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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 March 2006, 11:06 GMT
BBC pundits on MotoGP '06
Valentino Rossi
Yamaha's Valentino Rossi will again be the man to beat
The brilliant Valentino Rossi will be targeting his sixth straight MotoGP crown in 2006before his possible departure to Formula One and Ferrari next season.

But the Italian may find his domination under threat from a posse of talented riders.

Dani Pedrosa, Marco Melandri and Colin Edwards are just a few of the names that will have real hopes of toppling Rossi this year.

The BBC's MotoGP team of Suzi Perry, Steve Parrish, Charlie Cox and new pit lane reporter Matt Roberts before the first race in Jerez to find out what they think will happen this season.

WHAT ARE YOUR PREDICTIONS FOR THE SEASON?

Suzi Perry: I hate predictions! Rossi is a cut above the rest, though he will have a lot of competition this year. He is also under a lot of pressure to make decisions about his future and he has taken on a lot with the Ferrari test package, but I'd still back him to be World champ.

Steve Parrish: Rossi will win, but will have it a lot tougher this year as Yamaha have reached the end of their development on the M1.

Charlie Cox: You'd have to be a brave man to bet against Rossi.

Matt Roberts: It should be an exciting year, with some new young faces coming to the fore, but they won't be challenging Rossi and Yamaha for the title. Rossi's challenge is to go one step further than last year and break Mick Doohan's record of 12 wins in a season.

WHO WILL BE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGER TO ROSSI?

Suzi: His team-mate Colin Edwards this season looks comfortable and has adapted his style. I thought that I'd be throwing in a few Honda names, but it seems the factory are playing catch up and the machinery is not quite there yet.

Steve: Marco Melandri and Colin Edwards.

Charlie: Probably Marco Melandri who looked so strong last year and maybe, as the year progresses, Dani Pedrosa.

Matt: The guys behind Rossi are all pretty close and I think his closest challenger will be the one who makes the fewest mistakes. Dani Pedrosa hasn't made a single mistake in his career, so far so on that basis I'll go with him.

WHO DO YOU THINK WILL BE THIS SEASON'S DARK HORSE?

Suzi: Take your pick! A lot depends on Honda and their development. The Yamaha M1 is now the benchmark in the paddock, so there is a lot of work to do. It will be interesting to see how Pedrosa gets on, and Checa on Dunlop tyres has been very impressive throughout the recent tests.

Steve: Casey Stoner, if he gets over his shoulder injury.

Charlie: Either John Hopkins or even his new team mate Chris Vermeulen. And let's not rule out Dunlop as a "components dark horse". They have been strong in pre-season testing on factory-spec Yamahas.

Matt: Anybody writing Sete Gibernau off this year is making a mistake as the pressure will be off him and that's when he is at his most dangerous. Also watch out for Kenny Roberts Jr on the Honda V5-powered Team KR machine.

HOW WILL BRITON JAMES ELLISON GET ON?

Suzi: James has a lot on his plate because he is trying to adapt his riding style. He still carries too much corner speed, so his head is full of what he must change to reduce his lap times. But he's young and bright and a very talented rider. Pray for rain in the first few races and young Ellison could be standing in front of the Union flag!

Steve: I think James will struggle as he is finding that there is pressure being on a competitive bike.

Charlie: Well, he's one of the riders of the Dunlop-shod Yamahas, so this is his big chance with a factory related team. He's had some ups and downs pre-season but was awesome in wet conditions at Catalunya so let's hope for lots of wet races!

Matt: I think James will struggle at the start of the season as this is the first time he has ridden a factory bike in any championship and to do so in MotoGP is tough. But he has talent and intelligence in equal measures so results should pick up.

WHICH NEWCOMER WILL BE THE MOST SUCCESSFUL?

Suzi: I will be keeping a close eye on Chris Vermeulen in his first season, I have no doubt that he is a future race winner. Pedrosa will be the other one to watch.

Steve: Dani Pedrosa will be the best of the rookies, as Honda will be putting a great deal of effort to get him up to speed.

Charlie: Dani Pedrosa.

Matt: Casey Stoner will cause a few surprises and I'm a fan of Randy De Puniet but I think Pedrosa has the right approach, the right team and the right bike to be the top rookie and perhaps even the closest man to Rossi.

WHAT RACE ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO MOST AND WHY?

Suzi: My favourite races are Mugello and Philip Island, Italy has the atmosphere and Australia has the most spectacular track.

Steve: The first one - to see who has been sandbagging in training. And Australia, as I love Phillip Island.

Charlie: Philip Island - I've had some great races there, but, even if I wasn't Australian, I think I'd still describe it as the most picturesque track in the season. You have to be brave there and the best riders in the world all say they love it.

Matt: Jerez... because it's the first one!



SEE ALSO
Roberts has Rossi in his sights
22 Mar 06 |  Motorbikes
Ellison geared up to start
20 Mar 06 |  Motorbikes
WCM missing from MotoGP entries
10 Mar 06 |  Motorbikes
Rossi to have more Ferrari tests
02 Feb 06 |  Formula One
Contact the motorbikes TV team
14 Mar 06 |  Motorbikes
MotoGP coverage on the BBC
15 Mar 06 |  Motorbikes
2005 review
18 Nov 05 |  Motorbikes


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