10 June 2004
Preview – Grand Prix of Italy.
Despite his crash in the second heat of the French GP, MX2 World Championship leader Ben Townley actually increased his advantage last weekend, following a DNF for nearest rival Steven Sword.
“When I look at the standings, I'm pleased to see that I've many heat wins so far,” said BT. “But I'm not really satisfied to see three zero marks, that's not really good. I must stay focused.”
Nevertheless, with 7 qualifying heat wins, 182 laps led, 11 heat victories and 5 GP wins from eight starts, Townley undoubtedly has the championship under his control and only needs consistent top three finishes to stay in command.
Winner in St Jean, Tyla Rattray, would like to provide another one-two result for KTM, and is coming ever closer to Kawasaki's Stephen Sword; there's now only eleven points between them.
And while it seems the top three are again likely to dominate, Andrew McFarlane, Mickael Maschio and Antonio Cairoli are also in with a podium shout. Revelation of the season, Cairoli will be racing in his first home GP - and the added pressure could either push him onwards or play on his mind.
Nevertheless, he will have the advice of experienced team-mate Claudio Federici at hand, but Claudio, who won his first GP in Italy (1995 in Castiglione del Lago), will also be dreaming of winning at home again….
It's the same for Alessio Chiodi, who captured the last of his 26th GP win five years ago in Switzerland…and for his unfortunate team-mate Andrea Bartolini who won three home GP's (250 in 1995, 500 in 1997 and 1998).
Italian riders were always strong at home, and Michele Rinaldi (three times), Massimo Contini (twice), Corrado Maddii, Claudio Federici, Massimo Bartolini, Alessandro Puzar and Alessio Chiodi all put their name on the winner's list. Andrea Bartolini is the last Italian rider to triumph at his home GP, in 1998 at Mantova.
The action will start Saturday at 10am with the first free practice session, with qualifying taking place from 3 to 6pm. On Sunday the MX2 races are scheduled at 12.05 and 15.05, and the MX1 at 13.05 and 16.05.
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