MotoGP Donington Park Preview

July 22, 2009
Chris McNeil
The MotoGP troops make the short jaunt across the channel to pitch camp at Donington Park for the British Grand Prix – the tenth round of the 2009 MotoGP Championship. Fresh from their 1-2 finish in Germany on Sunday, the Fiat Yamaha duo of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo are on top of the championship standings followed closely by Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner. Separated by only 14 points each, the top-three riders won’t be holding anything in reserve as they finish out a five-week tour de force before the two-weekend Summer Break.

The event at Donington Park also signifies the end of an era for the East Midlands track, which has hosted the British Grand Prix since 1987. The circuit will be replaced by its previous venue at Silverstone when MotoGP and F1 swap tracks next year.

Jorge Lorenzo - MotoGP  Sachsenring Germany
Rossi and Lorenzo both have big plans for a victory at Donington Park before the two-weekend Summer Break.

As the most successful rider in the history of the British track Valentino Rossi would like nothing more than to send it away with another spectacular performance. The eight-time World Champion took his first ever 500cc win there in 2000 and the Donington holds a special affinity for the Italian since he lived in London for several years and was adopted as a home-race favorite by the British fans. ‘The Doctor’ has seven wins to his name at Donington Park, but has not won since 2005 (most recently taking runner-up to Casey Stoner). Rossi won’t be the only one trying to rectify missed opportunities with a win at East Midland.

Last year Lorenzo arrived at Donington still recovering from injuries that sidelined the Mallorcan the previous round. Qualifying 16th, the irrepressible youngster still put on a brilliant display to finish sixth. Although the 22-year-old claims to not quite be at 100% following injuries he picked up in Laguna Seca, he showed that he could challenge for the lead when he rode toe-to-toe with his teammate for the lead at Germany. The narrow loss is one more jab to Lorenzo’s ego, adding to the similar disappointing loss he suffered in Catalunya earlier this season. Lorenzo will look for revenge on Sunday.

Casey Stoner took the checkers, with Valentino Rossi finishing in second followed by Dani Pedrosa. - Donington
Casey Stoner took the 2008 Donington Park checkers, followed by Rossi and Pedrosa.

Stoner continues to suffer from physical problems that have zapped him of the spunkiness that would be expected from a title contender at this stage of the game. However, the Australian has soldiered through this intensive period of the championship to claim two podiums and a pair of fourth places and stay in the running. The Ducati rider will once again be put in a defensive position as he defends his two-time Donington Park victory streak from the formidable Yamaha challengers.

The Ducati Marlboro Team has also been working intensively in recent weeks to improve the overall performance of its newest member, Nicky Hayden, aboard the GP9. The ‘Kentucky Kid’ has ridden to four-consecutive top-ten finishes and scored a season best fourth at Laguna Seca since Ducati implemented the improved team support. Hayden was running among the top qualifying times at the last round in Germany yet was slowed greatly by the pack after getting a poor start. The 27-year-old can’t wait to get back on the track and convert his improvements into points.

The factory Repsol Honda team has also been working hard to get its program on par with the pace-setting Yamahas. Benefitting from engine and chassis upgrades in recent weeks, lead Honda rider Dani Pedrosa maintained his fourth-place position with a victory at Laguna Seca and a determined third-place in Germany. The Spanish ace has high opes for Donington, where he scored a runaway victory in his maiden MotoGP season in 2006.

Marco Melandri is the black sheep of the 2009 MotoGP paddock as the sole Kawasaki riders. Rumors abound that he might join Gresini Honda next year.
Hayate Racing’s Marco Melandri will join James Toseland in the pursuit of a strong home race at Donington Park.

A double top-10 finish for Colin Edwards and James Toseland in Germany moved the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team into fourth place in the Team World Championship standings. Fifth-placed Edwards has been struggling with minor rear-tire handling issues that he hopes will be ironed out by this weekend. The Texan has two second-place podiums at Donington Park and most recently took fourth. Toseland is looking forward to his home race at Donington Park and hopes to give his British fans a better run than his disappointing 17th-place performance during his MotoGP rookie season.

Marco Melandri is another rider who considers Donington Park a home race, since the Italian national currently lives two miles away from the famous circuit. The sole Kawasaki rider in the paddock has been putting on a stunning performance without the backing of Japanese manufacture this year. A solid seventh in Germany adds to his stunning second-place finish at LeMans to make him one of the outsiders to keep an eye on.

Respol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso has slipped to seventh in the championship after crashing out of the last round in Germany. The Italian had an excellent run of results earlier in the season and shown he has the speed to win races. Dovi goes well at Donington and has won two support class GPs there, most recently the 2007 250 race.

Randy de Puniet - MotoGP  Sachsenring Germany
De Puniet might not be a fan of the British circuit, but he will still need to vie for points after crashing in Germany.

Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) joined Dovizioso with an unlucky DNF at the Sachsenring in Germany. Although he won the 2005 British 250 GP he doesn’t consider himself a fan of the UK circuit, but maybe that is just a French thing.

Teammates Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) cross the English Channel in high spirits following their rousing fifth- and sixth-place finish at the Sachsenring. Elias and De Angelis have both stood on the 250 podium at Donington and if they have a good two days of practice there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be in with a chance of a top-three result on Sunday.

Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) continues his baptism-by-fire MotoGP apprenticeship at Donington. The former 125 World Champion scored his first point at the Sachsenring last weekend.

Valentino Rossi – Fiat Yamaha – 1st, 176 points
“Last year I had a good race at Donington to finish second, but this year I really want to win! I’ve always said that Donington is one of my favorite tracks in the world – it’s fast and flowing but also technical – and also the UK is a very special place for me because for a long time it was my home. This is the last year we are going to race there which I am really sad about, but that makes me even more determined to try to win there, for me and for the fans that have always treated me like one of their own. I haven’t won there since 2005, which is too long and I would like to say ‘goodbye’ to the track in the best way. Last year we couldn’t take the fight to Stoner but this year our bike is extremely competitive and we’re arriving leading in the championship so we’re in a very strong position. We don’t have much time to rest after Sachsenring but we have a good break after this race to look forward. Let’s hope we can extend our lead even more before then.”

The Fiat Yamaha rivals after qualifying - MotoGP  Sachsenring Germany

Jorge Lorenzo – Fiat Yamaha – 2nd, 162 points
“Of course I am disappointed about the result in Germany but considering my physical condition I have to be happy about such a close second place. It’s a pity we don’t have a week off now so I have more time to recover, but I will try to relax for a few days at least and build my strength some more. I like Donington a lot and this is the last year there so I would like to try and leave with a good result. I expect that all the British fans are hoping for another race like in Sachsenring, so we will see what we can do but of course I hope the result is reversed this time! The weather in Donington can be bad so my biggest wish is that it stays dry, we had enough rain in Sachsenring! However if it does rain the that’s not the end of the world either because we showed on Saturday that we are very strong also in the wet.”

Casey Stoner – Ducati Marlboro Team – 3rd, 148 points
“We did the best job we could at Sachsenring and now I’m a bit more confident about going to Donington. The best thing for us would be to have similar weather and temperature as in Germany because I think the conditions there played into my hands, as did the circuit, which has some long corners where I was able to relax a little on the bike. I’ll be happy if we can have another weekend in similar temperatures at Donington. The track has never been one of my favorites but I have had good results there. The first part is really demanding, with the long section through Craner Curves up to the Old Hairpin… but it’s actually in the slow sections where you can make passes. The bike has been going really well for the last few races even though we could do with a little more traction. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens this weekend and bring home as many points as possible.”

Dani Pedrosa had the second fastest time during the Friday Practice at Sachsenring.

Dani Pedrosa – Repsol Honda – 4th, 108 points
“We’ve built some momentum with our good results in the last two races and we’ll be looking to take that to Donington this weekend. It’s a circuit I like and I’ve had some good results there so I’m confident we can have a strong weekend. To be honest, while the podium in Germany wasn’t a bad finish and we weren’t far behind the winners, we thought another win was possible last weekend. So our motivation is high to fight hard for that in Britain before the summer break. Naturally, the weather is always a consideration at Donington so we need to be prepared for anything. We gained some valuable experience on the Bridgestones in the wet in Germany so we’ll be working to make maximum use of the practice sessions, whatever the conditions. It’ll be sad to see the back of Donington because the track itself is very good to ride and one I like. I hope I can sign off there with a good result.”

Colin Edwards – Monster Yamaha Tech 3 – 5th, 83 points
“Now we go to Donington, which is a place that I love. I’ve had some success there in MotoGP and I’ll be looking to get closer to the front for all my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3, who have worked hard again all weekend.”

Marco Melandri – Hayate Racing (Kawasaki) – 6th, 70 points
“We are very much looking forward to the next round because I think the bike could work well at Donington so I can’t wait to get back on track.”

Andrea Dovizioso - MotoGP  Sachsenring Germany

Andrea Dovizioso – Repsol Honda – 7th, 69 points
“Unfortunately this year will be the last time that we race at Donington Park and it’s a pity because the circuit is fascinating to ride. I like it, in particular the first section which is very fast, and of course the Craner Curves which plunge downhill and take your breath away every time you ride them. Last year I had a good race at Donington and I have always liked this track. We arrive this time after two difficult races where I had the pace to fight with the leaders but for different reasons, we didn’t get the results. But our motivation is high and everybody in the team is working hard. Honda is working hard too and we’ve had machine updates recently which are moving us in the right direction. So I arrive in Britain determined to get a good result at out last visit to Donington and to prove our real potential.”

Randy de Puniet – LCR Honda – 10th, 58 points
“I had a positive week end in Germany until the first lap of the race and my machine was almost perfect so I just want to forget that ‘zero’ and start again in Donington. I think that the English track is very interesting and very technical: we could win some tenths as the straight (564m) isn’t very long. My overall package is getting better race by race but honestly I do not like the layout of Donington Park very much. Last year I got 12th place there, this weekend I hope for a top-ten finish.”

Alex de Angelis - MotoGP  Laguna Seca

Alex De Angelis – San Carlo Honda Gresini – 11th, 47 points
“I’m really pleased that after the progress we have been making during practice in recent weeks I was finally able to back it up with a result at Sachsenring and the target for Donington is a repeat performance on every level. It was important that we showed our pace in both wet and dry conditions in Germany because that gives us confidence going into a Grand Prix where the weather is similarly unpredictable. Donington is a circuit I like a lot so it is a shame this time is the last for MotoGP. I have always gone well there, up until my crash last year, so we have nothing to fear and I’m confident and excited about this weekend.”

Toni Elias – San Carlo Honda Gresini – 12th, 47 points
“The performance and result were good at Sachsenring but we want more. If it wasn’t for my crash in qualifying we would have started from a position that would have allowed us to get to a better finish in the race so that is the objective from Donington onwards. We need to look at how we can qualify better and that way target even better results than sixth place. The track surface at Donington can be very slippery – especially if the temperatures are low – so it will be crucial for us to find good grip from day one and progress from there. Hopefully the weather is kind to us!”

The Kentucky Kids sojourn on the Ducati Desmosedici has proved difficult throughout the year.

Nicky Hayden – Ducati Marlboro Team – 13th, 46 points
“I’ve never had amazing results at Donington but I can’t wait to get back out on track because I’m not happy with the way the last race went after the really positive practice we had. My bike is really stable under braking and that should be a real bonus at this circuit. Things have been going well lately, I’m having fun and last weekend was the first time in a long while that I’ve been up front in practice. Seeing P1 unchanged on my pit board for such a long time was a nice feeling. We’ll see what the weather is like because you never know what to expect at Donington and the track conditions are totally dependent on it.”

Gabor Talmacsi – Scot Honda – 19th, 1 point
“I travelled to Donington Park straight from the Sachsenring without going home to Budapest. The team did the same – driving direct to the UK from Germany. We have had a technical meeting to discuss how to approach this next race and we will see how things go on Friday. In the past I’ve never really had too much luck at Donington Park. On this visit the crux of the matter is to find a good feeling with the bike and to take another step forward.”

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