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A record crowd is expected at Misano on Sunday, but most will be clad in yellow & are only coming for one thing - a Rossi win.
With nineteen years of experience reporting on MotoGP™ for Motorcycle News, MotoGP Commentator Matthew Birt knows the championship inside-out. For the 2015 season he joins the motogp.com team to bring you exclusive news and opinion from inside the paddock.
Jorge Lorenzo could not be operating further behind enemy lines if he tried this weekend, as he attempts to infiltrate what is undisputedly Valentino Rossi territory in Misano.
Over the next three days he is not only going to have to contend with his Factory Yamaha teammate on track.
But he will face a tidal wave of support against him, with Misano a true home race for Rossi, given you can practically throw a breezeblock from the 36-year-old’s back garden to the start line.
A record crowd will pack the compact Misano track to create a cauldron atmosphere in favour of Rossi and in opposition to Lorenzo, who will be public enemy number one this weekend.
Personally, I think Lorenzo thrives in this situation. And if there is a battleground that Lorenzo could choose to try and cut into Rossi’s 12-point World Championship lead then the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli would probably be it.
Lorenzo has an impeccable record in Rossi’s back yard and in his eight previous appearances in Misano; he’s never finished outside of the top two.
In fact, he’s well versed in gatecrashing the party in Rossi’s home races of late.
Italian fans have had to swallow seeing him finish inside the top two in his last seven visits to Mugello too, including four wins in the last five years at Rossi’s spiritual home.
Incredibly, of the last 350-points on offer in Italy, 315 have gone to Lorenzo! And seven of Lorenzo’s last nine races on Italian soil have ended in triumph. An eighth in ten on Sunday will go down like a cup of cold sick in this part of the world.
It’s no surprise given Rossi’s stunning renaissance in 2015 that a record crowd is expected at Misano on Sunday. Most of them will be clad in yellow, and with that brings enormous expectation and pressure on Rossi.
He’s old and wise enough to handle it and even embrace it as a motivational tool to succeed. But even Rossi himself has admitted that the pressure is being ramped up in the build up to this race.
He would certainly love a second successive win at Misano to further extend his advantage over Lorenzo. But winning back-to-back races is not something Rossi has managed to achieve since he won Catalunya and Assen way back in 2009.
Rossi has good pedigree himself at Misano and with overwhelming public support behind him, he will be aware that a win on Sunday could be pivotal in the chase for title.
Like Lorenzo, he’s won three times here and it is also worth remembering that one of just three podium finishes during an instantly forgettable two-year spell at Ducati came at Misano in 2012.
And we need to throw Marc Marquez and Ducati in the mix as well. Marquez will be going for broke even more than ever now his title hopes were extinguished with a fourth race crash of the season in Silverstone.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t win all the remaining six races and leave Rossi and Lorenzo feeding off the scraps.
And what of Ducati? Surely Misano represents the best chance for Andrea Dovizioso or Andrea Iannone to end the Bologna factory’s long barren run without a win. Before a wheel was turned in anger in 2015, Ducati boss Gigi Dall’Igna said a key target was to win at least one race.
Dovizioso and Iannone have tested on Misano’s new surface twice in the last six weeks, so they have a small head start already.
If Rossi doesn’t win, then a Ducatisti success would be the next best thing for the passionate and partisan home crowd.
But most are only coming for one thing. And that’s a Rossi win.
When he won in Misano in 2008, he did so after shaking Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ on the grid.
For his legions of fans, Rossi will just cement his god-like status if he can hand out a beating to Lorenzo and Marquez on Sunday afternoon.
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