Barcelona buzzing but one eye on football
Barcelona buzzing but one eye on football.
Amidst comfortable temperatures and hazy sunshine somewhat different to those encountered in March's official test, the MotoGP paddock was buzzing today as the teams and riders arrived at Barcelona ahead of Sunday's Catalan Grand Prix.
World Cup fever has inevitably reached the circuit, which is situated just 30 minutes north of Barcelona city centre. A number of world championship riders were involved in a special photo opportunity with their countries' flags, with Argentina, Australia, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the USA all represented.
With the latter involved in a crunch tie against the Italy on Saturday, championship frontrunners Nicky Hayden and Loris Capirossi also posed with their national teams' football shirts as they prepare for their own head to head for the title lead this weekend.
There was also the customary pre-event visit for a selection of riders, who took a trip to the Casa Batlló in the centre of Barcelona. Colin Edwards, home rider Toni Elias and locally-based Japanese rider Shuhei Aoyama soaked up the atmosphere of one of Antoni Gaudi's modernist masterpieces, a building which reflects the waves of a calm sea in an architectural marvel.
The Thursday press conference then featured Capirossi, Hayden, home hero Dani Pedrosa and Sete Gibernau - plus Mugello race winner and world champion Valentino Rossi. They represented the top five from the stunning race in Italy just under two weeks ago, and are preparing for yet another battle royale at the technical Catalunya track.
Later in the evening, Fortuna Honda will hold a special mini-cross challenge at the home of Toni Elias, whose family own a track near the Montmelo Circuit. The event will be a challenge race against the media, with Elias and team-mate Marco Melandri undertaking a few laps at the Elias family track.
Meanwhile, the big news in the 250cc class was Repsol Honda's announcement that the experienced Sebas Porto would be withdrawing from the 2006 season... could the out of work Chaz Davies now be in contention for what would be a dream factory ride?
Fortuna Aprilia also confirmed that test rider Alex Debon would be stepping in for the injured Hector Barbera whilst he recovers from an arm injury.
An exciting addition to the 125cc field comes in the form of young rider Daniel Webb, another bright star for the future from the Red Bull MotoGP Academy. Webb will join former team-mate and graduate of last year's Academy, Bradley Smith, in the Repsol Honda team as a wild card.