Valentino Rossi has not been beaten at the Nelson Piquet circuit since he moved up to the premier class in 2000 and few will bet against “The Doctor” winning the Brazilian MotoGP again this weekend.
Valentino Rossi has not been beaten at the Nelson Piquet circuit since he moved up to the premier-class in 2000 and few will bet against “The Doctor” winning the Brazilian MotoGP again this weekend.
The Rio Grand Prix is the first of four “flyaway” events in the MotoGP championship and Rossi arrives in Brazil looking to clinch his sixth victory at the circuit, having won the race there for the last three seasons, adding to 125 and 250cc glory in 1997 and 1999.
Having won the last two grands prix in the Czech Republic and Portugal, the Italian will aim to master the notoriously slippery and bumpy track on Saturday. Despite a mid season blip, he leads Spaniard Sete Gibernau in the riders’ championship by 46 points with five rounds remaining - while Honda only needs one more podium finish to clinch its fifteenth constructors' title.
“I think earlier in the season maybe we lost a little bit of our concentration. We made a few mistakes but now we are coming good for the important part of the season," Rossi said.
However, Rossi still has to officially sign a Honda contract for next season, and – although the team won't admit it publicly – it seems more than a coincidence that Ducati have yet to reveal who Neil Hodgson will ride for next year, or who his team-mate will be.
Telefonica-backed Gibernau must surely beat Rossi in the 24-lap race to have any realistic chance of preventing the Italian winning the title. Unfortunately for him, the Catalan doesn’t have a good record at Rio, with his best result a fifth place four years ago.
“I'm very enthusiastic going into the Rio race," said the Spaniard, who's won four races so far this year. "The race is important and I'm willing to fight for the win on Saturday. The track is not one of my favourites but I don't dislike racing there.
"The big factors at Rio are the weather - sometimes it rains - and the tyres," he added. "Tyre choice is crucial at Rio and you have to get the set up right as soon as possible so you know your tyre choice is the right one."
Meanwhile, Max Biaggi is also chasing his first victory in Rio, and his first on track win of the year for the Camel Pramac Pons outfit. The “Emperor” finished a close to Rossi in Portugal and is chasing Gibernau for the runner-up spot in the championship, although 30 points currently separate the two riders.
"I had a good result in Estoril and I hope the next race will be even better," said Biaggi. "I like the layout of the circuit, but not the tarmac. The grip isn’t good and it's quite bumpy.
"However, the Honda RC211V is a very well balanced machine and we’ve made a step forward with the set-up in Estoril. Hopefully we'll improve even more from there," he added.
Loris Capirossi will give the Marlboro Ducati its first taste of the infamous Rio bumps and it should be tough battle for the diminutive Italian and his team-mate, Australian Troy Bayliss. But the circuit’s long straight will be a blessing for the Desmosedici riders and Capirossi could well better his previous best Rio finish: a third place in the 250cc race four years ago.
The closest championship battle is for sixth place between the Fortuna Yamaha of Carlos Checa and Biaggi's team-mate Tohru Ukawa. Checa leads by one point and has mixed memories of Rio. Last year, he fought back from last place to lead the race, only to crash out just a few laps from the end, whilst, in 2001, he was denied victory on aggregate times after losing out to Rossi on the final corner.
Injuries and machine set-up problems have meant only one rostrum appearance for Brazilian Alex Barros this year, but the Yamaha rider will be keen to wow his home crowd. Unfortunately, he could still miss Saturday’s race after being diagnosed with a broken tendon in his shoulder.
Original article from Car