Istanbul MotoGP gets underway

Friday, April 20 2007 @ 04:09 am UTC

The enchanting city of Istanbul opens its gates to the MotoGP World Championship for the third time today as the new 800cc era enters a third chapter shrouded in mystery. Unlike the opening two rounds at Losail and Jerez, the Fiat Yamaha team and their rivals will be racing at a circuit where they have no pre-season testing experience with this year's machines. Not only will they have to set the bikes up from scratch but new regulations limiting the number of tires each rider can use over the course of the weekend also come thundering into the equation.

Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards will each have just 17 rear tires and 14 fronts at their disposal throughout the four hour-long official practice sessions, 25-minute warm-up and 22-lap race. A variety of different compounds will be available, based on Michelin's assessment of the characteristics of the spectacular 5.38-kilometer track and data gathered during tests following the Grand Prix at Jerez, but the rubber manufacturers were not allowed to alter each rider's allocation after 5 p.m. on Thursday.

The battle against the clock will start this morning, when the riders and their engineers will work methodically through the available tire options and adjust their bike set-up to the best available choice. Their job will not be made any easier by the demanding nature of the circuit, which features 14 turns -- eight lefts and six rights -- several of which are based on famous bends at other circuits, such as the "Senna Esses" at Sao Paolo, the "Spoon Curve" at Suzuka and the "Eau Rouge" at Spa. Like Phillip Island and Laguna Seca, it also has the unusual characteristic of running counter-clockwise.

The challenge is further enhanced by dramatic changes in elevation, with the track built on four different ground levels, and the fastest corner in MotoGP -- a 270km/h bend that the riders may even take with the throttle wide open in sixth gear on the new 800cc machines. That hair-raising turn eleven is followed by three ultra-slow chicanes, calling for a balanced set-up that provides front-end confidence as well as the rear-end stability required to cope with the high-speed changes of direction.

A run of six different winners from the last six MotoGP races makes this weekend's proceedings even harder to predict, but both Rossi and Edwards are confident of maintaining their strong early season form. After two rounds Rossi defends a World Championship lead of nine points over Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, with Edwards another 10 points further back in fourth place. The Italian's victory at Jerez was his 46th of the four-stroke MotoGP era and made him the first man to win on three different capacity machines in the premier-class: 500cc, 990cc and 800cc.

***

Speed and safety

The bikes can go up to 335 km/h. Safety is always at the forefront in motorcycle

racing. However, it's not realistic to say that accidents do not happen. The last fatal accident in a Moto GP race took place three years ago in Japan. There have been several accidents in this sport over the years, resulting in serious injuries.

Bends

Bends are seen as the most important stage in the race. Drivers go through curves, tilting their bikes at a 65-degree angle.

The outfit

The drivers' outfits are made from kangaroo leather. The zip-up coveralls are very light and resistant, providing ease during the race. The back padding provides safety and is aerodynamic. The padding on the knees and arms of the coverall contain Teflon and plastic materials. In case of a fall, the Teflon allows the driver to be dragged for long distances without injuries, also protecting the coveralls in the process.

The helmet

Helmets are very important since the racer's head is the most crucial part of the body to protect in the advent of a fall. The greatest difference in the MotoGP helmets -- which are made of materials that include carbon fiber -- and Formula One helmets is that the front region is much larger. It is designed to give the drivers a more panoramic view of their surroundings. The helmets are light and do not alter in shape even after sustaining hard blows.



1 Nicky HAYDEN

Honda " Michelin

Date of Birth: 30 July 1981

Place of Birth: Owensboro (USA)

First GP: JPN '03

World Titles: 1

Starts: 67

Wins: 3

4 Alex BARROS

Ducati " Bridgestone

Date of Birth: 18 October 1970

Place of Birth: Sao Paolo (Brazil)

First GP: SPA 86 (BRA '88 in

250, SPA '86 in 125)

Wins: 7

5 Colin EDWARDS

Yamaha " Michelin

Date of Birth: 27 February 1974

Place of Birth: Houston (USA)

First GP: JPN '03

Starts: 68

2007 Champ. Standing: 4th

(26 points)

6 Makoto TAMADA

Yamaha " Dunlop

Date of Birth: 4 November 1976

Place of Birth: Ehime (JPN)

First GP: JPN '03 (JPN '98 in 250)

Starts: 66 (65 in MotoGP, 1 in 250)

Wins: 2

7 Carlos CHECA

Honda " Michelin

Date of Birth: 15 October 1972

Place of Birth: Sant Fruitos (SPA)

First GP: GBR '95 (RSM '93 in

250, EUR '93 in 125)

Wins: 2

10 Kenny ROBERTS

KR212V " Michelin

Date of Birth: 25 July 1973

Place of Birth: Mountain View (USA)

First GP: JPN '96 (USA '93 in 250)

World Titles: 2000

Wins: 8

14 Randy DE PUNIET

Kawasaki " Bridgestone

Date of Birth: 14 February 1981

Place of Birth: Maisons Laffitte (FRA)

First GP: SPA '06 (JPN '01 in

250, FRA '98 in 125)

Wins: 5 in 250

19 Olivier JACQUE

Kawasaki " Bridgestone

Date of Birth: 29 August 1973

Place of Birth: Villerupt (FRA)

First GP: JPN 01 (AUS 95 in 250)

World Titles: 2000 in 250

Wins: 7 in 250

21 John HOPKINS

Suzuki " Bridgestone

Date of Birth: 22 May 1983

Place of Birth: Ramona (USA)

First GP: JPN '02

Starts: 80

2007 Champ. Standing: 9th

( 13 points)

24 Toni ELIAS

Honda " Bridgestone

Date of Birth: 26 March 1983

Place of Birth: Manresa (SPA)

First GP: SPA '05 (JPN '02 in

250, SPA '99 in 125)

Starts: 114

Wins: 10

26 Daniel PEDROSA

Honda " Michelin

Date of Birth: 29 September 1985

Place of Birth: Sabadell (SPA)

First GP: SPA '06 (RSA '04 in

250, JPN '01 in 125)

Wins: 25

27 Casey STONER

Honda " Michelin

Date of Birth: 16 October 1985

Place of Birth: Kurri-Kurri (AUS)

First GP: SPA '06 (JPN '02 in

250, GBR '01 in 125)

Wins: 8 (1 in MotoGP, 5 in 250, 2 in 125)

33 Marco MELANDRI

Honda " Bridgestone

Date of Birth: 7 August 1982

Place of Birth: Ravenna (ITA)

First GP: JPN '03 (RSA '00 in

250, CZE '97 in 125)

World Titles: '02 in 250

Wins: 22

46 Valentino ROSSI

Yamaha " Michelin

Date of Birth: 16 February 1979

Place of Birth: Urbino (ITA)

First GP: RSA '00 (JPN'98 in

250, MAL '96 in 125)

Wins: 85 (59 in MotoGP, 14 in 250, 12 in 125)

50 Sylvain GUINTOLI

Yamaha " Dunlop

Date of Birth: 24 June 1982

Place of Birth: Montelimar (France)

First GP: CZE 02 (JPN 01 in 250)

Starts: 83 (3 in MotoGP, 80 in 250)

2007 Champ. Standing: 19th

(2 points)

56 Shinya NAKANO

Kawasaki " Michelin

Date of Birth: 10 October 1977

Place of Birth: Chiba (JPN)

First GP: JPN '01 (JPN '98 in 250)

Starts: 133 (99 in MotoGP, 34 in 250)

Wins: 6 in 250

65 Loris CAPIROSSI

Ducati " Bridgestone

Date of Birth: 4 April 1973

Place of Birth: Bologna (ITA)

First GP: AUS '95 (JPN '92 in

250, JPN '90 in 125)

Starts: 250 (139 in MotoGP, 84 in 250, 27 in 125)

66 Alex HOFMANN

Ducati " Bridgestone

Date of Birth: 25 May 1980

Place of Birth: Mindelheim (GER)

First GP: CAT '02 (GER '98 in

250, GER '97 in 125)

Starts: 96 (54 in MotoGP, 41 in 250, 1 in 125)

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