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Repsol Honda ready for challenge at unfavourable circuit

Repsol Honda ready for challenge at unfavourable circuit

Repsol Honda ready for challenge at unfavourable circuit

This weekend will be a crucial one for Repsol Honda rider Nicky Hayden, and by Sunday evening the task ahead on his title quest will have become clearer.

With further development work carried out on his evolution RC211V during two days of testing following the previous race at Motegi, Hayden aims to reclaim the dominant form he's shown for much of the season. The 25-year-old American is the only MotoGP rider to have scored points at every race this year, but has gone off the boil somewhat over the past few races.

Mathematically speaking, there are four other riders in with a chance of the world title and one of them is Hayden's team-mate, Dani Pedrosa, who celebrated his 21st birthday five days after the Grand Prix of Japan. The reigning 250cc world champion has suffered some bad luck in the last two races and has slipped from second place to fifth in the riders' standings. Despite this, Pedrosa was crowned MotoGP Rookie of the Year in Japan and is only 34 points behind Hayden.

Last year's Grand Prix of Portugal was the second race of the 2005 season, meaning that it's a full eighteen months since the MotoGP series last visited Estoril. Hayden and Pedrosa don't count it as one of their favourite tracks, but will have to overcome any dislike on such a crucial occasion.

Hayden is well aware of the task at hand, commenting that "I'm quite excited about the whole weekend in Portugal. It's a huge race for me – I know that and I'm prepared for it. The team had a couple of days testing after the last race in Japan and we made some progress there, so I'm definitely looking forward to this one. It seems like a long time since we were last at Estoril because it was the second race last year. It's probably the track on the whole GP calendar that I've got the least experience at. I missed one year there because of my knee and collarbone, and last year it was a wet race, and I've never tested at Estoril. Last year I didn't have a very good result there and I struggled a lot so I'm looking forward to definitely improve this time around."

Pedrosa, whilst not a fan of the Portuguese track, has had strong qualifying performances at the circuit in previous years.

"The target is to get a good result here because the last two results in Australia and Japan have been a little disappointing for me. Estoril is not one of my favourite tracks and my previous results here could have been better, but I've been on pole position twice before so it's a track I can go well at. I haven't ridden the RC211V here before though, so I'll have to learn the track quickly on Friday. Of course the weather could play a part because it's quite unstable at Estoril and it often rains. I'm feeling better and stronger thanks to the short break following the Japan race so I'm looking forward to getting back on the bike again and putting in a good result."

MotoGP, 2006, GRANDE PREMIO DE PORTUGAL, Repsol Honda Team

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