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MotoGP back on European shores for final race of 2003

MotoGP back on European shores for final race of 2003

MotoGP back on European shores for final race of 2003

After three consecutive races living out of suitcases and working out of cargo boxes, the motorhomes, team hospitality tents and mobile workshops, which make up the MotoGP World Championship paddock in Europe were remounted under a warm autumnal sunshine at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia this afternoon.

One thing that didn't change from the past three races, however, was the topic of conversation and the rumours surrounding the future of recently re-crowned World Champion Valentino Rossi. The Italian today suggested that the speculation could be brought to a close on Sunday, when he expects to make an announcement over his decision after the race.

With the MotoGP and 125cc titles already decided, the weekend represents the chance for most of the riders to enjoy their racing without the pressure of the championship, although for two men it could be the biggest race meeting of their careers so far. Manuel Poggiali and Roberto Rolfo are separated by just seven points in the chase for the 250cc title, which will be decided one way or the other this Sunday.

It is a situation former four-time 250cc World Champion Max Biaggi is more than familiar with, having won three of his titles in the final race. "I can remember feeling the adrenaline going into the final race with the title on the line," recalled the Italian today. "The thing I can say to Manuel and Roby is to ride just as they have done all season. To be honest, I don't think they need my advice - I'm sure they know what they have to do."

Poggiali, who arrived at the circuit today suffering from flu, insisted that he felt calm despite the intense pressure he has endured all season as the series leader. "I am feeling very relaxed," said the 20 year old. "I have a seven point advantage which is not much but it is important. I will ride my usual race, do my best and we will see what the result is at the end. I have had a touch of flu since last Sunday but I am feeling better now and with the help of the Clinica Mobile staff I am sure I will be fine for the race."

With wet weather being predicted in some weather forecasts the conditions could play into the hands of Rolfo, who took victory in the rain at Phillip Island two weeks ago. However, the Italian insisted he is confident in any condition and added that the spectacle for the 120,000 fans expected to attend Sunday's races was more important than the result. "I just hope it is a good weekend for everybody and a good festival," said the Italian, who is the only rider in the class to have scored points at every round this season. "Whatever happens on Sunday my championship has been really good and I am starting to get a good understanding with my bike. This is a slow track so it should suit my Honda, so I will push 100% as always and just try to enjoy the occasion."

Sure to be watching the race keenly from pit-wall will be former quarter-litre king Rossi, although the Italian has bigger things on his mind this weekend, including the long-awaited decision on his destination next season. "The man from Honda arrives here tomorrow and we will speak with him before making the announcement," revealed Rossi, who has been strongly linked with a switch from Honda to Yamaha. "I don't think it would be fair to make it before the race so we will wait and do it afterwards."

Turning his attention to the race, Rossi added: "Valencia is not my favourite track - it is good for the fans but not for the riders. It is slow and tight and almost all on the left. There is a lot of hard braking and not much acceleration so it is difficult to find places to overtake. Anyway, I will try to have fun as always and, of course, try to win."

Rossi's signature was not only coveted behind the closed doors within the paddock today, but also outdoors amongst the clamour of local enthusiasts who had the chance to meet their heroes thanks to the annual Day of Champions organised by MotoGP charity Riders for Health. Hundreds of fans flocked to the circuit where they were entertained by stunt riders and a scooter race as well as a pit-lane walk and memorabilia auction.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2003, Gran Premio Marlboro de la Comunitat Valenciana

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