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Local favourites under pressure to deliver

Local favourites under pressure to deliver

Local favourites under pressure to deliver

Sete Gibernau, Carlos Checa and Ruben Xaus ride in front of their home crowd at Jerez this weekend knowing that they have an obligation to deliver the goods after a dry spell of Spanish success at one of the most important dates on the country's sporting calendar. The 125,000 fanatical supporters set to pack the stands at the Andalucian racetrack are sure to demand success after being treated in the past to famous home victories, with Alberto Puig standing on top of the podium in 1995 and Alex Criville taking a hat-trick of victories from 1997-99.

However, since Criville made the podium in 2001, the only Spaniard to finish in the top ten at Jerez in the last two years is Gibernau, who could only manage ninth in 2002.

Gibernau finished third at Jerez riding the V-twin Honda in 1999, but has had less success since - crashing out in 2000 and finishing just inside the top ten in both 2001 and 2002 before crashing again last year after just six laps. "Of course, for a Spanish rider it's very important to score a good result at the Spanish Grand Prix," admits Gibernau.

"Jerez is very special, it's one of the best racetracks in the world not only for the layout of the track. The fans there are unique - it's a home Grand Prix and I'd like to give them a lot of satisfaction – not only the Spanish ‘aficionados' but to all the spectators that come to Jerez for the race."

Checa's second place in 2000 is his only podium finish from eight starts in the top class at Jerez, having retired for the past two years with mechanical problems, although he did qualify on pole position for the 500cc race in 1998, one of only two poles in his career.

"Spain is a bit different - there are friends everywhere and many fans," said Checa. "It is a track I know well and the fans there give me a strong feeling of encouragement so I hope I can give them a good show. I am comfortable at this track and I know the corners and the braking points well."

Xaus has somewhat less pressure on his shoulders this weekend as he rides here for the first time in the premier-class and admits he's feeling more than a little nervous about the occasion. "I know the circuit, but the last time I raced here was in 1995 in the Spanish Championship. Now I've got pins and needles a bit, because I'm going to ‘that' Jerez that everyone talks about, that I've seen on the television… and as much as people tell you about it, I think you have to live it.

"I hope that the fans receive me well, because from my point of view I'll guarantee them 110 percent effort. When we tested during the IRTA session, it caught my eye how much the complex had been improved, but the weather wasn't with us then and we couldn't make the most of the time. In Welkom we did some good work, but luck wasn't with us, and now in Jerez our objectives are still the same as in South Africa - to get more experience and to finish the race."


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