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MotoGP action returns at the Grand Prix of Turkey

MotoGP action returns at the Grand Prix of Turkey

The MotoGP World Championship gets back underway on April 22nd, when the riders return to the track for the Grand Prix of Turkey at Istanbul Park.

The MotoGP World Championship gets back underway on April 22nd, when the riders return to the track for the Grand Prix of Turkey at Istanbul Park. The opening two races of the 2007 season have taken place at tracks previously tested on with the new 800cc bikes, but the Turkish date should throw up a few surprises as ‘uncharted territory'.

Five time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi is in the driving seat after the first two races of the year, having opened his win account at the last round in Spain. The Italian is on a mission this season, and leads the overall classification with 45 points. Victory at Jerez also keeps the possibility of seven different winners from as many races alive, with the previous six rounds having been won by Marco Melandri, Loris Capirossi, Toni Elias, Troy Bayliss, Casey Stoner and ‘The Doctor' himself. Those with the possibility of extending the streak include reigning champion Nicky Hayden and 2006 Rookie Of The Year Dani Pedrosa. Rossi has yet to win in Turkey, one of three circuits on this year's calendar where he has never taken victory.

The winner of the opening race, Casey Stoner has shone since his move to the factory Ducati team. Last season he took his first ever MotoGP podium at Istanbul Park, pickpocketed on the final corner by Marco Melandri, and this year he will be looking to throw his name into the hat early on as a serious title contender after three races.

Apart from Rossi, Dani Pedrosa is the only rider to have been on the podium at every race so far. The Spaniard is level on points with Stoner, and has the chance to make amends for his last lap crash last year whilst fighting for the win. Pedrosa is currently on a ten race winless streak, the longest period without a triumph since his first 125cc victory back in 2002.

Colin Edwards made his return to the podium at Jerez, the first time he had tasted the champagne since last year's Chinese Grand Prix. The American looks more comfortable than ever on the newest version of the Yamaha M1, and could be in the running for his elusive maiden MotoGP victory over the course of the season. He lies fourth in the standings, ahead of Marco Melandri. The Italian has a perfect record on Turkish soil, winning every race held at Istanbul Park. However, a slow start to the year means that the Gresini Honda rider is not in the best of form as he tries to make it a hat trick of victories, although Melandri can never ever be ruled out of the running. His win last year came from way down in 14th on the grid, the lowest ever position that a winning rider has started from.

The 2006 World Champion's title defence has not got off to the best of starts, but the hardworking Nicky Hayden is determined to get himself back onto the podium and amongst the frontrunners. Having received advice from brother Tommy at the post-race Jerez test, ‘Trick Daddy' could easily make his way back up the standings with a strong showing at Istanbul.

John Hopkins continues to battle on through the pain barrier, suffering from a hand injury from preseason. Despite this, the Anglo American has no intention of taking time off, and has by no means been cruising during the opening two races of 2007. He trails team-mate Chris Vermeulen and Honda rider Toni Elias in the standings, ahead of Alex Barros and Shinya Nakano, who should be starting his 100th MotoGP race in Turkey.

In 250cc, Jorge Lorenzo has been unstoppable thus far in his title defence. The Spaniard has taken two victories and two pole positions on his way to a perfect 50 points from the opening pair of races, marking his territory along the way. If he is to annex Turkey to ‘Lorenzo's Land' then he will have to avoid a repeat of last year, when he collided with Shuhei Aoyama at the opening corner and began a run of winless races.

Alex de Angelis will also be approaching the third race of the season with caution, doubtless not having forgotten his last lap crash in 2006. The San Marino rider made one of the most miraculous saves of all time as he collided with Hector Barbera last year, in one of the most memorable incidents of last year. De Angelis currently lies in second in the championship, ahead of Andrea Dovizioso and quarter litre rookie Alvaro Bautista.

Yuki Takahashi, returning to form after a long comeback from a broken leg, and Hector Barbera complete the top six in 250cc, with the latter unlucky to crash out of his home race when challenging for victory.

Roberto Locatelli, the former 125cc World Champion seriously injured in a crash during practice for the Jerez 250cc race, has been making a steady recovery from his injuries suffered at the Spanish track, and has undergone a series of operations since the accident. It is unknown at the present time if Aprilia understudy Alex Debon will stand in for Locatelli in the Metis Gilera team.

Only three riders have stepped onto the podium this season in the 125cc class, and between them they have provided fans with two exciting races. Gabor Talmacsi leads the way in the lower cylinder category, becoming the first Hungarian in history to do so. After having been slipstreamed by team-mate Hector Faubel in Qatar, it was Talmacsi's turn to take a photo finish win at Jerez, denying Lukas Pesek his maiden victory in the class.

Pol Espargaro, the youngest rider to score Grand Prix points, is proving that he can hang with the big boys in his first full season. The Spaniard still has the chance to become the youngest ever Grand Prix winner, and heads to Turkey on the back of a successful home race two weeks ago.

One of the predicted title challengers this year, Mattia Pasini has suffered more than his fair share of misfortune thus far. Having suffered a mechanical problem at the opening race, he then had to start from the back of the grid in Spain after breaking down on the sighting lap. The determined Italian, who had qualified on pole before his setback, then collided with Bradley Smith in the early stages of the race, leaving him with zero points from two races.

Practice for the Grand Prix of Turkey begins on Friday April 20th, with the race itself taking place on Sunday 22nd.

The Istanbul Park track is located on the Asian side of Istanbul, close to the newly constructed Sabiha Gokcen Istanbul Airport, and was designed by Herman Tilke, the architect behind a number of racetracks like Sepang and Shanghai.

The circuit proved an instant hit with riders on their first visit in 2005, featuring breath-taking changes in elevation as well as some extremely fast and challenging corners. There are echoes of several world famous corners, the most thrilling being the fast turn eleven which resembles Eau Rouge at Spa and which almost certainly now qualifies as the fastest corner in MotoGP. With stands ready to hold 130,000 race fans, the circuit opens MotoGP up to a whole new world.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2007, GRAND PRIX OF TURKEY

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