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All geared up for Donington

By Julian Shea


Michael Jordan
Basketball legend Michael Jordan clowns around at a MotoGP race

Brad Pitt loves it. Michael Jordan and Roger Federer are also fans, and this weekend an estimated 120,000 people will be gathering at Donington Park to show they are too.

Welcome to the world of MotoGP.

The world championship, which visits 14 countries in four continents and regularly pulls in crowds of over 100,000 at circuits across the globe, arrives in Britain with the season beautifully poised.

Bike racing is to F1 what rugby league is to rugby union - overshadowed by its more high-profile rival, but inspiring fanatical loyalty among its devoted fanbase who will happily tell you that their sport is actually the far more entertaining of the two.

The combination of colourful personalities, man and machine pushed to the limit and - Formula One fans take note - overtaking makes for edge-of-seat entertainment, broadcast live to 184 countries across the world.

606: DEBATE

Seven days ago, Donington hosted the Download rock festival - and the biggest names in MotoGP also enjoy rock-star levels of adoration and reward.

The sport's headline act is undoubtedly seven-times world champion Valentino Rossi, biking's equivalent of U2.

A guaranteed chart-topper and crowd-puller anywhere in the world, Rossi combines a larger-than-life personality with dazzling skill. According to the Sunday Times 2008 Rich List, he's now worth £75m.

This year his army of yellow-clad fans have had plenty to reason to sing his praises and hold up his number 46 in celebration - he's on his best run of form in years and comes to Donington top of the championship standings, with three wins in the last four races.

His Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo is the sensation of the season so far, but with a self-destructive streak - the Amy Winehouse of our MotoGP main-stage performers.

After a hugely impressive start to the campaign, things have gone awry for the Spaniard lately, with four crashes in as many race weekends.

But even two broken ankles could not stop him finishing second in the French Grand Prix, and this weekend he will be riding less than a week after having an operation to put a skin graft on his hand.

Other sports, watch and learn - they breed 'em tough in MotoGP.

Fellow Spaniard Dani Pedrosa and reigning world champion Casey Stoner will also be in the mix, but expect the noisiest reception for home favourite James Toseland - the Jamie Cullum of our line-up.

JAMES TOSELAND FACTFILE
James Toseland
Age: 27
Team: Tech 3 Yamaha
Bike number: 52
Best MotoGP result: 6th (Qatar, Jerez, Catalunya, Italy)
Honours: World Superbikes champion 2004, 2007
Home: Isle of Man

Having made his name in winning two titles in World Superbikes, Yorkshireman Toseland has taken the step up to the elite class competition this year.

His public profile received a huge boost last December with his show-stopping appearance playing the piano at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, and he'll be entertaining the Donington crowds on Thursday and Friday nights with live performances from his band Crash.

And the added ingredient of the Toseland factor adds spice to an already eagerly-anticipated race, just before the mid-point of the season.

British fans have waited a long time for a champion in motorcycling's top class - it's now 31 years since the great Barry Sheene achieved that honour.

And although Toseland is not challenging for the title just yet, he has shown enough promise and has enough confidence to fancy his chances of a top-three finish this weekend.

"My adaptation to the bike is coming to the stage where I believe we can be competitive at track I know," he told BBC Sport.

"I'm 27, I've been doing this job a long time and I've won two World Superbikes on the last round of the season - pressure doesn't get any worse than that."



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see also
James Toseland Q&A
20 Jun 08 |  MotoGP
Steve Parrish's MotoGP column
18 Jun 08 |  MotoGP
Can Toseland fly the flag?
09 Jun 08 |  MotoGP
Pedrosa powers to Catalunya win
08 Jun 08 |  MotoGP
MotoGP world championship
08 Jun 08 |  MotoGP
MotoGP on the BBC
07 Jun 08 |  MotoGP
MotoGP preview - team guide
06 Mar 08 |  MotoGP
MotoGP calendar 2011
15 Mar 11 |  MotoGP


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