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Donington Park prepares for MotoGP World Championship round eight

Donington Park prepares for MotoGP World Championship round eight

The fourth in a six race stint of European excursions for the MotoGP World Championship takes place on June 24th at Donington Park, which opens its doors for the Nickel &Dime British Grand Prix.

The fourth in a six race stint of European excursions for the MotoGP World Championship takes place on June 24th at Donington Park, which opens its doors for the Nickel &Dime British Grand Prix. The first visit to British soil for the 800cc machines is sure to throw up a few surprises, following on from the previous seven rounds of breathtaking action.

Casey Stoner leads the way in the World Championship standings after extending his lead to 14 points with victory in Catalunya. The Australian has established himself as the new man to beat in the MotoGP class, and experiences something of a return to his roots at Donington Park. Stoner took the formative steps of his career in Britain, competing in the national championship on a 125cc at the turn of the decade. Now riding for the Ducati factory team, Stoner will be looking to push the Desmosedici GP7 to a fifth victory of the season in a familiar setting where he finished fourth in his rookie MotoGP season.

His toughest rival and closest challenger in his breakthrough season also has happy memories of Britain. Five-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi holds seven victories at Donington Park across the three categories, including his first ever premier class triumph in his debut season on the 500cc Honda. Having provided the British crowd with some unique celebrations over the years, ‘The Doctor' now fully assumes the underdog role of nearby Nottingham's favourite son -and Rossi hero- Robin Hood as he sets his sights on Stoner. Will he hit the target, or will the violins from 2005 be out for Yamaha's Italian star?

Spanish rider Dani Pedrosa was unable to take a home victory at Catalunya at the beginning of the month, and has now gone fifteen races without a win. The Honda factory rider will come full circle when he arrives in Britain, with his second and most recent MotoGP win having come at Donington Park. Trailing Stoner by 42 points, the 2006 Rookie of the Year will have to break his duck soon if he is to stop his former 250cc rival escaping from him as the season heats up.

Almost sneaking up into fourth in the standings, Marco Melandri is another former 250cc World Champion and Honda rider experiencing a tough time at the moment. The Italian has just one podium finish to his name this season; in the wet at Le Mans when he showed himself to be a master of the flag-to flag race. In a positive sign for the 24 year old, British weather always allows for the chance of rain, and Melandri was on the rostrum last year. Post-race testing after Catalunya was positive for a number of Honda riders, as they look to end a drought of eight Grands Prix without a victory in the longest winless streak for the factory since 1991.

Suzuki riders Chris Vermeulen and John Hopkins are dead level on points after seven races, in what has been a great start for the team. The GSV-R800 has been one of the most consistently fast 800cc machines until now, and Anglo-American Hopkins will be particularly keen to do well at a track which was until this year just a stone's throw from his between-race base. Based in Banbury, Oxfordshire, Team Roberts are also riding a home race of sorts. Having drafted in Kurtis Roberts for the past two Grands Prix at Mugello and Catalunya respectively, they now take a gamble on British Superbikes rider and recent winner of the Suzuka 300km, Jonathan Rea. A one-off appearance for the Brit onboard the KR212V will give the home crowd a local rider to cheer for, as he rides alongside regular rider Kenny Roberts Jr.

Kawasaki used former 250cc rider Anthony West for their recent post-race day of testing, but will expect to have Olivier Jacque back in action and fully recovered from his crash in practice for the last Grand Prix.

With five victories on the board so far this season, Jorge Lorenzo has created a gap of 34 points between himself and his nearest rival as part of a dominant defence of his 250cc World Title. The Spaniard arrives in Donington Park off the back of his first ever victory at Catalunya, and returns to the scene of his 2006 victory. Lorenzo has been unstoppable so far this year but, as ever, he has a number of rivals ready to capitalise on any error by the 20 year old. Andrea Dovizioso and Alvaro Bautista are the only other two riders to have won a quarter litre race this season, where all victories have come from the poleman.

Alex de Angelis has been ‘Mr Consistent' so far in 2007, although he is yet to win a race. Always involved in the action, he joins a list of riders that includes Hector Barbera and rookie Thomas Luthi as those who should never be ruled out of podium contention.

The 125cc category is this year one of the most fiercely contested in recent memory. Six winners from seven races have thrown the class wide open, with all six making up the top places. Gabor Talmacsi leads the way with 115 points, ahead of team-mate and only rider to take two wins so far this year, Hector Faubel on 102.

Lukas Pesek has crashed in the last two races, having previously led the World Championship. Mistakes are costly in 125cc, and he now finds himself trailing Talmacsi by 21 points and being closed down by Simone Corsi and Sergio Gadea in the classification. After his first 125cc triumph on Spanish soil, Tomoyoshi Koyama seems to also be coming good onboard the KTM.

British representation in the class comes from Bradley Smith, the 16 year old from Oxford who took his first podium at Le Mans last month. Consistently the fastest Honda rider, and believing that he could have won at Catalunya, Smith is more determined than ever to have a great ride at Donington.

Built in 1931 to stage motorcycle events, but closed down during the Second World War, a derelict Donington circuit was bought in 1971 by local businessman and motor sport enthusiast Tom Wheatcroft. It was re-opened in 1977 after huge investment and is now regarded as one of the best circuits in Britain, with a recent facelift to the pits, race control and media centre complex hoping to make sure the off-track experience is as good as on it. Located in beautiful countryside near to the village of Castle Donington in the English Midlands, the circuit is set in a natural amphitheatre that facilitates excellent viewing possibilities. Its flowing layout is broken up by a slow second-half of tight corners meaning a combination of smooth racing and good corner speed must be combined with last-gasp braking and hard acceleration.

Practice for the Nickel & Dime British Grand Prix begins on June 22nd, with the race itself taking place on June 24th.


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