The 2009 World Championship runner-up is the only non-Spanish rider inside the top six in the current standings – he is fourth at present – and if Smith were to take victory this weekend he would end a run which has seen Spanish riders win the last 14 eighth-litre races. At present it is his Bancaja Aspar team-mate Nico Terol who leads the Championship on 85 points.
Terol’s formidable start to the campaign – a win and three second places – have made him the first rider since Álvaro Bautista in 2006 to finish on the podium in the opening four 125cc races of the season. Pol Espargaró (Tuenti Racing) at six points further back, has now finished inside the top four in eight successive races, which include three victories and three further podiums.
Marc Márquez (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) moved into third in the standings with his first GP victory at Mugello in the last round, and Smith, Efrén Vázquez (Tuenti Racing) and Esteve Rabat (Blusens-STX) are separated by just two points from fourth to sixth.
Danny Webb (Andalucia Cajasol) will be another rider looking for a home result, and he will be joined by wildcard riders Taylor Mackenzie (KRP), James Lodge (RS Earnjmax Motorcycle), Deane Brown (Colin Appleyard/Macadam Racing), William Dunlop (James Delaney) and Andrew Reid (Aztec Grand Prix).
The AirAsia British Grand Prix takes place from June 18th-20th with the opening 125cc practice session starting the weekend’s on-track action at 12.40pm local time on Friday. There will also be the 2010 Day of Champions which will take place on Thursday June 17th.