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MotoGP returns to Spain for Gran Premi Gauloises de Catalunya

MotoGP returns to Spain for Gran Premi Gauloises de Catalunya

MotoGP returns to Spain for Gran Premi Gauloises de Catalunya

Just days after a stunning fifth round of the season at Mugello on Sunday the chase for the MotoGP World Championship title continues apace this weekend at the Gran Premi Gauloises de Catalunya. This is the 14th consecutive year that the Montmeló track has been used since its inauguration in Barcelona's Olympic year of 1992 and it is hard to remember a more anticipated event, with home rider Sete Gibernau desperately in need of a victory in front of a fanatical local crowd to rescue his MotoGP title hopes.

Gibernau has finished on the podium three times at the Catalunya circuit, including the last two years, but has yet to take victory in his hometown. Last year he set a new lap record on his way to finishing in second place after qualifying in pole position and, with a gap of 67 points now separating him from Valentino Rossi at the top of the standings, will be looking for revenge on the World Champion after a controversial defeat in their last appearance in front of the Spanish fans at the opening round of the season in Jerez.

Unfortunately for Gibernau, Catalunya is one of Rossi's most successful circuits, being one of the five at which he has stood on the top step of the podium on six occasions. Rossi is also the only rider to have won in all three classes at this circuit and, after taking four wins from the opening five rounds of this season, he will be keen to extend his best start to a season since 2002, when he won eight out of the opening nine rounds.

Rossi dismissed Gibernau's title chances following his stunning win coupled with a crash for the Spaniard at Mugello last Sunday, citing compatriots Marco Melandri and Max Biaggi as his main championship rivals. Melandri, who won the 250cc race at Catalunya in 2002, scored his first ever MotoGP podium at this track with third place last season and currently lies second in the championship, 49 points behind the defending champion.

Although Biaggi's second place finish in 2001 is his only MotoGP podium finish at Catalunya, he has had considerable success there in the 250cc class with four victories and four pole positions. Biaggi arrives in Spain lying third in the championship and looking to follow up second place at his home Grand Prix last Sunday with his first victory in almost a year.

Also looking to build on strong records at the Catalunya track are Ducati pair Loris Capirossi and Carlos Checa. Capirossi took the Italian factory's first, and so far only, victory there in 2003 and arrives on top form after clinching their first podium of the season in their home Grand Prix on Sunday. Meanwhile, local rider Checa scored his first ever win at Catalunya in 1996 and also finished on the podium in 1997 and 2002, making this the only circuit at which he has had three podium finishes.


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