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GP Week : Issue 178
18 GPWEEK.com // 18 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: “The King is dead. Long live the King.” I remember being vastly amused by the phrase in my childhood, until understanding that the kings were two different kings rather than the same one, indeed father and son. Looks like we could be on the brink of the same thing. Not literally, one hopes. But the heralds of the year to come are trumpeting the signs of an imminent change of reign. Rossi finally deposed, by the vigour and spunk of a young pretender. It is of course Marquez, whose performance at all tests has been astonishing. Perhaps most significant was the most recent run, at Austen, a track new to all of the select band of riders present. Day one, and guess who is fastest. And days two and three likewise. Yup. Marc the Merciless. In his fifth outing on a MotoGP bike. It’s never comfortable to see your hero unseated, but it’s also exciting. And it’s been happening for ever. In my own period alone, we saw Kenny Roberts bust in from the USA, knock Barry Sheene off his perch, and win three times in a row. Even after he stopped winning the title, he was still King Kenny. Until that callow Southern youth Freddie Spencer arrived. Freddie ran out of steam, and then followed the golden age, when four or five riders occupied almost equal stature, with Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey proving best at amassing serial titles, in spite of super-talents like Wayne Gardner and Kevin Schwantz. The austere reign of Mick Doohan ended abruptly through injury in battle. Then came Rossi. And he’s been there ever since. Some might think Rossi had already been deposed, thanks to his two years of misadventure with Ducati. The results bear out this view. But to a large body of the faithful, Rossi’s pre-eminence has never been in doubt. The coming season was to prove the point, as he returned to his Yamaha throne to re-establish his dominance. At the relatively advance age of 34, admittedly ... but it’s an age when some exceptional riders are still formidable. Not in their prime, obviously, but with knowledge and race-craft to compensate. If that is so, then where does that leave Marquez? He has just turned ... 20. He has an advantage over the old king of fully 14 years. Count them. And he’s already turning faster lap times ... This is one of those cases where “doing the math” is not especially relevant, because motorcycle racing is not done by numbers. The miracle of sport, I have heard articulated, is that “what you think is going to happen, might not”. In this case, however, it is surely not a case of “if”, but of “when” . And there is no time like the present. LONG LIVE THE KING? OPINION OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor