Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa in MotoGP; Sebastián Porto and Shuhei Aoyama in the 250cc, and Bradley Smith in the 125cc will defend the Repsol colours in the 2006 World Championship.
After a long and intense wait with the preseason to get ready, the first Grand Prix of the 2006 season will finally arrive this weekend. The emblematic circuit of Jerez, a talisman circuit for Spanish riders, will be the meeting point for fans from all over Europe looking forward to watch live the first race of the 2006 Motorcycle World Championship, the Gran Premio de España de Motociclismo.
The 2006 calendar, which will start this Sunday in Spain, will move in only one week to Qatar to continue with a short trip to China and Turkey in the next month and a half. After the Turkish Grand Prix, the 2006 World Championship will stay around in Europe, to move on to the United States and continue in Asia and Australia. The culmination of what is expected to be an intense season will be in Spain, this time in Valencia in late October.
For this 2006 season, Repsol and Honda will be counting on a valuable common representation in the three classes. In the MotoGP class, Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden will be in charge of defending the colours of the team that has gathered the largest success in the last ten years in the Championship, the Repsol Honda Team. The same task will be carried out in the quarter-of-a-litre class by Sebastián Porto and Shuhei Aoyama, members of the Repsol Honda Team 250cc. And last but not least, Bradley Smith, at the young age of 15 years, will be the defender of the colours of the Repsol Honda Team 125cc.
After a hard and intense preseason including two trips to Malaysia and one to Australia, the Repsol riders of the MotoGP class had a positive performance during the last tests carried out only two weeks ago in Jerez. Dani Pedrosa, surprise rider of the premier class during the winter, will be back in a venue in which he took the victory last year in the 250cc class. Nicky Hayden, who did not score after crashing seven laps before the end of the race, had a great race last year in Jerez before the accident, fighting closely for the victory against Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau.
In the 250cc, Sebastián Porto will be back in the circuit where he finished second last year, a bit more than two seconds behind the winner, Dani Pedrosa. Porto, who has spent these last days resting in Argentina before flying to Spain to take part in the first race of the 2006 World Championship, was the focus of attention of the sports media in his country last week at the Alvear Palace Hotel in Buenos Aires, where Repsol YPF presented the sports sponsorship of the Argentinean rider for the 2006 season. The main character of the evening was joined on the stage by Enrique Locutura, Repsol YPF General Manager in Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil, and Daniel Scioli, the Argentinean Vice-president. Sebastián Porto, who has been actively participating in the World Championship since 1994, is the most experienced rider of the class and has raced already 156 GP. And if Porto is one of the most experienced riders in active in the championship, his team mate Shuhei Aoyama is one of the less experienced, because the young 21-year-old rider will be racing for the first time the whole World Championship. His challenge for this first season will be learning all the circuits during the weekend and trying to stay among the top ten at the end of every race.
And in the minor class, fifteen year old Oxfordshire schoolboy Bradley Smith will be in charge of defending the colours of the Repsol Honda Team 125cc. Bradley Smith will make his grand prix debut on Sunday in the highly competitive 125cc class. Last year the former moto-cross rider was a member of the MotoGP Academy and earned a grand prix ride after some superb performances in the CEV Spanish 125cc Championship. Smith won the final three rounds of the Championship to finish runner-up by a single point. He has received tremendous backing from Honda and Repsol as he commences a grand prix career masterminded by former grand prix star Alberto Puig.
"I can't wait for the season opener - I am really excited about the first race. As if just the racing isn't enough, the Jerez crowd really gets into the whole thing and that place really goes off. I love racing in Spain, and Jerez is a good track. Everybody involved in the Repsol Honda Team has worked really hard and we've got a committed group of guys here. I hope to reward them for all their efforts over the winter. We are going to bring all we got!"
"I think that we've made a very good preseason, because I've been progressing and there's always been an evolution. The most positive aspect is that we've been able to complete basically our winter test programme and that allows us to reach the first race knowing the new bike a bit better. I've progressed physically as well, I felt much better at the end of the preseason tests compared to the first time I got on the bike. The exercise you do on the bike, lapping on the circuit, helped me to improve my shape, no doubt about that. There are a few things left to be tested for Jerez; I've hardly been able to practice starts and I've only tested two sets of qualifying tyres so far, but I guess that's normal when you are a MotoGP rookie. I'm not worried and looking forward to the races."