Valentino Rossi will make his return to racing this weekend in the eni Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland at Sachsenring, just six weeks after fracturing his right tibia in a practice crash ahead of the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.
The 31-year-old reigning world champion, who tested at Misano and Brno before making the decision to race this weekend, was passed fit to race by the Sachsenring circuit medical officer overnight and will definitely take to the track for today’s opening free practice session.
“Immediately after the crash the doctors said it could be five months before I was fit to return, maybe five months to play football, but I just need to ride the bike,” declared Rossi during yesterday’s pre-event press conference.
“The feeling in Misano was quite positive and the feeling in Brno was even better, so we made the decision to return this weekend at Sachsenring. I’m in pretty good shape, but it will be difficult over full race distance I think.”
“These two races at Sachsenring and Laguna are very important if I am to comeback in good shape for the last five or six races of the season and try again to win. My shoulder has improved a lot as well, but there is still some pain. The injury to the leg was worse, sure, but I think it will be less of a problem on the bike than the shoulder.”
Rossi refused to confirm or deny the rumours about a possible move to Ducati for the 2011 season, telling the assembled journalists: “It’s too early to say now, but I think we will be ready to announce our plans for 2011 at Brno.”
Yamaha test rider Wataru Yoshikawa is also at Sachsenring, ready to step in and ride the Fiat Yamaha M1 for the second time should Rossi suffer any problems with his injury during free practice on Friday.
Jorge Lorenzo arrives at Sachsenring with a 52-point lead in the Championship, after three successive wins during a run of form that has seen the Mallorcan finish on the podium at every race so far this season. Lorenzo has never won at Sachsenring in any class, but finished a very close second to Rossi last season. For the first time the Fiat Yamaha rider admitted to thinking about the championship during the press conference.
“It would be a pleasure to win here, and we will try, but there is no pressure and I have to think a little about the championship also,” declared Lorenzo. “It will be a hard race; the distance is the same as any other Grand Prix, but we will have to complete 30 laps here because of the length of the circuit.”
“I think everyone is happy to see Valentino back and, from my side, I’m looking forward to fighting with him once again,” said Lorenzo, when asked about the return of his teammate.
Dani Pedrosa, currently lying second in the championship standings, has mixed memories of Sachsenring. The Repsol Honda rider won here in 2007. The following year Pedrosa was leading both the race and the championship when he crashed out and sustained an injury that effectively ended his championship challenge.
The Spaniard finished on the podium once again in 2008 and is looking for a repeat performance here this weekend.
“The last two races have not been so bad, and this track has been a good one for us in the past,” said Pedrosa. “I’m certainly looking forward to the weekend ahead, although the weather looks to be a little unsettled.”
After back-to-back podium finishes at Assen and Catalunya, Casey Stoner is looking for his first win of the season this weekend, at a circuit where he won in 2008 for Ducati. The recent announcement that Stoner would leave Ducati for Honda next season guaranteed that the Australian was questioned on the subject at today’s pre-event press conference.
“It was an emotional decision because there have been a lot of good times with Ducati, but we decided we wanted a new challenge for next season,” explained Stoner. “I’m excited about this weekend and the rest of the season, but I’m also looking forward to what the future will hold.”
The Australian was also glad to see the return of Rossi to the MotoGP grid after his enforced absence through injury.
“I haven’t really been able to really challenge Jorge so far this season, but once Vale gets back up to speed then I’m sure he’ll give him a run for his money!”
Making his return to the MotoGP grid this weekend for the first time since Valencia last season is Alex De Angelis. The Italian will replace the injured Hiroshi Aoyama on the Interwetten Honda at Sachsenring and Laguna Seca, with the possibility of additional races should Aoyama’s recovery take longer than expected.
“This is a big chance for me and I’d like to thank the Interwetten Team and Honda for this opportunity,” declared De Angelis. “I will do my best to get a good result, but it will be difficult without any testing. Starting here at Sachsenring makes things a little bit easier for me, as this is my favourite circuit.”
Earlier in the day Tom Luthi, Stefan Bradl, Sandro Cortese and Arne Tode got a tour of the world in miniature at the Mini Welt landscape park, which is situated close to the Sachsenring circuit.
As well as famous German landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate and the Dresdner Frauenkirche, the riders were also able to admire landmarks from around the globe including the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, all faithfully reproduced in miniature.