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MotoGP fiesta lands on European soil

MotoGP fiesta lands on European soil

MotoGP fiesta lands on European soil

The MotoGP World Championship paddock rolled off the three jumbo jets which transported its entire contents to South Africa for a spectacular first round of the season two weeks ago and laid roots on European soil for the first time this year at the Jerez circuit in the south of Spain today. This weekend the Andalucian racetrack hosts MotoGP for the seventeenth consecutive season and the fact that the 125,000 ticket allocation has already virtually sold out reflects growing general opinion that this could be the most spectacular yet.

The anticipation was certainly noted amongst the riders at the circuit, where reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi, who defied the odds to overturn a legion of Honda riders led by Max Biaggi to take victory on his Yamaha debut in the first round at Welkom, admitted that the circuit characteristics could assist him to a second consecutive win.

"I love this track – it's one of the better tracks for my riding style," commented Rossi, who has won the premier-class race here for the past three seasons and has also taken wins in the 125cc and 250cc class. "I have great fun here so it's possible, also because we had a good test here in preseason. For sure it will be very hard but I hope to make another very good race and fight for the victory."

Despite his dominance of the category in recent seasons, Rossi and his Yamaha again start the weekend as underdogs, with Honda riders having dominated the premier-class at Jerez, taking fourteen wins out of the seventeen. With Kenny Roberts and Kevin Schwantz taking one each for Suzuki, the only Yamaha win at Jerez was back in 1988 with Eddie Lawson. In fact, Yamaha have had only four riders finish on the podium in the premier-class in the last ten years.

It is a statistic which key rival Max Biaggi would be happy to extend, although he recognises Rossi will be tough to beat at his talisman circuit. "Rossi was the fastest here in the preseason tests and I don't think it would be a great surprise to see him at the top in each of the sessions leading up to the race," admitted Biaggi. "The important thing for us is that we work to solve the set-up problems that we still have and make sure that are fully prepared on Sunday to be competitive in the race."

Also working against Rossi will be the majority of a vociferous local support who, despite their affection for the globally popular Italian, are sure to roar on the three local heroes in the MotoGP race. Sete Gibernau, Carlos Checa and Ruben Xaus, who makes his first appearance in the series on Spanish soil, are all under pressure to deliver the goods after a dry spell of Spanish success at one of the most important dates on the country's sporting calendar. No Spanish rider has taken victory here since Alex Crivillé's hat-trick from 1997-99 and there has been no home podium since the former World Champion finished third in 2001.


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