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GP Week : Issue 72
Top 5 MotoGP riders of '09 As 1 -- Valentino Rossi Jorge Lorenzo was a notorious hot-head as a 125 rider: and a ruthless menace ona250,apttolashoutat his mechanics and to barge his rivals off the track. It's hard to recall that reputation when you speak to him now. He radiates calmness, focus and self- possession, cocooned in a shell of careful politeness. It's a carefully considered act (he uses advanced meditation techniques), but it's a class act all the same. As a racer he has also shown an increasingly firm grasp of precocious maturity. Along of course with that crucial ability not only to go outrageously fast, but to do so consistently lap after lap, even when the tyres are wilting and the competition getting tougher. His hopes of ousting Rossi from the title ebbed and flowed; one thing remained constant for the 22-year-old. His mantra: "I am getting better." It proved ominously true, and he could not only run close to Rossi, he was distinctly faster on several occasions. They grappled hand to hand in Catalunya, Germany, Indianapolis and Brno. Rossi beat him at the first two and fell off at Indy; Jorge crashed out at Brno. It was a close contest. Jorge still crashed too often. But he'll be even tougher next year. 2 -- Jorge Lorenzo Some things are obvious in racing, and there are few surprises in this list. It's equally obvious who should be on the top of it. After 14 years of GP racing, 103 wins, one each 125 and 250 titles, the last 500 crown, and then six more in MotoGP, Valentino has already done it all. And was just as ready in 2009 to do it all again. It's been a hell of ride for the archangel from Italy, and it's a privilege for his fans to have been along for it. It's true for his rivals as well. Rossi turned 30 before the start of the year, and faced his toughest challenge yet: a super-fast team-mate. With Pedrosa limping and Stoner running into illness, it turned into a two-man title battle. It was absorbing, and swung back and forth. But the trend was always towards Rossi. He put every effort into making sure of that. Rossi has one more year with Yamaha. After that? Formula One dreams are no more than that, but rallying beckons. Yamaha want him to stay on two wheels. And he has an open invitation to go to Ducati. His decision will be crucial to all of bike racing. He is still easily the most important person in it. 48