Casey Stoner – Ducati Marlboro – 1st, 90 points
“This championship is extremely difficult and competitive and even a victory like the one at Mugello, wonderful as it was, needs to be put behind us so that we can turn our focus to the next race. Being leader of the championship at this stage means absolutely nothing. My rivals are very clever, mature and capable of winning races so we have to stay focused, do our best to be competing for the top step of the podium again and if that’s not possible then make sure we are bringing home the maximum number of points. Barcelona was one of my favorite circuits until they re-laid it. Even though they put a completely new surface down a few years ago it has never been the same as it was before and the fact they race F1 there hasn’t helped the situation in terms of the bumps and potholes. The layout is nice though – the first part isn’t too difficult but the middle and end parts of the lap are technical and demanding, especially the fast pair of right-handers coming onto the start-finish straight.”
Round 6 of the 2009 MotoGP Championship series has Australian rider Casey Stoner leading the MotoGP paddock to the outskirts of Barcelona, Spain for the Grand Prix of Catalunya. Stoner produced his 18th career MotoGP win at a mixed-weather race in the last MotoGP round at Mugello, reclaiming the Championship lead by nine points from Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi on the Italian rider’s home circuit. Rossi’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo, now just four points off Stoner’s lead, will be one of the hometown heroes drawing off the enthusiasm of the weekend crowd that should approach 200,000. Lorenzo will be competing for fans with the 2008 winner of the Catalunya GP, Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, who hails from Castellar del Valles (which is less than 20 miles from the circuit). Pedrosa currently sits in fourth and has vowed to defend his Catalunya victory despite injuries suffered in the previous round.
On Friday morning Stoner and his Ducati Marlboro teammate Nicky Haden will be honored by the Circuit de Catalunya with the unveiling of their own plaques on “Champions Avenue” for their respective MotoGP title wins in 2007 and 2006. Stoner won the Catalunya round on his way to the 2007 title, and went on to take third behind Pedrosa and Rossi last year. Located in the hills of Montmeló, the Catalunya circuit is considered one of the favorite tack layouts amongst MotoGP riders, but the bumps and potholes caused by recent F1 testing have at least slightly soured Stoner’s opinion of the venue.
Hayden, who has struggled with the setup of his Ducati Desmosedici in a season marked by unstable weather, showed some signs of improvement in Mugello, despite suffering a rear brake problem over the final three laps.
Mallorcan-born Lorenzo lived in Barcelona for much of his early career and has since returned to the Spanish capital for 2009. Following a disappointing visit to Spain earlier this season, the 22-year-old is determined to reach the podium in front of his fans this time out. Last year the Fiat Yamaha rider suffered an injury during practice and was forced to miss the Catalunya round. Although he has won at Catalunya previously in 250s, this could be his first home win in MotoGP.
Valentino Rossi – Fiat Yamaha – 3rd, 81 points
“Mugello was disappointing but still we took some good points and now, entering one of the most important phases of the championship, this is very important. We still haven’t found the perfect answer to make my M1 exactly how I want but Barcelona is a good track for us so hopefully we can make the final step there, also since we will finally have a chance to test on Monday. Barcelona is, along with Mugello and Phillip Island, one of my favorite tracks and I always love racing there. I have taken one Spanish win so far this season so I am hoping for another this weekend. We need to keep focused and use what we learnt in Mugello to put us in the right shape. Finally I am hoping for good weather because I don’t think these flag-to-flag races in the wet and the dry suit me very well!”
Lorenzo played a part in depriving Rossi of a home victory in front of his adoring fans last round, so the reigning World Champ will be all too willing to reciprocate the deed for his Fiat Yamaha teammate. Rossi has eight Catalunya victories to his name, but has finished second for the past two years and would like a return to the top step in Montmeló. The Doctor won the last round in Jerez, Spain and wouldn’t mind making a clean sweep of the Iberian Peninsula for the 2009 season.
Pedrosa won last year’s Catalunya GP by 2.8 seconds, making it the seventh win for Honda at the circuit. However, the Spanish rider will be taking pain-killing injections this time around for an incomplete fracture at the top of his femur, which was aggravated by a crash following the switch to slick tires in the wet/dry race at Mugello.
Andrea Dovizioso was the second-best Honda rider last year at Catalunya. The Italian has come out one sport short of podium positions in the last two rounds, but will be looking to push onto the rostrum at fast, flowing Spanish track.
Catalunya went down as a race to forget for Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi last year. The Italian was involved in an incident with Alex de Angelis, which left him with an injured hand. Hopefully, Capirossi can continue with the good form he demonstrated at Mugello last time out. Capirossi’s teammate Chris Vermeulen was also hit by De Angelis last time at Catalunya, but was able to come home in seventh.
LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet won two 250cc races at Montmeló and lists the track north of Barcelona as one of his favorites. The Frenchman hasn’t been able to repeat that success in the premier ranks.
Toni Elias, who grew up in a town northwest of Barcelona, also had much early experience at Catalunya, but has yet to score a point (or reach the checkered flag) at the circuit since joining the premier class in 2005. The San Carlo Honda Gresini rider has been fighting back to full fitness following an operation to cure ‘arm pump’ in his right arm and would be energized by a strong race in front of the hometown crowd.
The MotoGP paddock will have one practice session on Friday afternoon, followed by another on Saturday morning. An hour of qualifying on Saturday afternoon will decide grid positions for Sunday’s 25-lap race.
Other 2009 MotoGP Catalunya Pre-Race Rider Quotes
Dani Pedrosa – Repsol Honda – 4th, 57 points
“I’m really looking forward to my home Grand Prix even though the build-up has hardly been perfect. For the past week I’ve just been resting and that’s pretty boring. But today I went to see the doctor and the results of the new scan have been quite positive. They decided to give me a trial pain-killing injection so that I can judge how it will feel ahead of the weekend. And today’s scan really helped them pinpoint the best location for the injection so it can have the maximum effect, which was something they weren’t able to do in Mugello. The feeling was good, so it looks like I’ll have an injection before riding each day. Obviously it’s still not going to be comfortable riding the bike but I’m feeling positive that we can go into the weekend and aim for the best possible result. In spite of the problems, my motivation for my home race is still the same. I’ve been waiting for this race for a long time and I want to get the best possible result for all the fans who will be there to support me. I hope I can give them a good weekend.”
Andrea Dovizioso – Repsol Honda – 5th, 56 points
“Montmeló is one of my favorite circuits of the year. I love this track because of the long, fast corners and it’s a great feeling when you find the right flow from one turn to the next. There is also a fantastic atmosphere at this track, and when you enter the final four corners it feels like a stadium and the sensation is incredible. So I always look forward to this race and my previous results here have been good, including last year when I had a great race and finished fourth. After leading the last race at Mugello and finishing so close to the winner I’m feeling really motivated and I think the team can have a good result this weekend. It’s true that the conditions were unusual – first wet and then dry – but my feeling with the bike has improved so I think we will be stronger at Barcelona.”
Loris Capirossi – Rizla Suzuki – 8th, 38 points
“I didn’t have a good time at Catalunya last year after I was hit by another rider and crashed with some nasty injuries. I am determined to put that behind me this year and carry on from where we left off at Mugello. We know we will have to work hard on the long straight at Barcelona, but we learnt a lot from the last race and hopefully that will help us this weekend. We have got some new parts coming from Japan which should make a difference to the performance of the GSV-R so we are all quite excited about that.”
Chris Vermeulen – Rizla Ruzuki – 9th, 37 points
“The Catalunya circuit is one I really enjoy and we have performed quite well there. I would have done better last year but I didn’t get a good run on qualifiers, so without those this year I hope my starting place will reflect my race-pace in practice – something it didn’t do last year. The Barcelona race is a bit like a home GP for me as well because I have a place in Andorra so it’s just a short journey down to the event and lots of friends and neighbors come down to support me. We are hoping that the upgrades from Suzuki this weekend will work as well on the bike as they have in the factory, we’re not sure if we’ll use them in the race or hang on for the test day, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Randy de Puniet – LCR Honda – 10th, 34 points
“The Barcelona race track is one of my favorites. I won two races in the 250cc class with Lucio’s team and I like the Spanish atmosphere. Unfortunately last year I crashed but I was lapping consistently fast and, after our positive result at Mugello I feel confident about this GP. Basically we will start with the same set-up we ran at Mugello. Last year between the Italian GP and the Spanish GP we made some adjustments with good results so we already know which direction to follow. I hope the weather will be fine this time!”
Toni Elias – San Carlo Honda Gresini – 12th, 23 points
“I think we are ready. We come here having found some improvements but without having shown it on track in terms of results. We have had a bit of bad luck so far, so we will keep working and pushing hard. Hopefully it will be at Montmeló where things change and we start to get the kind of results we are looking for. We have had a few problems and it is hard to fight against them to put things right but we are giving it all we can and we are getting better. We are working on our issues one by one and reducing them gradually and we just need to make sure we aren’t affected by bad luck or unexpected problems and hopefully at Montmeló we will get our first strong result of the year, as we are getting close. The fans there are very important and they always give us a push in terms of motivation, so we need to take advantage of that and get a good finish which we can build on.”
Alex De Angelis – San Carlo Honda Gresini – 13th, 21 points
“I was disappointed with the last race in Italy because we missed out on some vital points but we’ll keep working hard in Catalunya, especially in the search for rear grip, which is the problem that is still affecting us the most at the moment. I remember being really, really fast at this circuit in the wet last year but it seems our problems this year are the same in the wet and dry conditions, so it is something we desperately need to iron out if we want to move forward and be more consistent. I like Barcelona as a circuit and I was having a good race last year until I crashed out with Capirossi. We were challenging at the right end of the field on that occasion so we go there with optimism, confidence and feeling calm.”
Mika Kallio – Pramac Racing Team – 14th, 19 points
“In Barcelona I achieved a good result only once, with the third position in 2005 in the 125cc class, but who knows, hopefully things will get better in the MotoGP class. In the last races we have been really unlucky, we have to go back working like in the first two races and I am sure that in this way we will be able to fight again with the best riders. I am trustful; I have all I need to do well, a great bike and a great Team.”
Nicky Hayden, Ducati Marlboro Team – 15th, 13 points
“Barcelona is a track I like a lot, with some really hard braking areas, like turn one, but also with some really fast and technical sections. We can’t do much in terms of preparing for the Grand Prix and this obviously isn’t an easy period for me but I have to think positive and continue to give it everything. That is my way of dealing with things and that is what I’ll continue to do alongside my team. I’m looking forward to getting out there and racing again but I’m also looking forward to the test afterwards. I really need some testing and more time in the saddle. This year I’m really feeling the testing ban that has been brought in and I know it’s the same for everybody but for me in particular I know I’d really benefit from some test time, so hopefully we can get some good work done in Barcelona that will help me take a step forward.”
Niccolò Canepa – Pramac Racing Team – 16th, 10 points
“Last year I was in Barcelona for the first time for a one day test and I found myself at ease straight away. I have registered interesting lap times with the GP9 finding a good base set up. If we will make it to find the same balance of the bike I am sure that we will be able to have another good weekend. At Mugello I have done a nice race and I hope to repeat constantly during the season.”
Yuki Takahashi – Scot Honda – 18th, 8 points
“I did not like Montmeló when competing in the 250 class, but I believe this is going to change because I feel really better in the fast corners with a MotoGP bike. Moreover, in Mugello my set-up was really good.”