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Mugello preparing Italian stronghold

Mugello preparing Italian stronghold

Mugello preparing Italian stronghold

The picturesque Mugello circuit in the heart of the Tuscan valleys is this week preparing to convert itself into an Italian stronghold as a quartet of top home riders, a passionate local factory and over 70,000 partisan followers look to respond to a Spanish assault on the MotoGP World Championship crown at the Gran Premio Cinzano d'Italia.

After three rounds of the 2004 season Sete Gibernau is looking to consolidate his position as the prime candidate to wrestle the title held by Valentino Rossi for three seasons and keep the treasured prize at Honda. Gibernau leads the rider standings after consecutive victories in wet and dry conditions at Jerez and Le Mans but Max Biaggi lies just ten points adrift and will be looking to close the gap with his first ever home win in the premier-class.

Rossi lies a further five points behind his arch enemy in third place as he looks to re-ignite his quest to take the crown to Yamaha, which started in stunning fashion with victory in the first race at Welkom but has faltered with fourth-placed finishes in the last two rounds. Rossi this weekend leads a resurgent Yamaha challenge after a first podium of the season for his team-mate Carlos Checa at Le Mans, where young compatriot Marco Melandri was also impressive.

Meanwhile, Loris Capirossi would like nothing more than to join Rossi and Biaggi in a repeat of last year's all-Italian podium and score his first top three finish of the season. Ducati have this week revealed that they will do everything in their power to give Capirossi and his team-mate Troy Bayliss a chance of glory, bringing from their nearby Borgo Panigale headquarters an extra pair of the 2003 machines with which they enjoyed so much success last season to offer their riders as an alternative to their struggling 2004 prototypes.

World Superbike Champion Neil Hodgson has been riding the Ducati Desmosedici GP3 all season and is set to do so again this weekend after recovering sufficiently from two broken ribs, sustained in a first lap crash at Le Mans three weeks ago. Hodgson's British compatriot Shane Byrne is also set to ride after missing out in France due to a hand injury whilst John Hopkins, who crashed and broke his thumb as a result of Hodgson's fall, should also be fit.


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