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Randy Mamola on Rossi's move to Yamaha and what it means for the championship

Randy Mamola on Rossi's move to Yamaha and what it means for the championship

Randy Mamola on Rossi's move to Yamaha and what it means for the championship

The news of Valentino Rossi's switch from Honda to Yamaha is something that the whole MotoGP paddock has been waiting on for several months. We all heard the rumours and, even as they got stronger and stronger and the pieces began to fall into place, we tried not to believe it because there was always that doubt that he would end up extending his contract with Honda. Now that everything is confirmed and out in the open, I have to say that this is fantastic news for MotoGP – the best thing that could have happened to our sport.

Rossi and the RC211V were simply an unbeatable combination, as we have seen for the past two seasons. Now the championship is open again and there is a big chance there for several riders who have been knocking on the door for years. Specifically, this is the moment Max Biaggi has surely been desperate for. With Rossi on the Yamaha and him on the Honda, the situation is the reverse of two years ago and Max can have no complaints.

However, if Biaiggi wants to win the title, he needs to establish himself as Honda's number one guy this winter. The same goes for the rest of the Honda riders, who all have a shot at the title if they can secure priority treatment from HRC. When you look at the level of their riders – Max, Sete Gibernau, Nicky Hayden, Colin Edwards, Makoto Tamada (and possibly Alex Barros if the rumours are true) – you have to say they are pretty equal and it is hard to pick out a ‘leader'.

We all know Max's pedigree, but Sete has been in the form of his life this year and, if you take away Rossi from the top step of the podium, he would have won eight races. Then there's Nicky who, if he keeps progressing as he did in the second half of the season, has a real chance. Barros won two out of four races on the V5 in 2002, whilst Tamada has shown real promise in his debut season and, of course, we know Edwards is world class. It will make for great racing, but from Honda's perspective, who is the leader? These guys will be taking points off each other at every round, and that could give Rossi and the other guys a chance.

However, I'm afraid that unless Yamaha come up with something drastic for Rossi to test this winter, there is frankly no way he or any other rider can win the championship for them. Last week I tested both the Honda and the Yamaha, and my respect for the likes of Carlos Checa has gone up hugely. I don't want to compare the bikes too much, but suffice to say I am amazed Checa has done what he has done on the M1. You can find the limit of the bike almost instantly, and I am not surprised Checa and his team have had to take major set-up gambles to try and make up ground on the Honda this year. Look at Barros – he crashed fourteen times this year! Personally, I think the maximum Rossi can do with that bike as it is now is make podium finishes, so the pressure is on Yamaha to provide him with something competitive.

The situation at Yamaha and the competition at Honda leaves open a gap for Loris Capirossi, Troy Bayliss and Ducati. Unfortunately for the likes of Suzuki and Kawasaki, Ducati have shown to be the next in line to Honda, scoring nine podiums including a victory in their first year. If either Capirossi or Bayliss can hit consistent form from the first race, then they have a serious chance of upstaging all the Honda riders and Rossi at Yamaha and winning the title.

One thing for sure is that this is going to be one of the most important winters ever in terms of testing, and anybody who has their mind on the beach instead of the racetrack will get a nasty shock at the first race of the season in South Africa.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2003, Valentino Rossi

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