After a long break, the 2007 Motorcycling World Championship returns to activity this weekend in Istanbul on the occasion of the Grand Prix of Turkey, third scoring round of the season. After the races in Qatar and Spain, this will be the first time the Repsol Honda Team riders Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa, as well as their MotoGP mates will face a circuit on which they haven't tested during the 2007 preseason, meaning that they have no references at all with the new 800cc Honda RC212V.
The restrictions as regards tyres - the riders have only 14 sets for the front and 17 for the rear - will with no doubt be one of the big challenges of the Turkish event. It will also be important to find quickly the best possible setting for the new 800cc machines on the Turkish track.
The last Grand Prix of Turkey was held one year ago, and Dani Pedrosa has evolved a lot since his debut in the premier class. The Repsol Honda Team rider will be back this weekend in a venue in which he managed a superb performance last season...until he crashed while fighting for his first MotoGP victory. He started from the 16th position and managed to lead the race, such was Pedrosa's race last year in Turkey. But a crash hindered him from fighting for the victory, so Pedrosa has unfinished business with this track. After his third place in Qatar and second in Spain, we can expect anything from the brave Repsol rider. His team-mate and current World Champion Nicky Hayden, has a record of two third places on the Turkish layout, so despite the difficult start of the season, he is also in the group of firm candidates to fight for the victory this weekend.
In the 250cc, Julián Simón's crash during the Spanish round that hindered him from achieving a good result is already history. After setting the third fastest time in the timed practices and starting from the front row of the grid, Simón made a bad start that jeopardized the rest of his race. A crash fourteen laps before the end of the race while already being sixth after an excellent recovery, ended his expectations in Jerez. In Turkey, a track on which he has never lapped with the Honda RSW 250cc before, we will be able to see how Simón makes-up to be among the fastest of the class. Team-mate Shuhei Aoyama will also have to make a big effort to make that necessary step forward to be more competitive and get closer to the leading positions of the class.
In the 125cc, Repsol Honda riders Esteve Rabat and Bradley Smith, are showing themselves highly competitive in the minor class, although they will have to stay cool and split hairs to avoid any mistakes this weekend and get a place among the top ten of the class, just like in Jerez. They have the needed quality and a good human and technical team, so they should be continuing with their process of constant improvement in Turkey.
"It's been a good few weeks off and so I'm definitely looking forward to getting back into it in Turkey and really getting the summer started. Istanbul Park is quite a cool track, especially with that fast 5th gear corner.
On the 990cc bike that corner was wild, though on these bikes it might not really be a corner any more - it'll be interesting to see how the 800s feel through there. It's a really good track and I like the layout because it's got some serious elevation changes. Turn's One's really technical and TV doesn't really do that corner justice. People at home on the couch don't really see how blind the entry is and what a drop off there is, so that's pretty fun. It's been a decent track to me in the past and I'm looking forward to racing there again. We're going to stay positive and keep working hard to get up front. I've got a good team behind me and we're giving it all we've got to make the improvements we need to take a step forward."
"I'm feeling ready for this race because there has been a big break and I'm sure all the riders are excited about the weekend. We haven't tested the new 800cc bikes at this track, unlike in Qatar and Spain, so everyone will face the same questions: what to do and how to do it with regard to the bike, tyres and the whole package.
We will have to see if the weather works in our favour to make this process easier and allows us to make good use of all of the practice time. Last year we had really cold conditions so I hope this year it will be a little warmer. The track is quite smooth - there are just two or three corners where there are some bumps - and the tarmac and grip levels are quite good. This year I hope to have a better qualifying practice and a better result in the race because last year I came from the back in the race to lead, but I finished near the back again! So I hope to improve on this. With the new tyre rules it's difficult to predict how things will work out. A lot will depend on the meeting with Michelin on Thursday when we will look at the tyre plan and the weather forecast and decide on the strategy - whether to go for a risky one or elect for safety. It should be an interesting weekend for everyone."