HONDA HOTSHOTS AIM TO TAME TWISTY SACHSENRING

With the title race now reaching boiling point with eight races to go, this German round of the 17-race MotoGP series assumes critical importance and no one knows this better than overall points leader Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V).

The American suffered his worst result of the year so far at Donington with a seventh place finish. The Kentucky Kid suffered electronic problems in qualifying and started way down the grid. Hayden is in no mood to endure a repeat of that here in Germany. His team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC211V) took the win in England two weeks ago to move within 26 points of Nicky.

As ever in racing, the first rider you have to beat is your team-mate, but when you and your garage companion are slugging it out for a World title, this requirement is paramount. Then there is the matter of the reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) defending his title.

After a shaky start Rossi is grinding out results despite injury and both Hayden and Pedrosa are only too aware that they must take the opportunities to pile on the points while they have them. And for both men The Sachsenring is a happy hunting-ground.

Nicky qualified on pole here last season and finished third, while Dani has won here on a 250cc machine for the past two years. There has never been a more important time for either of them to repeat that sort of form here again.

 

Marco Melandri (Fortuna Honda RC211V) has shown incredible fortitude and tenacity this season. He currently lies fourth in the overall points standings with 114 to Rossi’s 118, Pedrosa’s 127 and Nicky’s 153. But he should, by all accounts, be nowhere near them after his big crash in Catalunya in mid-June.

Despite debilitating neck and shoulder injuries Marco has notched a seventh place at Assen, and a podium finish in third at Donington Park. If he can conjure up another gritty ride here, he cannot be discounted as a race-winner on Sunday.

His team-mate Toni Elias (Fortuna Honda RC211V) is back from injury and raring to go here. The Spanish rider suffered a fractured left shoulder in a practice crash at Assen and is now prepared to ride, although not at peak fitness.

 

Casey Stoner (LCR Honda RC211V) is hoping to find a way onto the podium again after two fourth places in the previous two races, while Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V) has slightly adjusted his riding style more in line with the style of other RC211V riders. Tamada must believe the front-end problems he has been suffering this season have finally come to an end.

Kenny Roberts (Roberts KR211V) has shown all the skills of a former World Champion in getting the Honda-powered KR machine on the pace this season after two troubles seasons. With another chassis here in Germany to work on, their progress could now be even swifter. But a podium and two fifth-places from the last three races is still a sound performance.

All riders will need their considerable talents to tame the Sachsenring.  Set in the rolling heartlands of German motorcycle sport in the Hohenstein-Ernstthal region, this 3.671km former public roads circuit is close to the MZ motorcycle factory and huge crowds of up to 250,000 attended the event in its heyday.

The tight twisting nature of the track demands acceleration rather than outright speed, six left-hand turns in succession put great stress on tyre edge-grip and a steep downhill plunge followed by an uphill section to the start/finish straight requires utter precision from riders and dependable stability from machines.

Nicky Hayden said, “We’ve had a short break and I’m really looking forward to getting to Germany – it’s a track I quite like. In the first section it’s pretty well follow-the-leader and you’ve just got to be patient and get through there, but the last part of the track I really like. The 5th gear drop-away is really good and it’s a pretty sweet feeling when you get that one right. There’s a lot of racing still to go this year and there’s quite a few races coming up at tracks I like, so I’m definitely feeling ready for the second half of the season.”

His team-mate Dani said, “As always this year my first job is to learn how to ride the RCV at this track. Sachsenring has some really slow sections and really fast sections so I don’t know how it will be to ride this bike.

For sure the first part will be very tight because it was very tight on a 250 so I’m waiting to see how a MotoGP bike will feel through here. My results at this track have been pretty good in previous years but of course in MotoGP it will be a different challenge and I’m taking nothing for granted.”

Marco said, “It was nice to be back on the podium just two weeks after the accident. Donington was a real achievement for me and I’m pleased because Barcelona hasn’t affected me. The Germany-United States double will be tough but I hope to be able to tackle it at my best. Sachsenring is a peculiar circuit but I like it because it’s technical. The setting of the bike has to be perfect at this track and as far as riding technique is concerned you have to be very careful to control the throttle without being too aggressive.”

Toni Elias said, “I’m happy to come back after a forced three-week break at home. It’s been a tough period because the shoulder has been really painful. It hurts every time I move my arm and I can’t even rest properly because it is even painful when I lay down. I’ve tried to recover as quickly as possible by having two sessions with the physiotherapist each day. I want to race even though I am aware it will be very difficult and painful.”

Makoto Tamada said, “The Sachsenring is always better if you do not have to make up positions. The track is tortuous, with not many long straights and, especially in the first part, it is difficult to overtake because the track is very narrow.In the last days, during the tests I made in Suzuka, I did not lower my concentration level. I come back to Europe ready to continue working with my team, trying to improve the feeling with my RC211V.”

Kenny Roberts said, “We’re trying to get both our chassis to react in the same ways now so we can get more time out on track between adjustments during practice. I’ve always gone well here, I know the track well and I’m really hoping for something good here.”

Stoner said, “I’m looking forward to this race after two weekends where I’ve just missed out on podium finishes. We’re working hard to keep up the momentum in the team and if I can go well here, then we’ve got Laguna to look forward to the weekend after.”

In the 250cc class series points leader Andrea Dovizioso (Humangest Racing Honda RS250RW) holds a slender lead over his major rival for the title Jorge Lorenzo (Aprilia). Lorenzo has won the last two races, but the tight and twisty Sachsenring might suit the characteristics of the Honda better.

Dovi said, “Sachsenring is not one of my favourite circuits of the calendar, but it is not important if I like it or not. I have done good races here in Germany and we have to find a good chassis set-up to take full advantage of my Honda 250cc. In the previous races we struggled a bit but I hope that the two-days tests done in Brno after the British GP have been useful to find a good base. I’m still leading the Championship but just by one point and we have to fend off Lorenzo’s attack.”

Yuki Takahashi (Humangest Racing Honda RS250RW) said,“The tests we’ve done last week at Brno track have been very important for me. At Donington, we lost our way a bit with the chassis settings and at Brno we worked to find a good base set-up for the rest of the season.  I like the Sachsenring a lot and I hope to push hard from the first session on Friday.”

Shuhei Aoyama (Repsol Honda RS250RW) said, “After the dreadful weekend in Donington, I have to fight for the podium places this weekend in Germany – so we’ll have to be really focussed and watchful from the first practice day. I have some experience at the Sachsenring because we had a tyre test day there with the 125cc machine last year, after the Grand Prix, so I know the layout and I like it a lot. It’s a circuit that gives me very good feelings.”

In the 125cc class reigning World Champion Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R) is languishing in seventh place overall, with Gabor Talmacsi (Humangest Honda RS125R) just behind him in eighth. Although the World title is now out of their range for this season, they will be riding as hard as even to make life difficult for runaway series leader Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia).

Luthi said, “The Sachsenring is OK, but it’s not one of my favourites. There are too many short corners on the track for my liking and I much prefer tracks with faster corners. At the Sachsenring you are on the brakes too much.”

Gabor Talmacsi said, “Sachsenring is a track I like. Last year I finished fourth at the German GP but the race was stopped few laps before the end as Poggiali crashed out. Maybe I could have gathered a better result though. Anyway, I have good memories of this technical and spectacular circuit; the only part that I don’t like is the first right down-hill corner after the straight, but the rest is fine.”

Brit rookie Bradley Smith said, “After scoring my first points at my home Grand Prix I obviously arrive in Germany in high spirits, although I’m neither going to lower the guard nor have any special expectations. Now we have to keep on working, focussed to the top, because I know that if we do things right and we get a good place on the starting grid we’ll have more chances to keep on scoring. I’m really looking forward for this weekend to enjoy another Grand Prix.”

 

 

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