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GP Week : Issue 76
THE question is begged by a birthday: Valentino Rossi's birthday. The dominant force in the premier class since 2001 turned 31 a couple of days after St Valentine's day. His performances at subsequent test sessions showed that he remains at the top of his form. Perhaps even higher than before ... with the end of his career in sight plus the wealth of experience he has amassed, he is not still peaking, but extending the peak into a plateau. As triple champion Kenny Roberts put it: "He's probably as good now as he has ever been." Just how much longer he will persist remains a frequent speculation. He has all the trophies and all the money that anyone could dream about. Which leaves the question of motivation. An ordinary man might by now be satisfied with what he has already achieved, long since seduced by the pleasures afforded by it. But in spite of his easy charm and casual humour, nobody should ever make the mistake of thinking of Valentino or his rivals as ordinary men. Age is not really a consideration. Although he is the third oldest on the grid, the other pair are much older. Colin Edwards lines up for the first race aged 36, and Loris Capirossi is a whole 37. Both of them have repeatedly given me the same response, asked when they will have had enough . .. when they stop enjoying it. (With the unspoken sub-text -- or when I can't get a job any more.) But Edwards went on record last week saying that he saw no reason to plan retirement at the end of this season; while Capirossi is reckoned to be waiting an improvement in results before he can believe himself finally sated. Rossi's age does add an interesting dynamic. His principal rivals are in their early to mid-twenties -- Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi -- older than most of his rivals, but very much still the man to beat Moto GP FEATURE >> 43