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MotoGP returns to Europe for Gran Premio de España

MotoGP returns to Europe for Gran Premio de España

Two weeks on from the incredible first ever Grand Prix at night in Qatar, MotoGP returns to European soil for the Gran Premio de España on March 30th.

Two weeks on from the incredible first ever Grand Prix at night in Qatar, MotoGP returns to European soil for the Gran Premio de España on March 30th. Traditionally one of the best attended races on the World Championship calendar, for most fans it will be their first time to see the 2008 competitors line up alongside each other in the flesh.

With one round already ticked off the list, the championship scenario may on the outside look similar to that of last year, with Ducatis 2007 title holder Casey Stoner leading rivals from the Yamaha and Honda factory ranks. However the reality was that Stoner had to work extremely hard to fight his way through the challengers, which included three rookies, as he began the defence of his crown in impressive style at the floodlit Losail International Circuit.

Jerez is not typically a good track for the Australian, who finished outside the top four on the first of only two occasions in the Spanish race last year. Stoner has also experienced his fair share of crashes at the circuit, including one in testing last November that damaged his shoulder and drew his postseason testing to an early conclusion. However, the fearless World Champions most recent visit to the scene of round two saw him put his demons to rest, with victory in a rain-soaked 40 minute BMW M Award session that resulted in a brand new sports car added to the Stoner collection.

Spanish fans will be spoilt for choice with regards to where to direct their affections, with two home riders beginning the season on blistering form. Taking plaudits from all sides, Fiat Yamahas Jorge Lorenzo had one of the most outstanding debuts in MotoGP history in Qatar, with a pole position and second place just rewards for his stunning ride in the Middle Eastern emirate. The reigning 250cc World Champion has two victories at Jerez in the quarter-litre category to his name, and can be expected to have something special up his sleeve in terms of celebrations should he shake the MotoGP world to its foundations in the second race of the season.

Lorenzos spectacular debut ranks as one of the very best in the World Championships history, and mirrors that of fellow Spaniard and arch rival Dani Pedrosa. The Repsol Honda rider also took second place at his first premier class race in 2006, held precisely at the Circuito de Jerez. This year Pedrosa opened the season with third in Qatar on a Honda RC212V that will be thoroughly assessed before the second race of the year, with both the Spaniard and team-mate Nicky Hayden yet to feel fully comfortable on the 2008 prototype.

The progression of the categorys rookies will be something for which to keep eyes peeled in Jerez, with not only Lorenzo having fine debuts in MotoGP. Tech 3 Yamahas James Toseland would, but for a late flying lap by the Spaniard in qualifying, have a first pole position to his name to add to a sixth place in Qatar, whilst JiR Team Scot newcomer Andrea Dovizioso showed no respect for the established order with the most breathtaking move of the race to snatch fourth from Valentino Rossi, a rider who had pulled the same manoeuvre so many times in the past. Both Dovizioso and Toseland will be happy to build upon their success with the respective Honda and Yamaha satellite machines in Jerez.

Rossi himself has much to prove at the track where he holds five MotoGP victories, including a memorable triumph last year that bowled away all comers. The five-time MotoGP World Champion firmly believes that his decision to switch to Bridgestone tyres for the 2008 campaign will be vindicated once the rubber is completely in sync with both himself and his Yamaha M1, but with Jerez traditionally having been Michelin country it will be interesting to see how things pan out for the Italian.

The fastest rider in testing last month at Jerez was Repsol Hondas Nicky Hayden, the 2006 MotoGP World Champion whose present season got off to a subdued start with only tenth in Qatar. The determined American is hungry for success this year, and can never be ruled out of contention for the victory when on his game.

Built in 1986 and hosting its first Grand Prix one year later, the circuit of Jerez is now one of the most popular MotoGP venues and the focal point for a city fanatical about sport. Set in a slight valley in the south of Spain, Jerez is blessed with consistently good weather and beautiful scenery, its numerous grandstands providing the perfect viewing facilities for up to 150,000 spectators.

With two alternative road circuits (4,423m and 4,428m), which were resurfaced during 2005, Jerez is a popular venue used by many race teams for testing throughout the year, whilst its recently updated corporate and media facilities have proven to be a popular addition to the complex. Other facilities such as the control tower and pit boxes have also been vastly improved.


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