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'TwitGP' fills schedule gap while Estoril promises fireworks

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Matt Roberts | 20:56 UK time, Thursday, 21 April 2011

With no race this weekend due to the postponement of the Grand Prix of Japan, it feels a little like one of those dreaded moments on Bonfire Night when you proudly light the touchpaper of an expensive firework and stand back, only to see nothing happen.

The recklessness and recriminations of Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner respectively at Jerez almost three weeks ago reignited a rivalry that has dimmed somewhat since it first exploded in the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca back in 2008 and I am sure I'm not the only MotoGP fan eagerly awaiting the next instalment.

Although the incident was nothing more than a common error, what happened afterwards is the kind of thing that provides human interest in sport for us all. Mix together the contrasting characteristics of Rossi and Stoner, the histrionics of Jorge Lorenzo, the almost demonic surliness of Dani Pedrosa and the British bulldog spirit of Cal Crutchlow and you have a cast that any soap opera would envy.

Stoner and Rossi collide in Jerez

Stoner and Rossi collide in Jerez

As well as being extremely talented, MotoGP racers are very tough and several riders have been pushing through the pain barrier recently despite no racing.

Pedrosa has undergone an operation to remove a titanium plate on his collarbone, the source of much discomfort in the opening two rounds, and Crutchlow has also been had surgery to cure compartmental syndrome, an occupational hazard of top-level bike racing.

Randy de Puniet has taken advantage of the break to have a screw removed from his knee and Loris Capirossi has been undergoing physiotherapy on a shoulder injury.

Alvaro Bautista, meanwhile, says he has racked up more than 4,500km on trips from his home in Talavera de la Reina to Madrid for sessions in a hyperbaric chamber as he targets a return to action at Estoril just six weeks after breaking his femur in Qatar.

In the absence of any actual MotoGP action last weekend, the virtual racing world went tweet-tastic with the second running of a cult phenomenon: TwitGP. Run by a secret blogger with genuine paddock connections (and no it's not me!) the first TwitGP was held last year when coincidentally the Grand Prix of Japan was also postponed due to the volcanic ash cloud.

It quickly generated almost 5,000 followers with a madcap storyline of past and present grand prix legends fighting it out on a virtual track, designed by Tiff Needell and called Twitegi.

The first race was won by Kevin Schwantz by a mouse wheel after swapping Microsoft Paint with Rossi, Nicky Hayden and Lorenzo, who nearly wi-fisided. You get the idea. After the race, the real Lorenzo gamely tweeted: "No way to overtake Mr Brakingman Schwantz. Anyway I was lucky to finish 2nd because I finished the battery just as I was crossing the line."

Last Sunday night over 10,000 followers were invited to buy a virtual ticket for TwitGP2 by donating money to Save the Children's Japan Earthquake Tsunami Relief fund.

The race was won by Colin Edwards who, unlike the computer savvy Lorenzo, was none the wiser to his success, updating his Facebook status on Tuesday with: "Don't get me wrong, I'll occasionally take credit for sh*t I didn't do.....but what is twitgp2 u all are congratulating me for? No clue.....for real. LOL."

My own participation in TwitGP2 as "twit-lane reporter" was preceded by an all-too-real road race in Ireland the week before, the Connemara International Half Marathon, where the only lolling I was doing was near the back of the field.

Running alongside my brother and other past and present members of the Brothers Pearse Gaelic Football Club in Huddersfield we managed to raise a few quid for Dogs for the Disabled and the Joseph Salmon Trust.

As if that wasn't challenging enough I had the daft idea to ride all the way there on a motorbike. I took a Suzuki GSX1250FA, a sports tourer which was perfect for the task, although on the way back I was forced to rely on more charity from a friend in Dublin after dropping my wallet somewhere on the N4 near Mullingar.

Thankfully my mate was able to lend me a few euros so I could fill up near the port and then set off from Holyhead in the blind hope that a full tank would get me home.

Thankfully, it did.

It was a great weekend for the Brits in the World Superbike Championship last week at Assen, with Johnny Rea taking a win and a third place and Chaz Davies gaining his first ever victory in the World Supersport series.

I know Chaz well from his 250cc days and I'm delighted to see him finally with the opportunity to fulfil his potential on a competitive package. Hopefully we'll see him and Johnny, who made his TwitGP debut just hours after standing on top of the podium in Holland, in MotoGP in the near future.

With World Superbikes, some brilliant F1 action and a feast of football to enjoy during our unforeseen hiatus there has been little chance to get bored but I have to say that it has all whetted my appetite to see the MotoGP boys strutting their stuff again as soon as possible.

The fireworks may have been put on hold but Estoril will be no damp squib and, while certain riders may have a notoriously short fuse, you can guarantee that it will still be burning when we arrive in Portugal late next week.


  • Comment number 1.

    i am more confused having read this than i was at the beginning!

  • Comment number 2.

    @foonyroo Ditto.

  • Comment number 3.

    Twitgp. I'll admit to being in the same boat as Colin Edwards(!) but it sounds like a good (and useful, if a charity benefits from it) way to fill the gap between races.

    I've been amusing myself by watching some archive WSB footage from '94, '95. Monza, in particular, was a thriller, with five riders dicing for the lead for the best part of the duration of one of the races. The aforementioned Mr Edwards, by the way, was racing in this category at the time.

    Bring on Estoril. Hopefully, the Ducati will be a little closer to the pace and we can see the likes of Vale and Nicky adding to the dicing at the front, where the Repsol boys are not quite getting it all their own way.

    Quick mention for a personal fave, Marco Simoncelli. My lad is rapidly frowing out of his present mountain bike to the point where his riding style mimicks that of Mr-ELbows-And-Knees!

  • Comment number 4.

    Not being a Twitter addict, I still tried to find out what TwitGP was all about. After 10 minutes of perusing, I felt like a football supporter who has lost his money/ticket, and is standing outside the ground stadium, hearing the roars from inside. Bit frustrating really.

    Indeed, roll on Estoril. I'm not asking for any rider to 'take out' anyone else, but a reprise of the 2006 race wouldn't go amiss. Although I can't see Tony Elias beating Valentino by a wheel rim again.

    BTW Matt, whilst I can appreciate your love of Hudderfield Town, a fine club in the best traditions, I'm a Saints supporter. Perhaps we'll both join Brighton in promotion. Personally, I'm hoping we do it the slightly less fingernail chewing way. But good luck to Udders, all the same.

  • Comment number 5.

    Err, sorry Matt.... Brighton 1 Saints 2.

    Says it all really. Now for Plymouth, Promotion and Estoril - in that order, would be lovely. But I'll happily swap the last two around if that's what it takes.

  • Comment number 6.

    So excited by today's result I got that order above completely wrong, so just ignore..!

    Just chuffed to bits. Hope you win the playoffs. But enough of two legs, bring back the two wheels.

  • Comment number 7.

    Rossi is not reckless, nor is Pedrosa surly - but you're right about Lorenzo. Stoner is simply disrespectful.


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