MELANDRI AND HAYDEN TO FIGHT IT OUT IN TURKEY

Honda stars Marco Melandri (Team Movistar Honda RC211V) and Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) will be fighting hard for the coveted MotoGP runner-up position this weekend at a track no rider in any class has experienced yet.

Both men have 170 points after 15 races of this 17-race season and they will be eager to get to grips with this new track at the earliest opportunity - the sooner they learn the specific demands of the circuit, the earlier they can get up to speed to gain all-important grid position in qualifying.

But there are other riders in contention too. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) lurks in fourth place in the standings with 162 points and despite dropping points with his fall last weekend at Phillip Island Max Biaggi (Repsol Honda RC211V) is still in the hunt on 159 points.

But there are other concerns for riders too. Hayden has won once this season at his 'home' track Laguna Seca in California, the young American desperately wants another 'away' win to confirm his arrival as a serious contender for next season's World Championship.

Melandri too has threatened to pull off his first win in the premier class this season, but remains with two second places to show for his considerable efforts in 2005. Now that his grievous foot injury, sustained at Motegi, is fully on the mend, he will be eager to make the most of the Istanbul Park track.

This 5.430km track, situated on the Asian side of the huge city of Istanbul, is one of the better 'new' circuits to be built. It features six right-hand turns, a medium-length 720m straight and eight left-hand turns.

Designed by Hermann Tilke, the man responsible for the new Shanghai track, the Otodrom International Circuit is something of a pastiche of existing circuits. Turns one and two are an unashamed copy of the Senna Esses at Sau Paulo while turn 11 mimics Eau Rouge at Spa Francorchamps. A degree of elevation makes many corner entries blind and challenging.

Turn eight is a double-apex high-speed left that will demand inch-perfect precision riding and raw nerve of a rare degree. This corner is critical for a good lap time - entry, mid-turn and exit are all equally important - get any parts wrong and the time penalty will be a heavy one.

Sete Gibernau (Team Movistar Honda RC211V) is desperate to make something of what has been a poor season for the Spanish star. He has yet to win in 2005 and will be hoping this new track can give him a chance to shine.

Sete is undaunted and ready to give it his best again. He said, "Istanbul Park is a completely new track for all of us. I have seen the circuit and the layout of the track on TV but we can only have a clear idea on the first day of testing. We have no data, and this is a good chance to use that positively."

Hayden is as usual keen to get going here. He said, "New track, new country, new experience - bring it on! It'll be fun. We all start on a level playing field on Friday morning and that's good. A lot of the guys here have had years of experience on the tracks we race at through 125s and 250s and it's good to get to a place and just start from zero. At this level it doesn't take long to learn a track but it'll be fun to see who gets on the pace early."

Melandri is eager too and said, "I'm very happy to race in Turkey, a completely new track. It was the same in China - Shanghai was a new track for all the riders, I liked it and had a good race. The Grand Prix of Turkey is a very important race. I have the same points as Nicky Hayden and at the beginning of the season second place in the World Championship was just a dream - now it is my target. It would be the best way to thank Fausto Gresini, Honda and HRC who've all believed in me this season."

Max said, "Although the situation in the race was a disaster in Australia there was a small piece of sunshine in the morning practice when I was fastest and the bike felt good. I have to hold onto this memory of being at the top of the time sheets and aim for this situation again as soon as I get back on the bike next Friday."

Alex Barros (Camel Honda RC211V) said, "When I woke up on the morning after the Phillip Island race I stayed still for a moment, positive that if I had moved I would see stars. However things are going a little better than I expected. I still find it hard to move around, and my left side is hurting a lot, but I have to say it's not as bad as I feared. It's obviously not the best thing to be going to a new track in less than perfect physical condition, but I hope to make a quick recovery in these rest days."

Chris Vermeulen, standing in for the injured Troy Bayliss (Camel Honda RC211V), said, "With a race under my belt I hope things will be slightly easier this weekend, even though the track is completely new and there's a lot to learn. The bonus is that it will be new to everybody. Now I've got a bit more knowledge about the bike and the tyres, and my objective is to do better than we managed in Australia. I would like to have a good practice and finish the race in the top ten."

For Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V) this is a good chance to salvage something from a disappointing season. He said, "In the last two races of the season I absolutely must obtain good results. I have many motives: first for the Team who always give their best, and for Konica Minolta and Honda, who, despite this season's results not being the best, have never stopped believing in us."

In the 250cc class Dani Pedrosa (Team Movistar Honda RS250RW) secured his second consecutive 250cc World Championship in Australia last weekend in fine style with a win and now he can show just why he's moving up to MotoGP next year with a celebratory display here in Turkey.

His team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama (Team Movistar Honda RS250RW) will be eager to make his presence felt here after losing momentum slightly following a win from pole in Japan and a pole position in Malaysia.

He has been largely outshone by rookie Andrea Dovizioso (Scot Racing Team Honda RS250RW) who now lies third in the overall points standings, 17 ahead of Aoyama. The Italian has been the most consistent of the new draft of 125c riders who have made the step up this season.

Team-mates Hector Barbera (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) and Jorge Lorenzo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW), both 125 graduates have had different fortunes this year. Lorenzo has shown blistering speed from the outset, while Barbera has taken to longer to adapt - but both can be expected to feature this weekend.

Dani said, "Now the World Championship is won again I can concentrate on riding at this new track and enjoying learning it. My injured shoulder is now much better and I will be able to ride at close to a 100%. My bike was fantastic in Australia and I know my team will give me a fast machine here too."

"I'm really looking forward to this race in Istanbul..." said Lorenzo. "...at a circuit no one knows. In Phillip Island I couldn't really ride like I wanted but at the end we did OK. The only thing I know about Istanbul Park is what I've seen on TV during the F1 race, so it looks like a great circuit - a fun one! I hope we can really enjoy this new track."

Barbera said, "Lately I've started to feel better on my bike and I am enjoying things much more now. During the race I was smiling because I started to get a better feeling. Now we have a good opportunity at this new circuit and I really want to profit from it so... let's see what this Grand Prix brings us!"

The 125cc class, as is almost always the case, is the last category to be decided. It has been tight and tense all season and now, as the deciding two rounds loom, the pressure on the only two men in contention is immense.

Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R), after his crushing pole to flag victory in Australia last weekend, must now be the favourite for class honours, but his 12 point lead in the standings is slender with two races and still a maximum of 50 points available.

His title rival Mika Kallio (KTM) had a wretched time in Australia in fifth place, but he could be strong here in Turkey and Luthi and his experienced team will be aware that this Championship is highly likely to run into the final race in Valencia in early November before it is concluded.

Luthi said, "The track is new for all of us so things start equal. We are leading the World Championship now but everything can change in one race. I had a bad day at Qatar but the same thing happened to Mika (Kallio) at Phillip Island. We'll be going to Istanbul to win the race. We won't be points-watching."

Tomoyoshi Koyama (Ajo Motorsport Honda RS125R) is running into fine form now at the conclusion of his rookie season in this demanding class. The Japanese finished second in a tense finish at Phillip Island and will be looking to continue his late season run.


Source: Honda Pro Image

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