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GP Week : 29-Apr-2008
M oto GP Insight >> reversed – Rossi swapped to Yamaha, Biaggi to the superior Honda – the younger rider had only to look at him and give his cackling laugh for the latter to give a visible nervous shudder. By then, Rossi was well under way in turning Sete Gibernau from a racetrack friend to a deadly enemy. Gibernau’s mistake was to be threateningly fast on the Honda. And also to be rather a natural figure of fun. When Rossi changed his hairstyle or colour, everyone laughed. When Gibernau did the same, it seemed so much more self-conscious and vain that everyone sneered instead. Valentino capitalised on this, at the same time saving his most savage and humiliating race-track tactics for Gibernau … such as the time he elbowed him into the gravel at the last corner at Jerez in 2005. By then, he’d found a way to declare a very public personal vendetta against his hapless rival, after blaming him personally for the Qatar GP incident the year before (Rossi was put to the back of the grid after his crew were reported for laying rubber on his starting position; Rossi crashed out.). “He is a spy. He will never win another race,” said Rossi later. And he was right. It may be significant that Rossi hasn’t done the same with Stoner, and certainly not with Hayden before him. And while there is a nascent needle match with new team-mate Lorenzo, it has yet to show signs of more than simmering. Perhaps Rossi can’t be bothered any more. Always a bad sign for a rider. Lorenzo certainly is prepared to put the effort in to hate Pedrosa, and vice versa. There’s no pretence in the way they glower off in different directions, if ever obliged to be in the same room, and no coincidence that Lorenzo loses no opportunity to belittle his already diminutive rival. All of which is good, for each rider’s championship prospects, and for every fan’s hopes of an exciting season (or indeed seasons) to come. There really is nothing like a needle match to bring out the best in racing ... 41