The MotoGP paddock continues its `tour de force´ this week with a trip from Assen to Barcelona (at the Catalunya circuit) for the third Motorcycle Racing Grand Prix in as many weekends.
The 1650km drive from Holland to Spain is the final leg of an interminable European road trip for the Moto GP teams ahead of a well-earned weekend off.
Marco Simoncelli heads to the Montmelò circuit looking to continue with the impressive progress he has made in his rookie season, despite a setback at Assen, where he suffered a tyre problem. "Super Sic" showed great maturity to bring his race bike home and provided another sign of the character needed to be successful in this class in turning a negative experience into a positive one.
At Barcelona he will look to reap the fruit of the progress he made in practice at Assen, with Montmelò amongst his favourite circuits and the scene of one of his many 250cc victories in 2008. After two GPs to forget Marco Melandri will be back in action this weekend, following a crash in the race at Silverstone and another in practice at Assen, which left him with a dislocated shoulder.
Intense physiotherapy since then should see him fit to ride this weekend. Following an initial consultation by Doctor Costa on Saturday morning, on Monday he was examined by Doctor Giuseppe Porcellini, who reported that the rider needs to undergo further checks on the collarbone ligaments and confirmed that the bone in his shoulder has suffered a major trauma.
Specialist tests will be undertaken following the race in Barcelona but at the moment he has been given clearance to race.
Melandri´s desire to get back on his Honda RC212V could not be greater, having recently found a way forward with the bike´s set-up after a difficult start to the year.
The Italian is desperate to ride it at a track where he also has a 250cc victory to his name and where he stood on a MotoGP podium for the first time back in 2004 (he was back there one year later), as he looks to put the disappointment of the last two races behind him.
Marco Simoncelli says: "The tyre problem at Assen definitely wasn´t what we wanted! It has halted my progress a little and denied me the opportunity to improve on my result from Silverstone, which is a shame. Anyway, I was happy to have at least finished the race in those conditions. I suppose it was one of those bad experiences that helps you to grow stronger. At Barcelona I want to pick up from where we left off in practice at Assen and put the Dutch TT behind me. I like this track a lot, I have won here in 250 and I´m sure I´ll feel comfortable. My feeling with the bike is improving and thanks to the team and Honda I am making constant progress, the gap to the front guys is getting smaller and I am more and more convinced that I am going to be fighting for top results soon."
Marco Melandri says: "I´m going to Barcelona with the clear objective of putting the disappointments of Silverstone and Assen behind me. I will obviously have to wait and see how I feel on the bike after such a big crash in Holland but my determination to race again is huge. I have had a lot of treatment on the shoulder since Saturday and even though I still won´t be at peak physical fitness I am determined to get back out on track. I really want to build on the progress we made in practice at Assen, where we confirmed our recent progress with the set-up of the bike. I hope I am fit and able to continue the recent good work we´ve been doing so that we can have more to be pleased with by the end of the weekend."
Fausto Gresini says: "I hope Barcelona holds more positives for us than Assen did. Simoncelli did well to get to the finish with his tyre in that kind of condition but it was a setback for him in terms of his continual and constant growth. Race by race he learns something new on the bike, he is getting closer to the front and I am convinced that he will soon have something to celebrate. Melandri will be looking to bounce back from the result at Silverstone and the injury at Assen. At Barcelona he´ll get an even better idea of how far he has come with the set-up of the bike. Up until the crash practice went well at Silverstone and Assen and he looked set to be running up front. It didn´t turn out to be the case but his confidence is so high right now that if he is fit then Melandri will be competitive again at Montmelo. "
Right corners: 8
Left corners: 5
Longest straight: 1.047km
Circuit Record: Daniel Pedrosa (Honda - 2008), 1´42.358 - 166.251 Km/h
Best Pole: Casey Stoner (Ducati - 2008), 1´41.186 - 168.177 Km/h
MotoGP Schedule: Sunday 4th July @ 14:00, 25 laps (118.175 km)
TEAM GRESINI AT CATALUNYA
The Gresini team enjoyed a five-year run of podiums at the Catalunya circuit in the early part of the decade, starting with victory for Daijiro Kato in 2001 - one of his eleven success that season - followed up by second place for his replacement in the squad´s 250cc line-up, Roby Rolfo, in 2002.
The team´s rostrum success carried into the MotoGP class in 2003 when Sete Gibernau took third place in his home race, the Barcelona-born rider going one better by finishing second in 2004. Sete repeated that position in 2005, when he was joined on the podium by his team-mate Marco Melandri in third.
However, there was a dramatic contrast in fortunes for the team in 2006, when Melandri was one of six riders involved in a sickening first-corner pile-up. Incidentally, both the Italian and his current team-mate Marco Simoncelli have won races here in the 250cc class.