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MotoGP returns for 2005 with Gran Premio Marlboro de España

MotoGP returns for 2005 with Gran Premio Marlboro de España

MotoGP returns for 2005 with Gran Premio Marlboro de España

The MotoGP World Championship returns with a bang this weekend as the Gran Premio Marlboro de España heralds the start of another season of top class racing action. Just over five long months since the final round of Valentino Rossi's title-winning debut season with Yamaha at Valencia, the world's premier motorcycling racing series is back in Spain to open the season on European soil for the first time in almost two decades.

It is familiar territory for the 21 riders who will line up in this season's championship after three days of official tests at the Andalusian circuit just over a week ago. The tests heralded a potential new dawn for MotoGP, with a host of talented young riders staking their claim for honours against the established old guard of Rossi, Sete Gibernau and Max Biaggi, the top three riders in the championship for the past two seasons.

Nicky Hayden, Marco Melandri and John Hopkins, who are all under the age of 23, were fastest three riders at the test, with Hayden lapping almost a full second inside Rossi's pole position record from last season. In fact, the top seven riders at the test were inside that record and it promises to be a thrilling confrontation when the action gets underway on Friday morning, with the added excitement of a new qualifying practice format for 2005 which will see three free practice sessions (two on Friday and one on Saturday morning) followed by a single qualifying practice on the eve of Sunday's race.

Rossi begins his title defence at a circuit where he boasts a stronger record than any other rider, having taken five previous wins there on 125cc, 250cc, 500cc and MotoGP machinery. Despite the form of his young rivals, it is expected to be Gibernau who once again poses the biggest threat to the Italian, both for victory on Sunday and for the title. The Spaniard will count on the support of Jerez's famously passionate local fans, 125,000 of who roared him to race victory in torrential rain last season, as he guns for home glory.

As well as the familiar opposition of Gibernau and Biaggi, both entering their third season with Honda, Rossi will also be challenged by several new combinations this year after the winter merry-go-round threw up some interesting changes. Alongside him in the Yamaha garage Colin Edwards returns to the factory that gave him his professional race debut in the Daytona 250 race back in 1992, whilst young Spanish pair Toni Elías and Ruben Xaus also join the Japanese factory in the satellite team run by Herve Poncharal.

Troy Bayliss switches to Honda to partner Alex Barros after two MotoGP seasons with Ducati, whilst former Yamaha rider Carlos Checa joins the Italian factory in place of Bayliss as team-mate to Loris Capirossi. Former 250cc riders Roberto Rolfo and Franco Battaini will make their MotoGP debuts this weekend riding for D'Antin Ducati and Blata WCM respectively, whilst Shane Byrne will pilot the KTM-powered Team Roberts machine in its first competitive appearance.

Whilst the action gets underway with the first 125cc Free Practice 1 at the normal time of 09.00 on Friday morning, there are some slight changes to the race-day programme for 2005. Both the 125cc and 250cc races will start 15 minutes earlier than usual (now 11.00 and 12.15 respectively) to allow extra time before the MotoGP race, which gets underway at the traditional time of 14.00.


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