Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner continue their rivalry at the Aug. 31 San Marino Grand Prix and both should expect a strong show of support from the stands.
Rossi, who holds a 237-187 lead over Stoner in the championship standings, is looking to make up for a disappointing 2007 race where he was forced to withdraw due to a mechanical breakdown.
“I’m really excited to be going to Misano in such good shape and leading the championship. Last year, the race was a huge disappointment for us, a very low point of the season and especially sad because it happened in front of my home fans,” says Rossi. “But this time things are very different; we’ve had two fantastic races in a row and we are feeling very strong and very confident. We are out to make up for 2007! Misano is so close to my home town of Tavullia that I know there will be an army of Italian fans there, and I hope it’s going to be a great party for all of them.”
Rossi arrives in Misano on a two-race winning streak. Stoner was Rossi’s main challenger in the two previous races, setting a strong pace but falling short due to a couple of crashes. Stoner misjudged a turn and ran into the gravel at the July 20 U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, while another trip into the gravel forced Stoner out of the following race Aug. 17 at Brno, Czech Republic.
“Over the past five rounds Casey has shown incredible speed from the opening practice session at a variety of circuits and even though he hasn’t got the points to show for it, he’s in outstanding form and we’re sure he’ll also be on the pace at Misano,” says Ducati team manager Livio Suppo.
Sitting in third place heading into Misano is Dani Pedrosa with 172 points. Pedrosa began the season with nine consecutive top-four finishes but has lost some ground after being injured in a crash at the German Grand Prix on July 13. The Repsol Honda rider will need a good result at Misano to stay in the championship hunt.
“The Misano circuit is quite fast but it feels tight and narrow. The grip level is okay and last year we used medium-compound tires because it was quite hot,” says Pedrosa. “The track was also very bumpy last year, which was probably its worst feature. From a set-up point of view the most important thing at Misano is having good braking power and good stability when accelerating out of the corners. It’s the kind of track that requires you to ride aggressively.”
Pedrosa’s teammate, Nicky Hayden, will return to action after missing the Brno race due to a heel injury suffered while competing in the X Games.
“I’m certainly excited to be getting back out there with the boys, because I hated missing Brno,” says Hayden, who will wear extra support in his boot for his heel. “Misano is almost a Laguna without the hills, it’s a tight little scrappy track where you need a bike you can be aggressive with. I enjoyed it last year but I’d just as soon they flipped it back around and go the old direction for those big lefts that used to go on to the back straightaway, I remember seeing the old 500 guys riding those on TV.”
MotoGP top five standings Pos. Rider Team Points 1st Valentino Rossi Fiat Yamaha 237 2nd Casey Stoner Ducati Marlboro 187 3rd Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda 172 4th Jorge Lorenzo Fiat Yamaha 120 5th Andrea Dovizioso JiR Team Scot MotoGP Honda 110