Just a week after celebrating a podium finish for Nicky Hayden in his own home race at Indianapolis, the Ducati Marlboro Team heads to the factory’s second home race this weekend as the series returns to Europe and the Misano circuit on the Adriatic coast. The American, who is hugely popular amongst Ducatisti thanks to his cheerful character and determined approach to racing, will be congratulated and supported by thousands of them – packed once again into the “Variante del Parco” corner. And whilst all those Ducatisti had also been looking forward to welcoming back their favourite, Casey Stoner, the 2007 race winner’s replacement in the Ducati Marlboro Team, Mika Kallio, will get just as much support. Eighth place for the flying Finn at Indianapolis equalled the best result of his debut MotoGP season so far but he remains unsatisfied and is confident of more at Misano.
Despite contesting the practice and qualifying sessions Hayden missed last year’s race at Misano due to the effects of a foot injury, whilst in 2007 after starting from the front row he was forced off track by a crash for De Puniet on the first lap and could only manage thirteenth. Kallio has shown good pace at this circuit during practice for the 250cc races over the past two seasons but he was unable to finish in either of them.
NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati Marlboro Team (12th in the championship on 73 points)
“The little time we’ve had since Indy has flown by and even though I would have liked to have a bit more time to reflect on last weekend, Misano is right on us and that is what we have to focus on. Last year I rode in practice but wasn’t able to take part ion the race because of my foot injury but I like the circuit – there are a couple of fast right-handers at the end of the lap in particular that are a lot of fun. At Mugello I realised how special it is to race for Ducati in Italy so hopefully I can give all the Ducatisti even more reason to party. I know it won’t be easy and I can’t get overconfident even though everything went so well at Indy. I’ve learnt that this bike can quickly put you back in your place if you get cocky so once again I’ll just be putting my head down and giving it my maximum.”
MIKA KALLIO, Ducati Marlboro Team (15th in the championship on 42 points)
“I equalled my best ever MotoGP result at Indianapolis and even though the race went better than practice I still wasn’t satisfied. My main objective now is to find another half a second off my lap times and to do that I simply need to find more confidence in the front end of the bike. I know the potential is there so hopefully I can make the most of it at Misano. It is not exactly my favourite circuit but it’s okay. In 2007 I went pretty fast in practice – not so much last year – and crashed out of the race both times. Hopefully this year we can build on the work we did at Indy and get a good result.”
LIVIO SUPPO, MotoGP Project Director
“We arrive at Misano in high spirits thanks to Nicky’s excellent performance at Indy and we are happy to be getting back on track and hopefully continue with this positive trend of results. Mika will be with us once again as we await the return of Casey at Estoril and I really hope he is able to reap the fruit of all his recent hard work. He has demonstrated during his debut season in MotoGP that he has what it takes to do well and I’m sure he will confirm his potential soon.”
The Misano Autodrome was built in the early 1970s, measuring a mere 3.488km in its original form. In 1993 it was extended to 4.060km before further modifications between 1996 and 1998 saw the pit garage and paddock complex extended and updated. For the majority of the Italian riders in the World Championship this is their true home round because they hail from this part of Italy. The current circuit layout, which was reversed from anti-clockwise to clockwise before the return of MotoGP following a 16-year hiatus in 2007, is simple in appearance but in reality it is very technical. In general it is a tight track, characterised by a prevalence of slow corners – with the notable exception of the fast and extremely demanding ‘Curvone’ right-hander.