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GP Week : Issue 2
was up at the sharp end throughout, a career-best sixth. The revelation was Scott Redding, in his first GP. The youngest ever front-row-starter (he turned 15 in January to become GP-eligible) became the youngest ever top-five finisher. It would have been top three, had he not been out- powered in the final sprint. Britain dominated the early years of the championship. The first ever, in 1949, was Englishman Les Graham, followed by serial winners Duke, Surtees, Hailwood, Read and Sheene. His last British title was in 1977. There has been none since. The new British impetus, however, has not come from Britain. The riders are all alumni of the Spanish School. Davies was first backed by GP rights-holders Dorna; the 125 trio are all graduates of Dorna’s Spain-based MotoGP Academy system. They have had little more from their home country so far other than pleased surprise. Has Valentino blundered? HAS Valentinio Rossi made a wrong call? Has the five-time top-class World Champion switched to Bridgestone tyres at just the wrong time? Doubtless the question is much exercising the mighty mind, though it is far too early for regrets. As GPWEEK reported last week, he blamed his disappointing fifth at Qatar on his own and the Yamaha’s newness to the Japanese tyres. And he is relying on finding better settings with more experience. His bike is good, and the tyres were good enough for Stoner to win the race. It’s just a matter of getting them happily married. He can use the same reasoning to excuse Stoner’s huge superiority in the night-time desert race. Ducati has three years of experience with Bridgestone; they have their bike well and truly dialled in. What will exercise Rossi’s mind just as much will be how much better was Stoner’s performance than his fellow Ducati riders, all languishing well out of the picture; and of all the other Bridgestone riders. Rossi’s sixth was second best; there was only one other Bridgestoner (Capirossi’s eighth-placed Suzuki) in the top ten. This is a clear marker that the defending World Champion’s sheer riding talent is as significant as his equipment. Rossi has always been willing to gamble, as with his daring switch from Honda to Yamaha in 2004. As he entitled his best-selling autobiography What if I had never tried it? He made that drastic move for personal reasons – he felt undervalued at Honda, and wanted to exact some revenge. The same element is strong in his tyre switch. “I have a very strong motivation to beat them.” The will is only strengthened by resentment at the scale of Michelin’s rescue operation. The French company has more than doubled its investment. Why, he wonders, didn’t they do that when he needed it, all last year? “Michelin took us for a ride,” he told me. But his greatest motivation is to get his championship, the one he owned from 2001 to 2005, back from Stoner. He lost it in 2006 to Hayden’s Honda largely because of his own bike and tyre unreliability. “It’s was different last year, because I was unable to fight for the win,” he said. “Stoner is the hardest rival to beat I have ever had.” For this reason, moving to Bridgestone makes perfect sense, for it makes their two- man battle that little bit more of a contest of talent than machinery. Stoner is the man to beat. Rossi wants to do so fair and square. Michael Scott MotoGP editor o p in io n 41 M oto GP INSIGHT >>