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Preview – Grand Prix of Italy

10 June 2004

This Sunday will see the World Motocross Championship move to Italy, for what will be the third consecutive weekend of grand prix action.

Home of eight Italian GPs between 1962 and 1992, the Gallarate track has been totally re-designed and will offer the 'tifosi' a perfect view of the action and - even if they have no home riders in title contention - the Italian fans can count on several top teams to support.

The most famous is without any doubt the Rinaldi Yamaha team, who have taken no less than four of the last 500cc titles, courtesy of with Andrea Bartolini and Stefan Everts, with the Belgian also currently heading the 2004 MX1 championship standings.

Teams De Carli, Errezeta, Martin Honda, SRS Honda, JK Racing, Yamaha Evolution, RSC Italia, KTM Silver Action, Medei Suzuki and Maddii Racing are some of the other regular GP contenders, while two Italian factories are also directly involved: TM (with Enrico Oddenino) and Aprilia (with Javier Garcia Vico and Thomas Traversini).

Aprilia, who took part in the 125cc class with Corrado Maddii and Michele Fanton in the 1980s - will officially introduce their new 450 SXV (lower pic) during a Press Conference on Saturday afternoon, where they will present both Motocross and SuperMoto teams.

Few can predict the impact the high tech v-twin machine will have but, after weeks of testing and intensive development, many feel it will perform admirably against established manufacturers Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha and KTM.

Meanwhile, increasing his MX1 lead with a fourth GP win last week at St Jean d'Angely, Everts also has some good memories of Italian events, with his decision one year ago to race two classes in Montevarchi marking a turning point in the old MXGP Championship.

But this time it is his rivals who need to cause some disruption, with Cédric Melotte, Joshua Coppins and Mickael Pichon all having taken a GP win so far, and so the Belgian's most likely contenders main contenders, but Steve Ramon, Brian Jorgensen (winner in Germany) and Kevin Strijbos could also play a major role.

Joel Smets (who is recovering from a serious blood infection) and Kenneth Gundersen (also suffering from his knee after his crash in Germany) will not enter the event.

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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