Fortuna Honda Preview
|A party within a party. Toni Elias
has more than one reason to look forward to the final round of the
MotoGP World Championship as it heads to his home country for the
Valencian GP this weekend. Just a few days after his emotional debut
win in Portugal the Spaniard renewed his contract with Team Honda
Gresini, meaning he will campaign the new Honda V4 800cc machine
alongside his current team-mate Marco Melandri in 2007.
Buoyed by the confidence of that first win at Estoril and the belief and support shown in him by Team Gresini, Elias is aiming for a repeat result in front of his home fans at Valencia.
That stunning victory represented a huge turnaround in fortunes for the Fortuna Honda star in his second season of MotoGP action. ďI have always believed in my own ability but now I know for sure that I can do it and I want to win again,Ē promises Toni.
Marco Melandri is also keen to end the season with a top result. The Italian is ready to work hard from the opening free practice session on Friday as he aims to put himself in a position to repeat his success here from last season, when he clinched victory and the runner-up spot in the championship. This time he is fighting to defend his current standing of third place overall.
Designed as a huge stadium complex, where spectators get to view the whole circuit, Valencia is always packed out with passionate fans, creating an unbelievable atmosphere. Crowd figures regularly break records and this year promises to be no different, with all 225,000 tickets for the three days already sold out. Valencia looks certain to be the most exciting event of an incredible season: it is all set up for an intriguing shootout between Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi as they fight for the destiny of the world title.
ďAfter such a tough race in Portugal I still managed to hold on to third in the championship and on Sunday Iíll try to defend that. Iíd like to end the season with another good result and Iíve had a lot of joy at this circuit in the past Ė you only have to think about my victory here last season. We will work hard to solve the problems we encountered at Estoril. Hopefully we can find a good compromise between the bike and tyres and be up there from the start. Sunday will be a highly-charged race with a tense atmosphere and I think the title wonít be decided until the very last corner of the very last lap.Ē
ďThe victory at Estoril was a wonderful surprise but also the fruit of a lot of hard work from the team, confirming that we are working in the right direction. I want to thank the whole team, especially my chief mechanic Fabrizio Cecchini, who always believed in me and made me feel relaxed and confident. In Portugal I just tried to have a good race Ė I never overstepped my limits Ė but when I saw the chance was there to go for the win I wasnít going to let it slip. I feel really satisfied and now things have changed; now I know I can do it and be up front so Iím determined to do it again. Hopefully it can happen as soon as possible. It would be great to put in another top performance at Valencia, in front of the Spanish fans. I donít really like the track itself but the fact it is in Spain, with so much support and an incredible atmosphere, makes up for that. Hopefully we can work well all weekend and provide the encore. To have signed a contract for next year with Fausto Gresini gives me an extra boost. My priority was to continue working with Honda as part of Gresiniís team with my current chief mechanic Fabrizio Cecchini. Now that is in place I think I have the fundamental elements to continue growing and improving. Now Iím already looking forward and I canít wait to start preparing for 2007. Iíll have an 800cc Honda and I canít wait to ride it. There is no reason why we canít have a really successful winter and prepare well for the new season.Ē
THE OTHER TITLE: THE TEAMSí WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
The Honda Team led by Fausto Gresini has once again proved to be one of the standard-bearers in MotoGP, standing out as the only private team to successfully tackle the official representatives. Third in the championship on 323 points, Team Fortuna Honda has been bettered only by the major factory outfits - Repsol Honda, who have already won the series on 438 points, and Camel Yamaha.
With four wins (3 for Marco Melandri and 1 for Toni Elias) and eight podiums in total, the squad run by the former double 125cc World Champion has taken the same amount of victories as the official HRC team and has one more than Ducati Marlboro, who are fourth overall.
The constantly improving Team Honda Gresini has doubled its number of victories from 2005 to continue a run of success that has seen them twice finish with the runner-up spot and once with the third placed rider in the final standings over the past four years.
TEAM HONDA GRESINI IN NUMBERS (up to Portugal 2006)
10 seasons in the World Championship (since 1997 with Barros on a Honda 500 NSR)
1 title Ė the 250cc World Championship in 2001 with Daijiro Kato
175 Grand Prix races contested
32 World Championship victories - 14 in MotoGP (8 with Sete Gibernau, 5 with Marco Melandri and 1 with Toni Elias) and 18 in 250cc (15 with Daijiro Kato and 3 with Loris Capirossi)
87 podium finishes (32 wins, 32 second places and 23 thirds)
3,027 points scored - 1,762 in the premier-class and 1,265 in 250
23 pole positions - 12 in MotoGP (11 with Sete Gibernau and 1 with Daijiro Kato ) and 11 in 250 (9 with Kato, 2 with Loris Capirossi)