British Moto GP - Race Preview
Casey Stoner showed in Catalunya that he has the mettle to be MotoGP world champion, but while his stamp may be all over the 2007 title, Valentino Rossi is not going to let the young Australian ride away into the sunset just yet. A five-time winner of the British MotoGP event, the Doctor knows what it takes to win at Donington.
Rossi knows that he needs to keep the pressure up on Stoner, who has shown remarkable composure in building his 14-point lead over the Italian. At this stage of the season, there is little between the Ducati and the Yamaha, meaning the composure of the man in the hot seat is vital to success.
Interestingly enough, both men have had little support from their teammates so far this year. Colin Edwards has not finished better than 10th in his past five races, while Loris Capirossi has just one podium in 2007.
It's perhaps a further demonstration of the skills of Stoner and Rossi that they are so far out in front on bikes which don't appear to have any massive advantage. The Australian has been particularly impressive on an unwieldy machine, which has tested his strength and nerve constantly.
Stoner's emergence as the championship yardstick for 2007 may have surprised a few who thought that Dani Pedrosa was the heir apparent and that Nicky Hayden wasn't ready to give up his world title. Hayden's season has been nothing short of disappointing, as he languishes in 11th place on the table, with a best effort of seventh.
Pedrosa's consistency is laudable, he has four podiums this year and is an undoubted talent. But the contrast with his peer Stoner is interesting. While Stoner has consistently found ways to get in front, and stay in front, Pedrosa seems unable to get himself into winning positions. It must be a concern for those at Repsol Honda, but Pedrosa did win at Donington last year.
There are plenty of smiles at Rizla Suzuki at the moment, after John Hopkins took another fourth in Catalunya. While there were plenty of high expectations generated from testing pre-season, the reliability of the Suzuki set-up has been the great surprise. They also have an excellent mix of riders in Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen, and Hopkins is the closest thing to a hometown hero those at Donington will have on the weekend, with his British parentage.
Vermeulen will have mixed feelings about Donington, having started second last year only to crash out an eventually finish 16th.
Kawasaki has been the great improver as the year has worn on, with Randy De Puniet grabbing fifth in Barcelona, a career best, before heading off to the surgeon to get some fluid cleared from his knee. The 26-year-old Frenchman insists he will be right to go, but he needs to make sure he stays on the bike to avoid further damage. But there will be no Kenny Roberts Jr, with the former world champion deciding to let brother Kurtis get some experience on the bike until the new chassis on the Roberts bike is ready.