Repsol Honda riders relishing the challenge of Mugello
Repsol Honda riders Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa head to the magnificent Mugello circuit fully fired up to build on their strong start to the season. With the next six races being covered by just seven weeks, Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix is an important springboard for a busy summer of MotoGP racing. A good result here will give the Repsol Honda stars further momentum as they mount their title challenges.
Hayden is looking to stretch the world championship lead he’s held since the third race in Turkey. The 24-year-old American has come into 2006 with a fresh focus and determination, displaying impressive speed and consistency as he develops the evolution Honda RC211V. He produced a gritty ride at the last round in Le Mans, battling set-up problems and flu to take a fighting fifth place. And Hayden has vowed to come out of the blocks fast at Mugello, a circuit where he really enjoys the racing and the atmosphere.
His teammate Pedrosa lies just 10 points behind in the championship and has made a stunning start to his debut MotoGP season. So far in 2006 the 20-year-old hotshot has stood on every step of the podium, including a maiden win in China, and has recorded two pole positions in the first five races. The compact Spaniard is ready to face the challenge of Mugello, where he won the 250cc race last year on the way to the world championship.
The spectacular Mugello circuit is one of the most popular venues on the MotoGP calendar with riders and fans alike. Snaking through beautiful Tuscan countryside the track’s challenging combination of fast and slow corners, plus a long straight, provides the perfect recipe for spectacularly close racing. And the carnival atmosphere created by the thousands of Italian fans on Grand Prix weekend has to be felt—and heard—to be believed.
The Italian Grand Prix weekend begins with free practice on Friday, a one-hour qualifying session on Saturday followed by Sunday’s race beginning at 2pm CET.
Nicky Hayden – 2005 result: 6th
“I’m really excited about going to Mugello because it’s an awesome place to race. The Italian fans really love their Grand Prix racing and it’s just an exciting place to be. The track is really good to ride and with that long straightaway drafting comes into play, which usually makes for a close race. It’s an important one too, going into the summer, because we’ve got a lot of races coming up. I definitely need to get back on that podium after eight races on the trot and then missing out in the last race. So we’re going to have to raise our game and get ready—we’ve got to start off on Friday at a much higher level than we started at Le Mans. Plus, all the Italian riders are at home so motivation is going to be high for everybody—I can’t wait to get out there.”
Dani Pedrosa – 2005 result: 1st (250cc race)
“Mugello is one of the most complicated circuits we race on. It has a lot of variation: slow corners, fast corners, elevation changes and there are quite a few bumps that make the suspension set-up critical. It’s a really challenging track and was very physical to ride on a 250, so on a MotoGP bike I think it will be very tiring. The straight is one of the longest of the championship and the speeds are really high which means slipstreaming in the race is really important. Hopefully we can have a nice weekend with the weather because so far we’ve had a lot of rain. My targets for Mugello are still the same as for every race—to put in the best performance possible and try not to make mistakes—like my tire choice in Le Mans. I’m really looking forward to it.”