MotoGP 2006 season begins this weekend at Jerez2006-03-21 00:32
After a preseason packed with team changes, broken circuit records and new and improved bikes, the MotoGP World Championship 2006 season gets underway this week. Sunday's Gran Premio betandwin.com de España will be the first chance to see all the old favourites, young pretenders and surprise packages set to wow spectators over the next 17 races.
Reigning MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi will be out to defend his crown for the fifth consecutive season in 2006, but the popular Italian will have to be looking over his shoulder over the next eight months as the premier class' top contenders won't be giving it up without a fight. Riders such as Marco Melandri, Sete Gibernau, Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa will be going all out to break the Yamaha rider's dominant winning streak.
With the exception of rookie Casey Stoner who was recovering from surgery, all the MotoGP riders will have the Jerez Circuit's twists and turns fresh in their minds. The final preseason test took place just over a week ago at the Andalusian track, with Ducati riders Loris Capirossi and Sete Gibernau topping the timesheets. Capirossi and his team-mate have demonstrated the strength of the Desmocedici GP6 throughout the preseason, and will be wanting to carry their form into the season proper.
Ahead of this weekend's curtain raiser Capirossi stated, "I think we are well prepared for the first race, the team and Bridgestone are really strong at the moment, my bike feels perfect for Jerez after the set-up modifications we made during the final tests. It's not always easy to find perfect settings but the bike is great now, and hopefully what we learned during the last tests will help us at other tracks. We have worked very hard this winter. The bike is better than before, the engine is more rider-friendly and the tyres have also improved a lot. Bridgestone have done very good work over the winter, so my thanks to them. Jerez is a good track, it's nice to ride and very technical. To go quick at Jerez you need a well-balanced bike and a good front end because you need confidence to attack all the fast corners."
Impressive performances at the final test also came from Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano and young rookie Dani Pedrosa, who is looking to become an immediate challenger for Rossi's world title. With the Yamaha also looking strong in tests returning rider Carlos Checa even surprised himself with his fast times, and with John Hopkins' performing well for Suzuki the championship is shaping up to be as competitive than ever.
With Pedrosa making the jump in category to MotoGP, this year will see a new 250cc champion crowned. Casey Stoner and Randy de Puniet will join the Spaniard in the premier class, leaving a wide open quarter litre category. Jorge Lorenzo had a tight grip on the top spot during the final test, although his fellow Aprilia riders Alex de Angelis and Hector Barbera have not been far behind. Andrea Dovizioso and Sebastian Porto will also enter the 2006 as favourites to challenge for the title, with solid preseason results for Yuki Takahashi and Jakub Smrz indicating that any one of a number of riders could be victorious.
In 125cc, Champion Thomas Luthi will be taking to the Jerez Circuit for the first time this season, coming back from a fractured collarbone suffered in the earlier official test at Catalunya. With Julian Simon, Mattia Pasini and last year's runner-up Mika Kallio chasing after the Swiss rider, the exciting junior category is sure to provide more of the usual thrills and spills throughout the coming season.
All three cylinder classes will be on the track from Friday morning, hoping to start their World Championship on a high note. The latest information, including live timing and streaming video is available at MotoGP's official website, motogp.com.
Source: DORNA COMMUNICATIONS
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