2006 MotoGP Championship - Round 12 - Brno, Czech Republic - August 18/19/20 - Coverage by MCNEWS.COM.AU
|With just six rounds of this 17
race 2006 MotoGP series remaining, the destiny of the 2006 World
Championship is still by no means a foregone conclusion despite the
34 point advantage that leader Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V)
currently holds over his team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda
RC211V), who lies second.
Hayden has shown remarkable consistency throughout this punishing season and his lead is testament to his thorough work in establishing the evolution RC211V as a force in its debut year, but there are still three other riders firmly in the chase for the title.
Dani, in his rookie season, has astonished those who had not looked closely enough at his utter domination of the 125cc and 250cc classes. His quest to arrive in the premier class as a contender and not merely an apprentice rider on the big 990cc four-strokes has already been more than fulfilled.
He has won two races and ridden to four pole positions so far and the closer he gets to the sharp end of the points table the more he seems to be able to raise his already high-achieving game. His second place at Laguna Seca last month at a track he had never even seen before is evidence enough of his desire and skill.
Lurking in third overall is Marco Melandri (Fortuna Honda RC211V). The Italian finished runner-up in 2005 and his two wins at the end of last season spurred him on to become one of this season’s title contenders. Had it not been for the debilitating effects of a multi-bike crash in Barcelona in June, ‘Macio’ might well be even closer to Hayden.
And then there’s reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) who lies
51 points behind Nicky. With 150 points still up for grabs, it’s never beyond the bounds of possibility that if Nicky suffers a mishap of any sort the picture at the top of the table could begin to change. And with these few races left nerves can become a factor.
But Nicky, who celebrated his 25th birthday after the Laguna race and is showing a maturity on track that he has gained after three hard seasons as a Honda rider, looks in no mood to throw away a season’s hard work. And the rider in charge at the top has every reason to suppose that he too will get stronger as the pressure mounts.
Brno is not a track where any rider can afford to make a mistake at this stage of the season. This imposing circuit lies 200km south-east of Prague and the area is steeped in the rich history of Grand Prix racing. Races were run on a fearsome closed roads course before the dedicated circuit was built in 1987. The 5.403km track is a spectacular environment for motorcycle racing and its plunging turns and a power-sapping climb demand a maximum from riders and machines.
The track drops 74m from its highest to its lowest point and this gradient is felt chiefly by way of downhill corner entries that make huge demands on the front tyre. Some of these tricky entries are compounded by negative camber that further increases the need for dependable front-end grip. And from turn four to turn 11 – it’s all downhill.
There are fast chicanes requiring a chassis set up for rapid changes of direction. Precise steering is a must here even though the track is exceptionally wide at 15m. Without accurate turn-in at the high sustained speeds achieved here, not even this super-wide circuit can accommodate wayward exits resulting from inaccurate turn-in.
Another factor is the huge, enthusiastic crowd, The Czechs love their motorcycle racing and tens of thousands flock to Brno where the viewing facilities are excellent. The event won’t quite attract the crowds of 250,000 who used to watch in the 1970s, but Brno, like the best tracks, always has a charged atmosphere.
“Winning at Laguna was awesome,” Nicky said, “But this is just another race where we have to use every minute of all the sessions to qualify well and be ready to roll when the light goes out. I quite enjoy this time of the season and Brno is a track I like. It normally makes for some good racing with the long straights combined with a lot of passing places. I’m really looking forward to being back at the track with my boys and hopefully we’ll come out of the gate strongly on Friday morning and put together a good package for two o’clock on Sunday. It’s really time to get it done.”
Dani said, “This track has been good for me in the past, so I’ll be hoping it’s the same situation on the MotoGP bike. A lot will depend on how the other riders go here because after the break everybody has more energy inside them, so for sure the other riders will be trying really hard. Brno is a fast track which will make it physically demanding on this bike, and also demanding for the Michelin tyres. My goal is to try to keep my rhythm and my speed and finish the remaining six races at a good level – if I do that I will be happy at the end of the year.”
Kenny Roberts (Roberts KR211V), the 2000 World Champion is showing great riding form this season and is keen to step up progress. He said, “We’re about a quarter of a second off of where we need to be. We need to engineer a better motorcycle for race day, not for the first two days. Nicky’s comfortable with his bike by race morning. We need to get there, but I don’t know when that’s going to be. We’re working on it.”
Toni Elias (Fortuna Honda RC211V) said, “I needed the three weeks off to have a complete rest and allow the shoulder injury to recover 100%. My body was really worn before the break and it needed some recovery time so the last thing I wanted to do was get on an aeroplane. I spent a few days at home before heading up to the beach on the Costa Brava. Now I’m pleased to be going to the Czech Republic and to a circuit I like a lot.”
His team-mate Melandri said, “I feel better than ever and I can’t wait to go racing again at Brno, a track I really like and have a lot of good memories from – the best being in 2002 when I took my sixth straight win on the way to the 250 title. The track requires a good engine so the team will have to work hard on adapting the motor of my RC211V. I feel calm and confident after leaving Laguna with a podium and I hope to get back underway at Brno with another good result.”
Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V) said, “In these weeks I relaxed even if I had to take care of my left knee which has been in pain since July 16th. The pain also influenced my performance in the “Suzuka 8 hours”.
After this summer break, I hope
I’ll reach the necessary physical condition to carry out profitable
practice sessions and ride a good race. I love Brno, and the rhythm
of it through the turns. I hope to be aggressive from Friday