It is with interest and anticipation that we await the first race at Qatar for the 63rd season of the oldest world championship in motorsport. The mix of new and hungry riders with the stars means that there is going to be excitement aplenty. There are 14 FIM World Champions taking part including one to watch, the first Moto2 Champion, Tony Elias on a Honda.
With the luminous yellow now replaced with Ducati red the biggest question is can Rossi do it yet again? Undoubtedly the most talented rider and a legend in his own time, is he able to become the first rider to win on four-stroke machines from three different manufacturers in MotoGP.
I always remember watching him when he first turned up in Grand Prix in 1996 as the Italian Champion. He seemed to have a fearless way of going round corners with his tall frame all over the small 125 bike. He didn’t make champion but the second year nobody could touch him. The same thing happened on 250cc and 500cc bikes – he took a year to learn how to manipulate the chassis and extra power and won the championship at the second attempt. He was no slouch as he finished second in both championships in the first year. He also changed to 990cc four-stroke and became champion when others were considering staying on 500cc two-strokes. He enjoys a challenge.
One of the most enjoyable moments of watching Rossi is his refusal to give up, as well as him enjoying what he is doing. Unlike his hero Mick Doohan, who used to leave his competitors miles behind trailing in his wake, Rossi enjoyed the thrill of racing with his competitors, letting them overtake and then retaking them. BIG MISTAKE when he didn’t overtake on the last bend one time and finished second. Boy! Did he get it in the neck from his team manager Jeremy Burgess, as well as the company management? Another time he was penalised for 10sec for overtaking with a yellow flag out. After a couple of laps to get the message from the pits he then proceeded to ride the wheels off the bike and finished 12secs ahead of the next rider to win the race. That’s class.
There have been many class riders in past with Geoff Duke, John Surtees, Giacomo Agostini, Mike Hailwood and of course the Rossi of the 70’s, Barry Sheene among the Europeans. Kenny Roberts was leading the Americans with a dirt track style of riding with Eddie Lawson, Freddie Spencer, Waine Rainey and Kevin Schwantz following. We also must not forget the Colonials, with Jim Redman from Rhodesia and Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan from Australia.
This year is certainly going to be entertaining with the champion, Jorge Lorenzo wanting to prove that he has what it takes and his teammate Ben Spies, Rooky of the Year will be attempting to put a spanner in the works for the others. He has the talent but does he have the stamina to outride, the likes of Stoner, Pedrosa and Rossi who all have points to prove that they can be Champion in 2011. In addition there is a bunch of other talent with Dovizioso being a podium contender and Hayden who has finally worked out how to ride the Ducati. He will be keen to show Rossi that he can provide the support and back up needed.
The lights of Qatar beckon and will provide brilliant enjoyment for us all, including the lower capacity races with Moto2 being very competitive and the last year of 125cc.