Preview Chinese of Grand Prix, Shanghai, China

2007-05-02 08:59
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) who memorably won his first premier class race here last year will be aiming to repeat that victory here on Sunday and propel himself up the points table in pursuit of his rivals. The young Spaniard was brought down in Turkey two weeks ago, but is fit enough to compete here.

Last year he qualified on pole and then won setting the fastest lap of the race as he did so. His team-mate Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC212V) finished second giving Repsol Honda a perfect race weekend.

There has been no winter testing here and so riders will approach this track with only last season's data to work from with new machines and new tyre regulations to cope with. The wildly variable weather will also be a factor. This race, the fourth of an 18 event series, will be pivotal in terms of the points tallies riders take back to Europe when the World Championship frequency intensifies.

One man in good form at the moment is Toni Elias
(Gresini Honda RC212V) who has accumulated 80
points over the last six races (two at the end of
2006). This is the shape of a rider in
Championship form - Elias lies 4th overall on 35
points and a win here would establish him among the title contenders.

His team-mate Marco Melandri (Gresini Honda
RC212V) is a rider who is just shy of his best
form at the moment and he'll be looking use China
as a springboard from which to launch a title
challenge. The Italian currently has 30 points
and needs a big score. And here at this
impressive but not particularly well-liked track could be the place to start.

The Shanghai International Circuit is situated
40km outside Shanghai and was designed by Hermann
Tilke, also responsible for Istanbul Park in
Turkey. Shanghai may not be quite as challenging
as Istanbul Park, but it makes its own particular set of demands on riders.

At 5.281km in length it is among the longer
tracks and at 14.4m wide the tarmac leaves plenty
of room for imagination when taking racing lines
on entry and exit to the 14 turns, seven of which
are lefts and seven right-hand corners.

The main straight is the longest in MotoGP at
1175m and this puts a premium on top speed. But
acceleration out of the many tight turns is
equally vital, as well as stability under the
exceptionally heavy braking on the entries.
Couple this with two turns that double back on
themselves at almost 360 degrees and here is a
track that requires the utmost work in set-up.

Dani said, "I'm looking forward to racing in
China because I want to put Turkey behind me as
soon as possible. I've still got a bit of a stiff
neck and some discomfort in my chest, but I'll be
OK to begin first practice on Friday. I have very
good memories from my first MotoGP race win there
last year. The weather can be very wet here so
we'll just have to hope that it stays dry this
year. It will be interesting to see how the 800s
feel and perform on this circuit - I think the straights could feel very long!"

His team-mate Nicky said "I had a pretty decent
result in China last year and we certainly need
to put in a strong performance this time. My
favourite part of the track is probably the long
right-hander heading onto the back straight. And
even at 200mph that back straight goes for days,
before you hit the hardest braking corner on the
circuit. Obviously though, long straights are not
our strongest point right now so I hope we can make some progress there."

Marco Melandri said, "I'm going to China feeling
confident after the race in Istanbul - not so
much for the result but for the way we fought
back after a difficult weekend. In the race we
recovered the feeling I lost during practice and
I was able to ride my Honda in the way I like.
Now the objective is to find the right way
forward with the set-up from the first session
and get a qualifying position that will allow me
to fight for a top position in the race."

His team-mate Toni Elias said: "I have to thank
my team for the work they've done on the set-up
and Bridgestone, who have come up with a tyre
which is perfect for my riding style. This has
raised my confidence in my potential and allowed
me to progress. The job still isn't finished
though and we still have margin for improvement.
I'm pleased to see that my riding style, which
many people said would be too aggressive for the
new 800cc bike, can be effective and allow me to challenge for victories."

Carlos Checa (LCR Honda RC212V) said, "I came
from Japan to Shanghai to prepare for this race
following the Honda Suzuka 8-hour test, to avoid
jet lag from going back to Europe. I've done a
lot of riding and travelling in the past two
weeks. For me the Shanghai track is nothing
special, it is more for Formula 1, but I will
work at 100% with the team to prepare for the
race. On the long straight we will have some
handicap with acceleration and top speed, and
hopefully Honda can assist us in that area. The
positive from the Istanbul test was a step
forward with the Michelin qualifying tyres,
eliminating chatter from the front."

Shinya Nakano (Konica Minolta Honda RC212V) "The
Shanghai track has some fast sections where
top-speed is important - especially the main
straight - so I'm hoping we won't be too far
behind the other teams and machines on top speed.
Whatever happens the Team and I will be working
hard to find a good setting for the new 800cc
Honda RC212V from the first session and try to
improve things further as the weekend goes on. My
aim as ever is the reach the chequered flag and get some good points."

Kenny Roberts (Roberts KR212V) said. "We had a
very good test the day after Turkey and got the
bike working a lot better with the new stiffer
swing arm. In race practice we had to change a
lot of settings to suit the new parts but we lost
most of the track time on day one with the rain
and stuff and struggled to get the best out of
the bike in a short time. But I'm happy with
going into Shanghai the tyre situation will be
interesting this weekend. We had a tyre issue at
Turkey but that was a one off, I'm sure Michelin
will come up with the tyres we need or Sunday."

In the 250cc category Jorge Lorenzo (Aprilia)
leads Andrea Dovizioso (Scot Honda RS250RW) by 18
points. After Dovi's encouraging pole-to-podium
win in Turkey, he has the momentum to upset the series leader again here.

One of the most consistent riders in the World
Championship Dovi has now scored points in 23
consecutive races - the last time he failed to
score was way back in 2005 in Malaysia - some record.

Dovi said, "The win in Turkey has been very
important for us, now we'll go on to China more
confident and stronger than before. I like the
Shanghai track, I just hope the long straight will not penalize us too much."

His team-mate Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda RS250RW) said,
"I'm really sorry for the crash in Istanbul
because I was confident of putting in a good
performance and gaining some points, but now I
don't have to think about the past. In China I
hope to be luckier, last year I got a fifth place and I hope this bodes well."

Rising Thai star Ratthapark Wilairot (Stop And Go
Racing Honda RS250RW) said, "Obviously, it won't
be easy with the very long straight which doesn't
really suit us. On top of that I'll have to learn
the track and find the best lines. Anyway I knew
what to expect when the season started so I can't
really complain, I know what I will have to do this weekend in Shanghai."

Eugene Laverty (LCR Honda RS250RW) said,
"Shanghai is another new track but I think I can
learn it pretty quickly, even if it looks more
difficult than Istanbul. I'm hoping to make up
for the tyre problems I had in Turkey and finish in the points here."

In the 125cc category Honda riders will be hoping
for a better overall performance than in Turkey
where only Bradley Smith (Repsol Honda RS125R) finished in the top ten.

Smith said, "I'm looking forward to China
especially after the race in Turkey although I'm
taking nothing for granted. Battling for a podium
position was great but I'm not getting carried
away. The Repsol Honda was quick in the race but
as the team pointed out to me, I was getting out
of the corners quicker and consequently hitting
the straights with more speed which we'll definitely need in Shanghai."

Mike di Meglio (Scot Honda RS125R) said, "I'm
feeling much better, the shoulder is improving
day by day thanks to rehabilitation and I'm
itching to race again. I'm really sad about the
Turkey race because I would have liked to be
there considering that the pace wasn't very fast
and I think I could have been competitive. Even
though I don't like the Shanghai track, we can have a good result here."

Source: Honda Pro Image

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