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Repsol Honda team looks to rebound
The Repsol Honda Team goes to this weekend’s Grand Prix of China looking for a repeat of last season’s success where Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden recorded a dominant one-two finish. The impressive 5.281km (3.280 miles) Shanghai International Circuit plays host to the MotoGP paddock for the third year, and all eyes will be on the performance of the new 800cc MotoGP machines at a track which, like Istanbul Park two weeks ago, hasn’t hosted winter testing.

Dani Pedrosa will be eager to quickly forget the events of the previous race in Turkey where he was the innocent victim of a first lap crash. Despite suffering bruising to his chest and neck in the unfortunate tumble, the 21-year-old Spaniard arrives in Shanghai full of confidence having taken the clean sweep of pole position, race win and fastest lap here last year. Pedrosa lies in third place in the world championship on 36 points after three rounds – this in spite of his no-score in Turkey – and the 2006 Rookie of the Year will be targeting another strong performance this weekend.

World Champion Nicky Hayden is determined to reassert himself as a frontrunner in Sunday’s 22-lap race. The 25-year-old American fought to a creditable seventh position in Turkey and was just 2.2s from a podium place. Though Hayden hasn’t had the start to the season he would have wished for, he’ll be looking to build on the further progress made at the test session held after the Grand Prix of Turkey. Last year’s second place in China was Hayden’s eight consecutive podium finish, a sequence of consistency with began with the final four races of the 2005 season.

The Repsol Honda Team will be ready for the notoriously variable weather conditions at this race. Since the first MotoGP race at the brand new Shanghai International Circuit in 2005, the weather has been very unpredictable and often wet. The 2005 race was held in torrential conditions and rain affected most of the practice sessions in 2006, although the race was dry. Friday sees two hours of practice followed by qualifying on Saturday ahead of Sunday’s 22-lap Grand Prix of China, which begins at 15.00hrs local time (09.00 CET).

Nicky Hayden – World Championship Position: 6th – 26 points
“I had a pretty decent result in China last year and we certainly need to go there and put in a strong performance this time. China is quite an unusual place: the track and the country are definitely a little bit different to what I’m used to in Kentucky. My favorite part of the track is probably the long right-hander heading onto the back straight. And even at 200mph that back straight goes for days, before you hit the hardest braking corner on the circuit. Obviously though, long straights are not our strongest point right now so I hope we can make some progress there. I’m looking forward to getting back to into a routine of races as the season really gets going and hopefully I can go to China, take a step forward and get up front. Although the final result at Turkey wasn’t a lot better than the first two races, it was fun to be up there in the mix and battle for the podium spots right in front of me. We’ve just got to keep moving forward, get a good grid position and fight at the front.
Dani Pedrosa – World Championship Position: 3rd – 36 points
“I’m looking forward to racing in China because I want to put Turkey behind me as soon as possible. I’ve still got a bit of a stiff neck and some discomfort in my chest, but I’ll be ok to begin first practice on Friday. It was a shame about the result in Turkey, but these things can happen when you have a lot of bikes going into a slow corner – it’s racing. The Shanghai track has very good grip from the asphalt but it’s not my favorite track from a layout point of view – there doesn’t seem to be a good balance between the long straights and the slow corners. However, of course I have very good memories from my first MotoGP race win there last year. The weather can be very wet here so we’ll just have to hope that it stays dry this year. It will be interesting to see how the 800s feel and perform on this circuit – I think the straights could feel very long! And again we’ll have to work well with Michelin to choose the right tires on Thursday because, like Turkey, we haven’t tested here on the 800.“

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