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MotoGP fever rising at Mugello

MotoGP fever rising at Mugello

MotoGP fever rising at Mugello

The unrivalled intensity of the Gran Premio Cinzano d'Italia simmered towards boiling point today as the Mugello circuit prepared to host the fourth round of the MotoGP World Championship with two of the country's most popular sportsmen vying for the series lead. Max Biaggi and Valentino Rossi's battle for supremacy in the opening round of the season at Welkom broke television audience records on Italian shores and, two races later and with Sete Gibernau sat on top of the rider standings, interest in motorcycle racing's premier class is again expected to reach new heights as the pair look to knock the Spaniard off his MotoGP pedestal.

"I think all three races so far have been fantastic for the people watching at home and I think this weekend will be too," commented Gibernau, who holds a ten point advantage over Honda colleague Biaggi, with Yamaha rider Rossi a further five points behind. "I suppose this weekend is about Italian power, not just with the riders but also the fans and the racetrack - it's a high pressure weekend for me, but also for them. I feel comfortable – I always get treated well by the Italian fans and I feel at home. This is my team's home race so I'll just get my head down and try my best."

Like Gibernau, Biaggi is looking to overturn a poor record at this circuit, having never won in the premier-class here before, but commented that he now had the means to match his motivation. "All I ever wanted was a competitive bike and that is what I have got now so I am looking forward to making things happen," said Biaggi. "This is one of my favourite tracks on the calendar and I'm sure it's going to be my time soon."

Marco Melandri, the fourth Italian muskateer in this weekend's MotoGP event, took time away from the paddock on a visit to the historic sights of Florence with Kenny Roberts.

John Hopkins has been ruled out of the weekend's action after an examination on Thursday afternoon revealed insufficient fusion in the broken thumb he sustained in a first lap crash at Le Mans three weeks ago. "It's only a broken thumb but the way the break is, the doctors have told me that it could come right off if I had another crash," revealed Hopkins, who had undergone laser treatment and strengthening exercises including deep sea fishing to try and heal the injury.

There was better news for British compatriots Neil Hodgson and Shane Byrne, however, who have both been pronounced fit to ride after recovering from a scattering of broken bones in recent weeks. Hodgson broke two ribs and two bones in the small of his back, as well as tearing muscle in his shoulder, in a first lap crash at Le Mans three weeks ago but will be patched up to ride tomorrow morning, whilst Byrne missed the action in France due to a broken hand injury but has made sufficient progress to return to action tomorrow.


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