The Fiat Yamaha Team will float across the Mediterranean on cloud nine this week as they follow the MotoGP World Championship trail to Barcelona on the back of a stunning victory for Valentino Rossi at Mugello. Rossi's 25-point haul in front of his adoring home fans has propelled him to within striking distance of series leader Casey Stoner, who now holds a precarious advantage of just nine points, and provided a real boost in confidence as the team head to one of Rossi's happiest hunting grounds.
Not only is the Catalonian capital one of Rossi's favourite cities, but the circuit they built as part of their Olympic Games project back in 1992 has seen the multi-World Champion grace the top step of the podium on no fewer than eight occasions in all classes. For the past three seasons the 28-year-old has taken MotoGP victory there for Yamaha and, after enjoying the much-improved engine performance of the YZR-M1 down the long straight of his home track, he has every reason to be optimistic of a repeat result this Sunday.
For Colin Edwards the ferry ride to the north-eastern coast of Spain represents a welcome opportunity to put last weekend's events behind him as soon as possible. The Texan has struggled to find a comfortable set-up for his machine at the past two races and after suffering from the limited track time afforded by the changeable weather in France and Italy he will be hoping for a more traditional June climate on the Iberian peninsular.
Like Mugello, and some of this year's previously visited tracks such as Losail, Shanghai and Istanbul, the Circuit de Catalunya features a main straight that is amongst the longest in the world. The rest of the track is characterised by long radius, medium and high-speed sweepers, with two tight left-hand hairpins thrown into the mix. This variation combined with regular changes i n camber makes the circuit particularly demanding on chassis balance and means that front-end feel is a key concern for every rider.
Valentino Rossi - "A Spanish party!";
After enjoying the raucous backing of over 85,000 fans at his home circuit, Valentino Rossi is looking forward to yet more passionate support in Barcelona this Sunday. Despite the recent success of local rider Dani Pedrosa, Rossi remains a firm favourite with the Spanish fans and always looks forward to performing for them, whether it be at Barcelona, Jerez or Valencia.
"Barcelona is always a great race for me and I've won there the last three years with Yamaha, so hopefully we can do it again," says Rossi. "I am lucky to have lots of fans in Spain, even though I have had some close rivalries with Spanish riders, and it is always a pleasure to ride in front of them. I got a fantastic reception when I won the race at Jerez earlier in the season so hopefully I can start the same kind of party in Barcelona.
"Dani Pedrosa will also have a lot of support this weekend and I expect him to be a difficult rival once again after such a good race at Mugello. Also Stoner will be strong, especially down the long straight, but Yamaha and Michelin have worked really hard to close the gap on our rivals and I think we are ready to battle with them at every track now. After Mugello we have three more races at three of my favourite tracks so hopefully we can continue with the good progress we have made recently and be back on top of the podium again!"
Colin Edwards - "Moving on";
Despite making a bright start to the season a run of bad luck and even worse weather has hindered the progress of Colin Edwards in recent weeks, leaving him languishing in tenth place in the championship. The 'Texas Tornado' is desperate for three fully dry free practice sessions this weekend as he aims to rediscover feeling and confidence with his YZR-M1 but in any case he has a good record at the circuit in wet conditions, having won the ultra-competitive pre-season 'qualifying' session in a torrential downpour just over a year ago.
"Mugello was a nightmare for me but it's behind us now and luckily Barcelona is a track I like a lot more," says Edwards. "I know I'm good in the wet there too after winning the 'qualifying' at the pre-season test in 2006 so if we get hit by the bad weather that seems to have been following us around then we should be okay this time!
"Basically we've got to get our heads down from Friday morning and be right up there from the very first session. We lost one of only two dry practices in Mugello because we were trying something that didn't work and we can't afford for that to happen again. We know we've got the package to be competitive so it's just a case of making the right decisions, getting some confidence going again and moving forward."
Davide Brivio - "Full of confidence";
Fiat Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio enjoyed a short celebration after the team's home Grand Prix on Sunday evening but it was soon back to work for the whole staff as they hit the road for Barcelona. This weekend's race is the second of six over a seven-week spell that will put every team member to the test and firmly establish the serious contenders for the MotoGP World Championship title this season.
"This is a really busy time for everyone but Mugello was a great boost and we go to Barcelona full of confidence and motivation," says Brivio. "We've have an excellent record at the Catalunya Circuit over the last few years and it's another of Valentino's favourite tracks. He was in fantastic form in Mugello and hopefully this will continue in Spain.
"The team and Yamaha have done a brilliant job after some problems that we had and Valentino's win in Mugello showed that we're in a position to fight. We've found some extra top speed, although this is something we will keep on trying to improve, and Michelin have also made some good improvements with the tyres. Colin had a bad time in Italy but Barcelona suits him much better and we just need to keep working and find a way to get him back to the form he was showing a couple of races ago."