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Jerez stirs up vintage memories

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Matt Roberts | 10:59 UK time, Saturday, 2 April 2011

The question I probably get asked most during the MotoGP season is this: can I carry your suitcase?

After a budget flight from Liverpool to Madrid followed by a three hour transfer and a delayed shuttle to Jerez, you might change your mind.

However, I have to admit that nothing quite matches the magic of Jerez and the approach to the circuit gates is one of many over the course of the year that makes me bless my good fortune.

I remember commentating on the unforgettable battle here between Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau in 2005 and in our show on Sunday we'll be remembering an even more dramatic finish to the 1996 race, when Alex Criville and Mick Doohan fought for victory on the last lap.

The commentators on the public address system informed the crowd that the race was over a lap early, prompting a track invasion whilst Criville and Doohan were still going hammer and tongs.

Criville backed off but Doohan took his chance to pass the Spaniard, who then crashed in the final corner making a desperate and furious lunge for the win.

The bitter feud between the team-mates was nothing compared to the fallout between Rossi and Gibernau, who the Italian then claimed would never win another race while he was around. Sadly for Sete, the 'gypsy curse', as it became known, stuck for the remainder of his career.

Rossi (right) celebrates his thrilling 2005 Jerez win in front of a dumb-struck Gibernau, whose career was never the same. Photo: Getty Pictures.

 

Rossi's win over Gibernau was his fourth in five years at Jerez and he went on to win it twice more, although the chances of a seventh victory here look slim as he continues to struggle with an injured shoulder and a fickle Ducati Desmosedici GP11.

Both Rossi and Doohan crop up in an exclusive interview we have lined up this weekend with current series leader Casey Stoner, who has followed the wheel tracks of the legendary pair into the Repsol Honda factory squad.

The extra truck the team have dusted off to accommodate a third rider this year actually did service in the Doohan and Rossi days and in the cupboards of the room where Casey changes into his leathers lie dusty posters of the two world champions.

Valentino is not the only one who has been suffering at the hands of a temperamental Ducati recently.

Last week I pulled my cousin's old Multistrada out of winter storage, where it has spent much of its time since he lent it to me last summer, and despite firing up relatively easily on the first day it has since refused to play out.

Thankfully I had a back-up plan and Suzuki GB have kindly lent me a GSX1250FA, a sports tourer that I will be riding to Ireland this week on my return from Spain. Once I get there I am competing in the Connemara half-marathon and running for Dogs for the Disabled.

Speaking of Suzuki, it is great to see John Hopkins back in the saddle here at Jerez albeit in unfortunate circumstances following the injury to Alvaro Bautista.

The last time I saw John was at Laguna Seca last year. I was standing trackside at the Corkscrew watching practice and heard somebody calling me from behind. I turn around to see John Hopkins, a four-time MotoGP podium finisher, standing behind the fence with the punters because he couldn't get a proper paddock pass.

John has had a few well-documented problems away from the track over the past couple of years and also had major surgery to reconstruct his wrist following a career-threatening injury but he looked in great shape, he was physically and mentally fit and bursting to get back racing.

This year he begins his journey back in the British Superbike Championship so the opportunity to replace Bautista is a welcome bonus.

At the age of 27 he still has a long career ahead of him and as the only member of his family to be born outside the UK we can lay claim to another Brit flying the flag in MotoGP alongside Cal Crutchlow here on Sunday. Hopefully next year he becomes a permanent fixture once again.

Finally, I have to finish by saying get well soon to our commentator Charlie Cox, who has bravely reported for duty despite undergoing surgery himself on his wrist after breaking it in a motorcycle crash earlier this week.

Unfortunately for Charlie he works alongside Steve Parrish, a largely unsympathetic fellow who once addressed his colleague's aversion to fish by leaving a dead one lying in the commentary box.

Goodness knows what he's got up his sleeve here but it's fair to say that it might not just be the racing that has Charlie falling off his seat on Sunday.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Nice blog, Matt. Would be great to see Hopper permanently back on a MotoGP saddle.

    What should I say about Charlie and Steve..? Oh I suppose something like... this MotoGP commentary lark; it's not a knitting competition..!

  • Comment number 2.

    Great blog Matt. Fans of MotoGP are indeed looking forward to an exciting “battle of the bikes” as riders prepare for the first European race of the season at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit in Spain.

    Andy

  • Comment number 3.

    This is for Stoner;
    Your big mouth often outweighs your intelligence!

  • Comment number 4.

    Thank god that Vale brings such excitement to MotoGP - Stoner is an undoubtedly talented lad, but he doesn't have a clue with manners and respect - perhaps an Australian national failing!? As Steve Parish said 'it is something - saying to a 9 times World champion 'your ambition outweighs your talent' and he also sarcastically said "oh it was your shoulder" and tapping him on it at the same time. Stoner was overtaken by Simoncelli and Vale was storming through the field, and as Vale admits himself overtook too soon - it was just a matter of time! Spies binned it Simoncelli binned it Crutchlow binned it, Abraham binned it all on tyres that were knackered after a couple of laps. Stoner is making Ozies look worse than whinging Poms and a bad sport to boot - see the photos of Stoner clapping Vale as he came back round, what a child! With greatness comes great character - Vale has it in spades, remember that Casey and you will be respected not just for riding fast!

    http://www.theyellowcommunity.com/index.php?threads/desperate-doctor.71779/

  • Comment number 5.

    Poor old Sete - the crash that probably finished his career a Stoner mistake :- http://www.crash.net/MotoGP/news/78227/1/pictures_stoner_fall_leaves_gibernau_injured.html but that's racing, remember that Casey!

  • Comment number 6.

    Before everyone goes jumping up and down and being overly critical of Stoner, remember this was all a show by Mr Rossi.
    Why go into the garage straight away with all the media trailing behind in tow? He knew exactly what he was doing, he wanted to make sure we all saw it. He also knew (i think) that would anger Stoner, a racer who doesn't like being in the limelight. Surely a quiet word would suffice, and one where he actually took his helmet off so Stoner could hear? Stoners reply was petty, and massively inaccurate questioning Rossi's talent - but it was all heat of the moment stuff. Theres world championships on the line here!
    Don't get me wrong, Rossi is a legend and I'm a massive fan, he has made MotoGP the amazing spectacle it is now. But he is a showman, and thats what this was. If it happened the other way round and Stoner had taken Rossi out there would of been hell to pay!
    I hope the season continues to be as exciting as its been so far! And Simoncelli gets his podium soon, as that was some great stuff to watch by him.

    Fantastic blog by the way Matt- Keep up the good work, have always liked your grid interviews you manage to get with the riders.

  • Comment number 7.

    Riders who don't finish on the podium normally drive straight to their garage, Rossi always has the media following him, Stoner knows that and is hugely envious. Stoner could have made the approach later in the day when the cameras had gone, he didn't, he was making glances to the camera whilst making his sarcastic comments, very unprofessional. I couldn't believe the commentators saying "glad he'd calmed down" when clearly he hadn't, and tried desperately to save face when he saw the media swarm...saying "your ambition outweighs your talent" to someone with Rossi's record is pure disrespect and jealousy....Stoner needs to grow up.

  • Comment number 8.

    Rossi is undouptedly a real talent but the incident at Jerez was the fault of Valentino and his ambition did outway his talent in this incident as he dropped the bike and took out another rider in the process. Stoner was right to comment as he saw fit.

  • Comment number 9.

    Rossi has ambition like the Stoner has envy! It is understandable that he, Stoner, is upset, but he needs to grow up and take it on the chin - it's racing for Crikeys sake not as Steve Parrish says a knitting competion. To hear Stoner moan like at Laguna Seca that he lost respect for Valentino, when Valentino beat him on a much slower bike is a joke.

    Racing is dangerous and exciting and Rossi is prepared to take risks, even though his shoulder is not 100% and he compound fractured his tibia last year - no one thought to ask if he was injured being trapped under 2 bikes! I really want to like Stoner (I'll call him Casey when I do), but the young pups such as him and Jorge (he's learning) need to show respect to a 9 times World champion who has brought so much interest to MotoGP. If Stoner doesn't realise it he has much to thank Valentino for - the huge crowds at Spanish racetracks for a start - they love him even though he is Italian - Valentinos talent is unquestionable - does he get it wrong, yes he's human!

  • Comment number 10.

    @ StopPoliticalCorrectness
    "Riders who don't finish on the podium normally drive straight to their garage, Rossi always has the media following him, Stoner knows that and is hugely envious."

    I know that but why go to Stoners garage straight away? Especially as all the cameras were watching? I personally think an apology would be more crediable out of public view, but may be thats me. Would give everyone chance to calm down.
    Plus i really don't thing Stoner is envious of Rossi's media following. Not everyone wants to be all the time. Riders like Rossi, Lorenzo, Edwards etc thrive on that. Stoner, Pedrosa are more reserved - not everyone wants to be a showman, not everyones skilled/wants to be that way.

    I agreed with Crutchlow's interview after the race. Was a racing matter. Of course Rossi should of went for the pass no question. But the way the stewards only helped Rossi was a bit naughty.

    "Stoner could have made the approach later in the day when the cameras had gone, he didn't, he was making glances to the camera whilst making his sarcastic comments, very unprofessional."

    Why would Stoner approach Rossi? It was Rossi's mistake - think everyone including Rossi accepts that?
    Stoner was bound to be angry straight after the race, he was out the race without doing anything wrong, anyone would be miffed.

    I remember an article in MCN from Rossi at the start of the season, where he was quiet critical on Stoner and Lorenzo. Questioning Lorenzo's atituide and Stoner for not learning from his mistakes, saying he's fast but always crashes.

    These riders are never going to be buddies if they want to win the championship its dog-eat-dog on the track. But its got to be fair

    @ Muffsky
    "Valentinos talent is unquestionable - does he get it wrong, yes he's human!"
    Perfect summary!

  • Comment number 11.

    As i read in another article,maybe Stoner should of accepted Rossi`s apology with the grace that Marquez did with Cluzel`s apology for knocking him off.There again maybe Stoner is learning the mind games that Rossi is so good at?

 

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