The Camel Yamaha Team head for the third race in as many weekends looking to end a gruelling run of races on a high as the MotoGP World Championship arrives in Great Britain this weekend. Following on from the elation of victory at Catalunya and the double disappointment of an injury for Valentino Rossi and a final-bend crash for Colin Edwards at Assen, the Donington Park race represents an ideal opportunity for both riders to bounce back before a well earned two-week break.
Rossi, in particular, is in desperate need of a boost after conceding further ground to Nicky Hayden (Honda) at the top of the World Championship standings. The Italian fought bravely to eighth place despite riding with cracked bones in his hand and foot at the Dutch TT, but crucially he now trails the American by 46 points in the championship. Rossi has won seven times in all classes at Donington Park, one of his favourite MotoGP circuits, but a return to the top step of the podium will be a huge challenge as he battles to recover his fitness and as many points as possible.
Edwards is sure to be given a hero's welcome by his army of British fans, thousands of whom cheered him to the verge of his first MotoGP victory just across the North Sea at Assen last Saturday. The British Grand Prix ranks equally with the Dutch TT as Edwards' most successful event in the premier-class, having finished second there two years ago and narrowly missing the podium last year, so he has high hopes that he can bounce back from that disappointment with another top performance.
There is a slight change to the order of the races this weekend, with the main event taking place after the 250cc race but before the 125cc race. The red lights will go out for the MotoGP riders at 1pm local time, although this will not affect the regular schedule for fans around the world since it still coincides with the standard starting time of 2pm CET.
Valentino Rossi: A Race Against Time;
MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi returns to his country of residence this weekend keeping the fingers on his good hand crossed that he will be in sufficiently good shape to challenge at the front of the field once again. The Italian left Assen on Saturday evening with his physiotherapist Marco Montanari, who will remain by his side for the rest of the week as he tries to recover as much strength as possible before the crucial ninth round of an intriguing championship.
"We have a lot of work to do to improve the situation with my wrist and try to reduce the swelling and heal the bone as much as possible," explains Rossi. "It would be better to have a month now to recover but we are racers and we have to go straight to the next race, which is a pity. Anyway I hope we can improve it as much as possible so that I can ride well at Donington. For sure I won't be at full fitness, but we have five days to improve. Colin showed that the bike is working really well so hopefully it will be like this at Donington also for both of us.
"Donington is like a second home Grand Prix for me and I hope the fans give me all the usual support because I need all the help I can get right now. It has been one of my favourite tracks ever since I rode the 125 there for the first time in 1996 and I have a lot of good memories - especially my first win with the 500 in 2001 and victories with Yamaha for the last two years. It's going to be a big challenge for me to stand on the top of the podium on Sunday, but as long as my hand continues to improve throughout the week, then I think we can try!"
Colin Edwards: A Chance For Revenge;
The British Grand Prix can't come soon enough for Colin Edwards, who heads to another of his favourite tracks looking to bury his Assen nightmare with that elusive first MotoGP win. The amiable American refuses to dwell on the final corner calamity that denied him a visit to the top step of the podium in Holland as he looks on the positive side of a weekend that should provide the platform to another bid for the winners' champagne in England.
"I can't deny that I'm still disappointed after what happened at Assen, but now I have to put that behind me and focus on Donington, which is one of my best tracks and a place I have always gone well," says Edwards. "I have to forget about what happened at the end of the race in Assen and focus on the fact that my bike worked perfectly all weekend, I was consistently fast and I was able to do a really great race up to the last chicane.
"Now we have to hope that the situation is the same at Donington because my aim is to go out there and get my revenge! I want to make up for the disappointment for the team and my fans, and give them something to cheer about again. I always have loads of fans in the UK, a lot of them were there for me at Assen so let's hope they're all back to cheer me on again this weekend."
Davide Brivio: A Long Battle Ahead;
Camel Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio is also in good spirits despite a weekend of drama and ultimate disappointment in Holland. The Italian knows that he could not have asked for much more from his riders on Saturday and he is confident that a similar level of effort from the whole team this weekend will finally reap the rewards they deserve.
"Hopefully this week before Donington will be enough time for Valentino to make a decent recovery and we all hope to see him in better shape when he comes into the garage for practice on Friday morning," says Brivio. "Assen was a big disappointment for us in lots of ways but with Valentino in better shape and Colin in good form we have a chance to put things right at a circuit both riders like and in a country where they are both very popular.
"Whatever progress Valentino makes this week we know he will not be at 100% but we expect him to show the same fight and determination that took him into the points at Assen. It was important he did that but the gap to Nicky Hayden at the top of the championship is significant and we can't afford to let him get too far ahead. He is a strong rider and I think it will be a hard push now until the final race of the season at Valencia."
Technically Speaking: Donington According To Matteo Flamigni;
A dramatic viewing experience, Donington Park sits inside an amphitheatre style setting, with the spectator bankings ringing around the outside. The prevalent off-camber nature of the track is one of the main factors at play during the British Grand Prix, with a large tendency for the front tyre to push, making the right, left, right flick down the Craner Curve section something of a high tension rollercoaster ride. This sequence of sweeping corners is one of the fastest in the world and, according to Valentino Rossi's Data Technician Matteo Flamigni, it is a place the top riders can really make the difference.
"I don't know of any other circuit in the world with a series of corners as fast as Craner Curves," says Flamigni. "The rider is more important than the machine here because it takes a lot of courage and skill to make up time through the first section of the track. In any case the bike setting must be stable enough to give the rider confidence at speeds of around 200km/h and agile enough to cope with the quick changes of direction.
"Donington is like two circuits in one. After the fast opening two sections the second half of the lap is much slower because of the last section, which has two hard braking zones. Turn nine in particular is crucial because the riders go from something like 280km/h to around 60km/h, so the bike has to be good under braking - especially because these are key points to overtake at the end of the race.
Setting up a motorcycle is always a question of making the right compromises but at Donington Park this is particularly true. The best bike out there will have the most accurate balance between performance in these two contrasting halves of the track."