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MotoGP fever sweeps Donington as British GP approaches

MotoGP fever sweeps Donington as British GP approaches

MotoGP fever sweeps Donington as British GP approaches

The entire Grand Prix paddock was reunited today with riders from the MotoGP, 250cc and 125cc World Championships teaming up with the British public to make their annual contribution to improving medical aid services in Africa as the Riders for Health charity held their biggest and most impressive Day of Champions yet at Donington Park. On the eve of the British Grand Prix some 6,000 fans poured into an open paddock for a day of festivities that ranged from a pit-lane walk to stunt shows, sidecar rides, live music, a circuit ride-in and the afternoon's main event, the rider memorabilia auction.

Despite preparing to sell his leathers off to the highest bidder in the auction, MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi was in anything but charitable mood as he prepares to defend a 79-point lead at the top of the championship. The Italian won his first MotoGP race at this track in 2000 and is hoping for a similar result in front of a vast army of local support. "For sure this is one of my favourite tracks, it's near my home and I like it a lot," said Rossi.

"It is technical and difficult but always a great pleasure. It is incredible because I see from 2000 every year there have been more people following me and all the riders. It has been a fantastic year for me so far and now we're at the turning point for the second part of the season. It will be difficult but our target is to arrive on the podium every race and try to make a lot of victories. The bike is going well and we'll see what happens."

The Italian discovered yesterday that he will have a new rival next season as 250cc World Champion Dani Pedrosa confirmed at a promotional event in London that he has signed a deal with Honda to ride as part of their official team in the MotoGP class from 2006. The Spanish youngster, who won the quarter-litre title at the first attempt last season and currently leads the series by 37 points, tested the Japanese factory's V5 machine at Valencia last November.

Whilst Pedrosa will be looking to challenge Rossi for the title next season, the Italian's nearest current challenger is Marco Melandri, who is looking forward to racing at a circuit just two kilometres from his Derbyshire home after crashing out of the race in the USA two weeks ago. "It's a good feeling to be back in Europe after the experience of Laguna Seca," said Melandri. "It was a tough weekend for us and I want to get back on the good run of results we've had so far in the championship. I also want to get over what happened at Donington last season, when I fell, broke my thumb, had to have an operation and suffered with the injury for the rest of the season."

Nicky Hayden is also hungry for success after getting his first taste of the winners' champagne at his home round. The American rider is flying high on the confidence of his debut victory and is promising plenty more to come. "A repeat performance of Laguna will be a very long shot but I come here with a new spring in my step knowing that we have the capability to shock and that is what I want to do again," said Hayden. "It took me a while to win races back home in AMA but when I did they seemed to come. I now know I can do it at this level and I won't be happy till we can do it again."


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