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GP Week : Issue 197
Nineteen race tracks, 1131 laps, and countless hours logged in airports and on planes. After eight months, the 2013 Formula One season is behind us. GPWeeK editor KATe WALKeR takes a look back at the year gone by in a typically unconventional season review ... MOTOGP >>> PrEViEW sunday 31 October, 1999, does not seem like a seminal date in the history of motorcycle racing – but it is. It was a long time ago; Bill Clinton was in the White House, Nokia had sold 150 million of its 3210 (a mobile phone with a 2-inch mono screen and no internet connectivity) and the world was worrying itself sick about the Millennium Bug. And that day was the last time Valentino Rossi raced a premier class motorcycle not prepared by Jeremy Burgess and his crew. It was a Honda 250; he finished third in Argentina, behind Olivier Jacque and Tohru Ukawa. In the 238 500cc and MotoGP races in which he had ridden since then, he and the Aussie whiz have been a seemingly unbreakable team. No more. Rossi called it off last year. He has named Silvano Galbusera as his new man in the garage. After saying his piece Burgess graciously left the stage, and an Italian, who worked alongside Marco Melandri in World Superbikes for the last two years – but who was a Yamaha man between 1995 and 2011 – is now the man Rossi will turn to when he sits in his garage. So far, the signs are good. Rossi has made positive noises about the partnership, but it is the nature of the sport that he would do that. Keen Rossi watchers have reported his slightly changed posture on the bike in testing, with seemingly more emphasis on the front of the bike. Bridgestone’s tyres have responded best in recent times to those who push the front of the bike hard, and Rossi appears to have adjusted his style to suit. Will it be enough? True, he won last year, but only once – and in what might be called fortuitous circumstances. But the absence of Burgess is not the only recent change at Yamaha. In the two years Rossi was in Ducati red the men in blue marshalled behind Jorge Lorenzo, and the M1 is now a bike made in his image – in the same way as HRC built its bikes to suit its succession of world champions, most notably a series of NSR500s that seemed to behave only for Mick Doohan. At 35, Vale is at an age when his powers will, inevitably, have diminished, and the usual circumstances are that riders in the twilight of their careers make up for the reduced speed with increased guile. Problem is, Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa appear to have all the guile in the world, and if Marc Marquez lacks any, it did not show in his rookie season last year. Yamaha has acquired a new naming rights sponsor in Movistar, the Spanish telco signing a five-year deal with the squad. It is difficult to imagine that they expect Rossi to wave their flag high for each of those five years; more likely, they are there because they expect something special from the man on the other side of the garage, Lorenzo. The draw of Rossi cannot ever be underestimated. During Phillip Island’s most recent tyre test, a dozen or so winners in a competition run by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation were bussed down from Melbourne to watch what transpired. Under a blazing blue sky they waited patiently for one man and when he appeared, they went wild. A young couple, on the final day of a four-month holiday through Asia and Australia, described it as the highlight of their trip and could not wait to share their photos with friends and family at home – in Slovenia, which does not even have a MotoGP race. An Aussie woman, having already had a new photo taken and an older one autographed by the great man, then asked him to sign her foot. He did – alongside a tattoo (from some years previous) of the number 46 in the familiar yellow ‘Rossitalics’ font that has adorned the nose of his bikes for as long as many fans can remember. She giggled that she was off to the tattooist that evening to ensure the scribble was permanent. Such is the draw of The Doctor. He may win this year or he may not but you could make a safe assumption that those in the corridors of power at Dorna will be hoping that the man from Tavullia will have as many days left as possible as the sport’s biggest ever name. Is The Doctor in? 24 GPWEEK.com // 24 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: