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MotoGP stars set out their respective stalls for Mugello

MotoGP stars set out their respective stalls for Mugello

The official press conference ahead of the Gran Premio d’Italia TIM was attended by Nicky Hayden, Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso and Marco Simoncelli.

The rivalry between Fiat Yamaha team-mates Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi looks set to escalate this weekend at Mugello. Lorenzo arrives in Italy nine points clear of his team-mate at the top of the Championship standings, as a result of his first MotoGP back-to-back wins at Jerez and Le Mans.

Lorenzo finished second in last year's wet to dry race at Mugello, despite crashing his M1 on the warm-up lap.

"I thought my race was over when I crashed on the warm-up lap, but the bike was not damaged and I went on to make an almost perfect race in the drying conditions," said Lorenzo. "This year I hope it stays dry on Sunday, but it's also fun to race here in the wet."

The Spaniard played down his chances of taking a third successive win this weekend during the pre-event press conference, and was quick to point out that although he leads the Championship at the moment there is still a long way to go.

"We have 15 more races between now and the end of the season – we've barely started yet. I don't feel any pressure for this race, or for the Championship. This is just one race more to enjoy," concluded the Championship leader.

Rossi returns this weekend to a circuit that he has made his own in recent years, having won seven times in the premier class during his last eight visits to the Italian track. The reigning World Champion is keen to secure his second victory of the season, but is still a little concerned about the shoulder he injured in a motocross crash shortly after the Grand Prix in Qatar.

"The shoulder stabilised after Jerez, but the improvement has been very, very slow since then," said Rossi. "When I get up in the morning for about an hour there is still a lot of pain, but after that I can do the normal things like driving the car. It is still difficult to ride the bike though."

The reigning World Champion also admitted that he still feels the pressure when racing in front of his home crowd. "It's always great to race here in Mugello. The track and the crowd are both fantastic and it's a great feeling. There is big pressure, sure, but it's good pressure," he added.

While the focus has been mainly on the battle for supremacy between the two Fiat Yamaha riders, there is an equally dramatic battle going on in the Repsol Honda pit box, as Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa fight it out for bragging rights as the top Honda rider. Currently it is Dovizioso who holds the advantage. The Italian is third in the Championship standings, just two points ahead of his team-mate, after getting the better of Pedrosa to take the final podium position last time out in Le Mans.

After two podiums in three races, Dovizioso is confident that the time when he is able to challenge for his first MotoGP race win is not so far away. "We've not fought for victory yet, but we're close now. If we can improve again then we'll be up there. It's a big step up, but not an impossible one," declared the 23 year-old.

Casey Stoner, whose win at Mugello last year ended Rossi's seven-season run of victories at the circuit, arrives in Italy only 13th in the Championship standings, 59 points behind Lorenzo after crashing out of contention in both Qatar and Le Mans.

With Stoner struggling thus far, it is team-mate Nicky Hayden who is currently flying the flag for the Ducati Marlboro team. The American lies fifth in the Championship standings, after three fourth-placed finishes so far this year, but he is adamant that a podium finish is close.

"We have certainly started the season quite well, but our goals are a lot more than fourth places" explained Hayden. "The podium is not that far in front but to really get with the front guys, that next step is the hardest. We have a lot of work to do and, as you get closer to the guys at the front, those extra tenths get harder because those guys are pushing too. It's not going to be easy, but I'm looking forward to this next stretch."

Marco Simoncelli is a former 250cc race winner at Mugello, but this weekend marks his first appearance on home soil since moving up to the premier class. It has been a difficult start to his MotoGP career for the Italian, but he was quick to point out that he is no stranger to tough first seasons in a new category.

"The move up from 125cc to 250cc was a difficult one for me, and it's the same now moving up to MotoGP,” he stated. “Winter testing was very hard, but since the first race we've improved a lot and the last two results were not so bad. For sure I still have a lot of work to do, but I'm happy with the progress I've made so far."


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