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Randy Mamola looks back on Jerez and forward to Le Mans

Randy Mamola looks back on Jerez and forward to Le Mans

Randy Mamola looks back on Jerez and forward to Le Mans

The Expert Eye is a difficult task this week because it is tough to pick things out from Jerez that weren't patently obvious – like the fact that Sete Gibernau is currently the king of wet conditions, as is his Honda RC211V, or that Valentino Rossi and Yamaha still have a lot to work to do to make the M1 competitive when it rains, which undoubtedly it will do on more than one occasion between now and the end of the season.

All the talk leading up to Sunday's race was that it would rain and, for once, the weatherman got it right. The only consolation for the 125,000 fans who braved the weather was that their rider won and I'm sure that when they did eventually get home through all the traffic they will have been happy. It's hard to imagine another sport where so many fans would turn out knowing they were going to get such a soaking.

Sete rode a perfect race from start to finish. He has got such a smooth and controlled style and he made light work of the amount of water on the track. When it began to rain really heavily again at three-quarter distance and the conditions deteriorated, he used it to his advantage, pulling away from Max Biaggi, who also had a very solid ride into second place.

We can speculate all day about what might have happened if it had stayed dry, particularly looking at what happened on Friday, when Valentino Rossi smashed the lap record on the Yamaha, but at the end of the day there is no guarantee about the weather in this sport and you have to score points in the dry and in the wet. It was strange to be in pit-lane at then end of the race and see Valentino head for his garage instead of parc fermé, where he has gone to at the end of the last 23 races to celebrate on the podium.

Valentino really struggled in the wet on Sunday, finishing almost a minute behind Gibernau, which I was really surprised by. Looking back over the times from the practice sessions, it struck me that in the second free practice on Saturday morning, which was also run in the wet, Valentino was quickest. I can only imagine that it was the sheer quantity of water on the track that affected him in the race, having a greater effect on the set-up and playing havoc with rear grip. Valentino even said himself that he was lucky to finish the race.

When you watch the Honda and the Yamaha on track together, you can imagine why this would be the case. The Honda looks like a heavier bike, more stable and in touch with the ground at the front and the rear, whilst the Yamaha appears to be lighter, more nimble, but more likely to react if the surface was at all slippery.

One thing I was disappointed about was the performance of the Bridgestone tyres, which had demonstrated real potential in wet conditions last season but were eclipsed on Sunday by the improvements made by Michelin in the winter. With Makoto Tamada qualifying in fifth position, Shinya Nakano in sixth and Kenny Roberts tenth on the grid, I really fancied the three of them to be up there in the race, but they were way back. Tamada even had to come in and change his rear tyre.

Behind Rossi in fourth place came Nicky Hayden, who really caught up with his former team-mate in the second half of the race to finish less than a second behind him. Two fifth places from the first two races for Nicky is an improvement on last season and is good but, frankly, it's not good enough.

Likewise Colin Edwards, who admittedly suffered from mild hypothermia in the race at Jerez but nevertheless heads to Le Mans next week as one of a large group of talented riders who really need to start proving that they deserve their place at the top of the MotoGP ladder.

Le Mans should be an interesting weekend, given that nobody has tested there preseason and that they all start the weekend on a level playing field. Le Mans is another dodgy place for the weather but history has shown it is a good track for Yamaha – I should know, I won there in the rain on a Yamaha back in 1987!

Alex Barros took their only podium of the year there last season, whilst Olivier Jacque took his best finish of the season in fourth, so I don't see any reason why Rossi can't be a contender for victory if the weather is in his favour.

If it is dry, he will determined to prove that Welkom wasn't a one off, whilst Gibernau will also be desperate to show that he isn't just a wet weather rider. Biaggi will also be looking to build on his best start to the season since 1998 with his first victory after two second places, and I think that between the three of them there is a really mouth-watering contest about to take place.

As I said before, everybody outside the top three right now better start bucking their ideas up because the longer the season goes on, the harder Gibernau, Biaggi and Rossi will be to catch.

MotoGP, 2004

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