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Rossi looks to continue breaking records

Rossi looks to continue breaking records

Rossi looks to continue breaking records

Valentino Rossi heads straight from Mugello to Catalunya this weekend with a clutch of new records under his arm and another major milestone in his sights. A 53rd career victory for the 24 year old at his home race last Sunday stretched his lead in the 2003 World Championship to 32 points over Max Biaggi and took him past the 1000 career points mark. It was also the 151st win for an Italian rider in the premier class, taking them above the USA with the most wins by nation. A repeat performance this weekend would move Rossi level on all time Grand Prix wins with the legendary Mick Doohan – his predecessor and mentor in the Repsol Honda factory squad – and the odds are stacked in his favour, having won the MotoGP race at this circuit for the last two seasons to add to a further three victories in the 125 and 250 classes.

The fast, flowing Catalunya circuit seems to suit Rossi and the Honda RC211V, but the man who hit the headlines in preseason testing here was his compatriot Loris Capirossi riding the Ducati. Capirossi set the fastest lap at the official MotoGP Winter Test and sent out a warning shot at Mugello that he and the Desmosedici can maintain that electrifying pace over full race distance. The former 125 and 250cc World Champion finished second to Rossi on Sunday but was only 1.416 seconds behind after emerging from a wheel to wheel skirmish with Biaggi to mount an unexpected late charge for victory. Capirossi set a new All Time Speed Record at Mugello with a blistering 332.4 km/h during the race, but there will be another opportunity to equal or better that registry down the 1047m straight at Catalunya, where he clocked 328.2km/h in March.

Sete Gibernau arrives at his home race looking to make up for a disappointing seventh place in Mugello which saw him lose important ground on Rossi at the top of the championship. The Spaniard had taken two victories from the first four races but has yet to fully adapt to the factory RC211V he inherited at Jerez in round three and he struggled to find the right set-up at the technical Italian circuit. However, he knows this layout perhaps better than any other rider in the premier-class and has a track record of performing well in front of his home fans – including a podium and three top five finishes at this circuit and his maiden victory at nearby Valencia.

Gibernau´s fellow Catalan Carlos Checa is also looking for a morale boosting result in front of the passionate local fans. The factory Yamaha man has yet to score a top five finish so far this season and currently lies 13th in the championship, but will be hoping a second row start and eighth place in the race at Mugello can be a stepping stone to marked improvement this weekend. Alex Barros remains the factory´s highest placed rider in fourth place despite his race crash on Sunday and he will also receive plenty of support from the home crowd having based himself in the historic Spanish city for much of his Grand Prix career.

Kenny Roberts´ miserable season shows no signs of improvement, with the former World Champion a major doubt for this weekend after injuring himself in a crash with team-mate John Hopkins on Sunday. Hopkins is also in pain and is not sure whether he will be fit to ride. Meanwhile, Akira Yanagawa will take part as a wildcard for Kawasaki alongside Garry McCoy and Andrew Pitt.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2003, Gran Premi Marlboro de Catalunya, Valentino Rossi

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