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Page last updated at 11:58 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 12:58 UK

Matt Roberts' MotoGP column

By Matt Roberts
BBC Sport in Jerez

Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi
Wave to my fans Dani... Rossi shares the spotlight with Pedrosa

In 1996 the legendary Mick Doohan left Jerez with the boos of the Spanish fans still ringing in his ears after he outraged them by passing Alex Criville on the final lap, as the home hero slowed to avoid a track invasion.

Earlier that day, more observant fans may have witnessed Valentino Rossi begin a love affair with the circuit which continues to this day, as he recorded his first win at the circuit, in the 125cc class.

Three years later the feelings of adoration became mutual, when Rossi secured his place in local folklore with victory in the 250cc race and his famous post-race portaloo celebration.

This weekend, he repeated the celebration after flushing away the hopes of Spanish heroes Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, and it is impossible to think of any non-Spanish rider who could have received such a rapturous reception from the crowd of 123,000 as Rossi did when he stood on the podium.

It is a testament to his local legend, fuelled by six more premier-class wins in the last decade, that he will forever be excused a multitude of sins against Spanish riders by their own passionate fans.

His most memorable victory was in 2005, when he punted Sete Gibernau into the gravel in the final turn of an epic battle.

Lining up alongside Gibernau, Lorenzo and Pedrosa at Thursday's pre-event news conference, Rossi was asked if, in a similar situation, he would do the same thing to current team-mate Lorenzo.

"The battle with Gibernau was from the first lap and it was very hard, with lots of close overtakes - especially on the last lap," he offered, attempting the diplomatic approach only to be overcome by his instinctive candour.

"About the final corner, would I do the same to Lorenzo? Umm… yes."

The room burst into laughter, drowning out Jorge's attempt to grab the microphone and retort something that sounded to be about fixing spikes to his wheels.

When the racket subsided, Sete was asked if he had any advice for Lorenzo and he played along with a rueful grin: "He'd better start saying his prayers now!"


More rule changes regarding the MotoGP class were also announced at Jerez, with the duration of all Free Practice and Qualifying sessions returning to an hour in length from the next race onwards, as opposed to the knee-jerk reduction to 45 minutes introduced at the start of the year.

Manny Pacquiao lands one on Ricky Hatton
Ricky "the hit very hard in the face man" Hatton in action

There will still only be three practice sessions in all, but at least the extension will provide an extra 45 minutes of set-up time, which is music to the ears of James Toseland, who spent all weekend chasing his tail trying to find a setting to suit Jerez.

Me and one of our producers, Tom, got up at four in the morning on Sunday to watch the Ricky Hatton fight on the internet and that sickening feeling of helplessness you inevitably experience at seeing a national hero put on his backside came around again in the afternoon as JT floundered at the back of the pack.

The team explained that they were struggling to balance the motorcycle so that it would load the front for the hard braking zones on the track and then effectively transfer the weight to the rear to find enough traction on corner exit.

The worrying thing is that this is the most important part of set-up for the next circuit, Le Mans, which is nothing but a series of short straights interspersed with hairpins and tight chicanes.

With the summer rider harvest drawing ever closer, James's controversial switch to use Colin Edwards' chief mechanic has yet to bear fruit.


One budding young star who finally blossomed at Jerez was the beaming Bradley Smith, who took his first Grand Prix victory in his 50th appearance in the 125cc class.

Lion cubs
When these youngsters get a bit bigger, watch them go....

The 17-year-old finally strapped up his Achilles heel with an explosive start from the front row and never looked back, opening up an incredible gap of more than 20 seconds over the first 15 laps, an advantage that proved crucial when he lost fifth gear with 10 laps still to go.

The champagne must have tasted extra sweet for Bradders, who had to celebrate his last win - at this same track in the Spanish Championship three years ago - with a bottle of fizzy water because he was still underage!

There were excellent performances in the same race for fellow Britons Scott Redding and Danny Webb, who took fourth and eighth respectively, with Scott narrowly missing on the podium after a three-way scrap on the final lap.

It was also an eventful weekend for the Brits in the Red Bull Rookies Cup, a youth series that runs as a support race at a handful of European rounds.

15-year-old Harry Stafford crashed out when dicing for the lead in race one on Saturday and was lucky to escape with severe concussion and a broken collarbone when he was run over by an oncoming bike. Danny Kent finished third in that race and then went on to take his first win on Sunday.

Whilst it is still too early to panic that James Toseland's season is going the same way as Rossi's victory celebration, the good news for British fans at the moment is that there is plenty more left in the tank.



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see also
Rossi secures Spanish GP triumph
03 May 09 |  MotoGP
Matt Roberts' MotoGP column
28 Apr 09 |  MotoGP
Lorenzo clinches victory in Japan
26 Apr 09 |  MotoGP
Matt Roberts' MotoGP column
14 Apr 09 |  MotoGP
Stoner takes win in MotoGP opener
13 Apr 09 |  MotoGP


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