Magnificent Mugello the backdrop for next MotoGP thriller2010-06-01 03:08
The scenic setting of the Mugello circuit welcomes the FIM MotoGP World Championship for round four this weekend, as Jorge Lorenzo aims to extend his nine-point lead over Fiat Yamaha team-mate and rival Valentino Rossi at the top of the standings at the Gran Premio d'Italia TIM.
With victory at Le Mans last time out Lorenzo secured his first back-to-back wins in the premier class, and his 70 points so far is the highest points tally by a rider in the MotoGP class after the opening three rounds since Rossi amassed the same amount in the same number of races in 2005.
Lorenzo finished on the podium last season (second) at the Italian circuit, and if he goes one better this year and wins ahead of Rossi it will be the first time since joining the premier class in 2000 that the reigning World Champion will have finished behind a team-mate in three successive races.
Mugello however is a circuit that Rossi has enjoyed immense success at previously. The Italian finished third there last season on his way to the title, having won the previous seven years on the bounce. Rossi will also be going for a 50th premier class pole position start at the weekend.
Another Italian hoping to impress his home fans will be Andrea Dovizioso, and the Repsol Honda rider has produced a strong start to the season that has already seen two podium finishes. Last year at Mugello he just missed out on a top-three placement having led at stages of both the wet and dry parts of the race. His team-mate Dani Pedrosa sits just two points behind in the standings and has enjoyed success at Mugello before. Last year he failed to finish the race, but in his three premier class rides there before that he never finished outside the top four, two of which were podium results.
Nicky Hayden and Ducati Marlboro will be looking for a good result in the team's home race, with the American seeking an improvement on his recent form at Mugello. A best placement of third came back in 2006, and Hayden's form this season indicates that a first podium of 2010 is imminent. His team-mate Casey Stoner's season has gotten off to a difficult start, but the Australian won here last year and broke Rossi's dominance so will be confident that he can score his first notable points of the season at Mugello.
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) is the highest placed private team rider in the standings and enjoyed his best MotoGP finish at Mugello last year with eighth place, and the Frenchman will continue his battle with Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech3). Rookies Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Héctor Barberá (Páginas Amarillas Aspar), in their first premier class outings at the track, will look to consolidate their impressive starts and top ten positions in the standings, with fellow newcomer Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda MotoGP Team) and Pramac Racing's Mika Kallio hot on their trail.
Ben Spies (Monster Yamaha Tech3), Loris Capirossi and Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) will all be looking to bounce back after Le Mans, whilst Aleix Espargaró (Pramac Racing) will want to build on his promising result from the last round.
Toni Elías will be going for a third straight win in the Moto2 class as he attempts to defend and even extend his 18-point Championship lead. Elías' victory at Le Mans has handed him a Championship lead for the first time since 2001, when he led the 125cc standings after 12 rounds.
Mugello is one of three circuits at which the Spaniard has not finished on the podium in any of the classes he has raced in however, and he will be targeting an improvement in that statistic as he looks to protect his lead. Shoya Tomizawa will be a threat as he looks to cut the deficit to Elías, at a track at which the Japanese rider has raced just once â€” a non-finish in the 250cc class last season. The Technomag-CIP rider enjoyed a rapid start to the campaign with a win in Qatar and second place at Jerez, but a crash at Le Mans means he will want a return to top-three form as the early-season battle at the top unfolds.
Simone Corsi's first podium of the season at Le Mans lifted the Italian to third spot in the standings, and the JiR Moto2 man has experienced victory at Mugello before. He will be hopeful of repeating his 125cc win from 2008 in his home GP and edge closer to the top spot currently occupied by Elías.
Julián Simón (Mapfre Aspar), Sergio Gadea (Tenerife 40 Pons) and Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Moriwaki Moto2) complete the top six as it stands heading into the weekend, and with six different chassis manufacturers inside the top ten positions the competition is fierce. Added to the 40-strong field will be wild card rider Xavier Simeon (Holiday Gym Racing), who will once more be riding a Moriwaki chassis following his entry at Le Mans.
Looking to make his mark after an eventful start to the season will be Alex de Angelis (RSM Team Scot) who will be going for a fourth career podium at the track, whilst Mashel Al Naimi (Blusens-STX) will be replaced by Anthony Delhalle for this race after the Qatari rider underwent an operation for compartmental syndrome in his arm last Friday.
The fantastic contest that is playing out in the 125cc World Championship will also continue and at present it is Nico Terol who leads the standings with a narrow two-point advantage over Pol Espargaró. Terol finished second in last year's race at Mugello having qualified down in 12th, whilst Tuenti Racing rider Espargaró has finished third and fourth in the past two seasons and comes into this race off the back of two straight wins at Jerez and Le Mans.
Esteve Rabat (Blusens-STX), Efrén Vázquez (Tuenti Racing) and Marc Márquez (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) will all be candidates for at least the podium and all three will have aspirations of challenging for first wins not only of the season, but of their careers. Bradley Smith felt much better on his Aprilia of the Bancaja Aspar team at Le Mans, and returns to a track where he won last year. He will hope for a similar result to lift him from his current place of sixth in the standings.
Enforcing the regular 125cc field will be a quintet of Italian wildcard riders. Junior GP Racing Team FMI will enter the trio of Luigi Morciano, Alessandro Tonucci and Armando Pontone, with Tommaso Gabrielli (Racing Team Gabrielli) and Faenza Racing's Mattia Tarozzi all taking part.
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