VALENTINO Rossi made an impressive return to Yamaha at the opening MotoGP 2013 test at Sepang finishing third on the final around half-a-second behind Dani Pedrosa. His times were competitive and his battered confidence is well on the way to being fully restored.
Probably the most important thing is that he hasn’t fallen down. Rossi’s self-belief can only get stronger as we head into the season-opener at Qatar, and the GP veteran is very well placed to challenge for race wins and ultimately the world championship.
Make no mistake, Rossi will be a title contender despite his public comments playing down his chances.
He is under no real pressure, and following his disastrous two years with Ducati, the only way is up. His rivals, however, have any number of pressure points eating into their psyches. Monster Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo is the hunted and will be looking over his shoulder – figuratively – for #46.
After seven years of perceived failures, Dani Pedrosa now has a flock of albatross around his neck, and will be under mounting pressure to transfer his undoubted speed into a championship-winning season – finally. He will have the added pressure of MotoGP rookie and Repsol Honda teammate Marc Marquez breathing down his neck every step of the way. After struggling to his find place at Honda when Casey Stoner won in his first year, it just doesn’t get easier for Dani.
As for Marquez, he will dismiss any talk of taking it easy in his first year and will take it right to the Aliens from the get-go. Whether this is wrong or right, we’re about to find out. The last rookie to go flat-strap from the first red light was Lorenzo, who spent a good part of 2008 on his ear. In recent years, Jorge’s become a model of consistency, safe-riding practices and polite passing moves.
Boy, how times have changed. Marquez comes to MotoGP with huge wraps, as did Lorenzo, which he knows he will have to live up to.
The inaugural Troy Bayliss Classic was more than just a shot-in-the-arm for local dirt-track. It was a salvation of racing itself. Out of bag full of positives, the event demonstrated just how good oil-track dirt-track racing is. The kidney-shaped 500m Old Bar track played host to some of the most breath-taking racing and riding this scribe has seen in 40 years.
This contrasted markedly with the famed Nepean dirt-track west of Sydney that hosted the annual King of Nepean last November. Configured almost as a long track with esses, Nepean affords very few passing opportunities, and the order by the end of the first lap is pretty much how the field will end up finishing.
Old Bar on the other hand encouraged the type of brilliant close-quarter dicing I witnessed at the 1997 AMA Flat-Track Championship half-mile race at Las Vegas. It was no surprise that AMA-hardened Mick Kirkness won the inaugural TBC.
The future of the Troy Bayliss Classic rests on several things.
1) The choice of venue and track surface, 2) support from the motorcycle manufacturers, and 3) television coverage.
All three go hand-in-hand, and it will be interesting just what shape and form next year’s TBC takes. The 2013 event attracted a 5000-strong crowd that local road race promoters can only dream about, which should get the attention of the big bike brands, and perhaps spark the formation of semi-supported riders and even teams.
If manufacturers can support off-road racing that attracts minimal spectators and no TV coverage, what are the chances of supporting a televised summer dirt-track series with Legends facing off against the All-stars?
I asked US Cycle News editor Paul Carruthers if a Nicky Hayden or a Colin Edwards would be interested in racing in the 2014 TBC, and he reckoned, ‘sure they would’. Let’s wait and see. Troy Bayliss has added a cycle race to his list of promotions that fall under the Troy Bayliss Events umbrella. The three-time WSBK champ kicked off his event business with launch of the Troy Bayliss Experience, and has now added the Troy Bayliss Classic and ‘Troy Bayliss Invitational’ Elite Cycling Race and Scenic Rim Gran Fondo social ride on 19 May at Canungra, 30 minutes’ drive from Surfers Paradise.
I asked Troy at the TBC whether his step into events was something that he sat down and decided upon after weighing up a number of career options, or was something that just evolved, he replied, “Yeah, it just evolved.” Troy, who has raced in the Le Minz scooterthon, is being helped on his journey by former Australian Motorcycle Expo event director Mark Petersen.
Peto has excellent relations with the all the major bike distributors, and if there’s anyone who can get their support for the TBC and a possible dirt-track series, he’s the best man for the job.
It’s great to se e an ex-world champ like Troy taking a punt in one of the world’s riskiest professions – race promotion. He was really feeling the heat in the drizzle that threatened the TBC, but luckily the rain held off and the bulk of the race program was run and won.
Despite a number of teething problems that afflict just about race meeting around the world, the TBC was a pivotal moment in Australian racing, proving that with the right mix of names, venues and promotion, the crowds will come.
The good news is that it can only get bigger.
Article by Darryl Flack.