San Marino MotoGP: The PUMA Perspective

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Just one week after its disappointing MotoGP race in Indianapolis, PUMA’s partner team Ducati returns to Europe for the race geographically closest to its Bologna headquarters.

Misano, scene of this weekend’s San Marino Grand Prix, lies 120 autostrada kilometres due east of the Bolognese city on the Adriatic coast. (Ferrari-owned Mugello, host of the Italian Grand Prix, lies 100 mainly non-motorway kilometres south.)

The team’s star rider, nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi, lives close to the circuit and scored two wins here in 2008/9 followed by a podium place last year, so this is a crucial race for Ducati in every respect.

“Misano is a round that means a lot to all of us, and it’s the home race for Valentino. We’ll have many fans here, and we’d like to put both Vale and Nicky (Hayden) in a position to get good results,” said Ducati team manager Vittoriano Guareschi ahead of the event.

Naturally, we’ll try our best, as we do at every race weekend, although we know that the type of work we’re doing on the bike pays off over the long term.”

Situated close to the city of Rimini, the Misano Adriático circuit originally hosted the Italian Grand Prix in the eighties and early nineties before returning to the MotoGP calendar in 2007 as host for the San Marino round, named for the tiny principality lying 20 kilometres inland of Rimini.

Having upgraded its spectator facilities and the track itself in 2006, the 4.226 km clockwise Misano circuit has a maximum capacity of 60,000 spectators, and is expected to heave with atmosphere all weekend. Although at the first glance the circuit appears undemanding, it is highly technical and extremely challenging.

Short, narrow and with a main straight just over 500 metres long, the majority of Misano’s 16 turns (6L and 10R) have a short radius, with the only exception being the famous “Curvone,” a fast, open right-hander also known as Turn 11. An indicator of Misano’s demanding nature can be gleaned from a comparison between its top speeds and lap averages: 280km/h versus 160 km/h.

‘We’ll be racing in front of our home fans at Misano, and obviously we’d like to do better than we have at recent races. Indianapolis was very difficult, and we would have preferred to arrive here in better shape, but we’re aware that much of our work is aimed toward the future,” said Valentino as he prepared for one of his favourite grands prix.

By contrast 2006 world champion Nicky Hayden comes to Italy off the back of his country’s race, but is equally hopeful for an upturn in fortunes after his tyre gamble in Indy failed to pay off.

“Indy was a bad race,” the ‘Kentucky Kid’ said, “but somehow, some way, you’ve got to try to get over it and move on. Misano has been a tough track for me, because it seems like I can’t ever get through the first corner. It would be nice to catch a bit of a break, because I don’t feel like we’re always getting the results we deserve.”

Sunday’s 28-lap race, the 13th of 18 on the 2011 MotoGP World Championship calendar, starts at 14 00 local time, with Saturday’s qualifying hour commencing at 13:55. Clear, 28°C skies are expected on both days.