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GP Week : Issue 40
MARLBORO DUCATI Casey Stoner has been fastest at all tests this year, in spite of a question mark over the recovery of his left wrist from surgery. He kept it up at Jerez, a bogey track for himself and Ducati, winning the BMW shootout and putting a rocket up the opposition. Most importantly, he’s reliably fast straight out of the pit. With the reduced practice and qualifying time this year, it could be important. With Rossi, he is joint favourite to win. Team-mate Hayden is on a rather different cusp. He has twice not even been the second-fastest Ducati rider at tests, and only 11th at Jerez. He’s going better and working much harder than predecessor Marco Melandri, and will keep trying – that’s what he’s like. But the memories of his 2006 championship are receding faster than his lap time. A hard year ahead. The Italian factory meantime continues to innovate, testing a new cast aluminium chassis alongside their new carbon-fibre unit at Jerez. Rightfully regarded as one of the very top teams. REPSOL HONDA The Big H has struggled somewhat throughout the two years of the 800 class. Will that be over by the time the season starts? Final tests were not suggestive of much comfort. Lead rider Dani Pedrosa was still absent after sustaining arm and knee injuries at the Qatar tests, and remains a doubtful starter for the opening round at the same circuit. Two weeks before the start of the season he had only just started to try to bend his mauled knee. Quite apart from the valuable testing he’s missed, he’s going to be struggling over the early races. In this company, he can’t afford to give away points like this. It puts huge pressure on new team-mate Andrea Dovizioso, who like Lorenzo is in his second year after an impressive debut. But things aren’t going that smoothly: he is finding the factory engine overly abrupt in power delivery, which in turn has hindered his own adaptation to Bridgestones. For the first race, he admitted after placing seventh at Jerez: “I will have to grit my teeth”. 48