10 MotoGP wishes for 2013
By now you’re probably growing weary of the daily regime of hoovering up millions of fallen Christmas tree needles, so looking forward to the 2013 MotoGP world championship campaign, what can we hope for when the new season kicks off under the Losail International Circuit floodlights in Qatar on April 7?
A British MotoGP winner for the first time in 32 years isn’t too much to ask for is it?
Or how about a return to winning ways for Valentino Rossi to banish the memory of his disastrous two-year spell with Ducati?
Here are 10 things on MCN’s New Year’s wish list.
1. A British MotoGP winner
Most of us at MCN were still in nappies or a twinkle in our father’s eyes when a British rider last won a MotoGP race. You have to go all the way back to 1981 when Barry Sheene stood on the top step of the podium in Sweden.
That was the same year Prince Charles married Lady Diana, Raiders of the Lost Ark was a box office hit and Bob Marley died.
Arguably our best hope since has been Cal Crutchlow, who shot to prominence last year with two podium finishes in Brno and Phillip Island. The Coventry rider became the first British rider in 12 years to finish on a MotoGP podium, so a nation is waiting with bated breath to see if he can end the long-running victory drought.
2. Cal Crutchlow doesn't get injured at the British GP
We are praying that 2013 will be third time lucky for Crutchlow when the MotoGP circus rolls up at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix in early September.
In 2011 he missed the race after a qualifying crash left him with a broken left collarbone. Last year he smashed his left ankle in a practice crash but produced one of the most heroic rides of the year to fight his way through from the back of the grid to sixth.
He’s been to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford so often that he’s almost on first name terms with the radiography department, but if he can stay fit this year, then a podium could definitely be on the cards.
3. Valentino Rossi can win again
Even Valentino Rossi’s harshest critics would have to admit that MotoGP is more of a spectacle when the Italian legend is running at the front.
The sight of the nine-times world champion plodding around nowhere near the podium during a nightmare spell with Ducati has been morale-crushing for Rossi, embarrassing for Ducati and detrimental to the sport as a whole.
Crowds were down at all but one European race last season, with the attendance at Rossi’s home race in Mugello the lowest since 2001 and almost 20,000 less than 2011.
Whether Rossi still has the speed to win at the age of 34 will be one of the fascinating aspects of 2013, and we can’t wait to see him try and restore his battered reputation now he’s back on a Yamaha.
4. Rossi and Lorenzo don’t get on
Do we really want to see Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi getting on like reconciled brothers, brushing off a troubled and poisoned past to live happily ever after in Yamaha’s factory garage?
We’re not advocating bitter hatred, but when those two clashed on and off the track between 2008 and 2010, considerably more people were interested in and talked about MotoGP then they did after a largely uninspiring 2012.
Sport thrives on rivalry. Whether it be Ali and Frazier, Borg and McEnroe or Fischer and Spassky, they captured the imagination of the public and did wonders for the interest in their chosen profession.
Ever since Rossi confirmed he was returning to Yamaha last August, Rossi and Lorenzo have been at pains to play down their past scrapes and scuffles.
Maybe by the end of the first race in Qatar the atmosphere will be less cordial.
5. Ben Spies has some luck
You wouldn’t have wanted to be sitting next to Ben Spies on a plane after the shocking bad luck that struck the Texan in 2012.
Spies could not have been unluckier if a meteorite had fallen on his head last season as a catalogue of bad mistakes, injury and cruel mechanical meltdowns meant the 2009 World Superbike champion wrecked more suits than a drunk tailor.
A switch to the Pramac Ducati squad for 2013 hardly seems like an inspired career choice for a man down on his luck, but Spies has shown he has the potential to be a podium challenger. We just hope he hasn’t walked under any ladders recently.
6. Bradley Smith silences his critics
Ever since Bradley Smith signed a deal to join the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad in September 2011, he could not have got more abuse and criticism than if he was an expense- fiddling politician.
Smith had been written off before he had even thrown a leg over a YZR-M1 machine in Valencia last November. Even Crutchlow admits his rookie season in MotoGP was a disaster, and he went onto become one of 2012’s big revelations.
So Smith needs to be given time to flourish before he can be properly judged.
7. Marc Marquez lives up to the hype
Every once in a while a new talent emerges that creates a wave of anticipation and hype reserved for only an exclusive handful of riders. The last one was probably Jorge Lorenzo when he joined Yamaha in 2008.
And now Spain’s gift for rolling out mesmerising young talent has unearthed a gem in Marc Marquez.
His blindingly fast speed and fearless aggression has landed him in hot water on more than one occasion, but there is nobody in the paddock not desperate to see how he gets on replacing Casey Stoner at Repsol Honda.
The tragic loss of Marco Simoncelli at the end of 2011 and the shock retirement of Casey Stoner means MotoGP is crying out for a new bright star.
8. British successes continue
2012 was a great year to be British in the MotoGP paddock. No longer were circuit staff frantically searching round for a Union Jack at the podium ceremony.
Crutchlow’s podium in Brno was the first since Jeremy McWilliams took third in the British Grand Prix at Donington Park in 2000. Scott Redding had his best ever season in Moto2 and Gino Rea also got on the rostrum in the ultra-competitive 600cc four-stroke class.
Danny Kent became the latest British rider to convert obvious talent into race wins in the exciting new Moto3 class.
In 2013, an army of nine British riders will participate in the three GP classes, so long may British success continue.
9. Ducati can be competitive
Ducati has been in such sharp decline that not even Valentino Rossi’s mercurial talents could stop its fortunes plummeting faster than supersonic skydiver Felix Baumgartner.
The dream marriage turned into a hellish and instantly forgettable experience but MotoGP needs the Bologna factory to bounce back and fast. Ducati hasn’t won a race since the end of 2010 but the hope is that new owners Audi can inject fresh impetus into the ailing project.
They have pledged huge financial and human resources to try and fight for the title again in 2015. Let’s there are some obvious signs of recovery in 2013 for the sanity of Andrea Dovizioso, Nicky Hayden, Andrea Iannone and Spies.
10. Colin Edwards doesn’t retire
Colin Edwards isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. He’s got a mouth filthier than a Blackpool beach and once compared the size of his manhood to the shape of a Coke can.
There’s no doubt the Texan provides some light-hearted relief in the increasingly sanitised and corporate world of MotoGP. Who else could describe the experience of riding the troublesome Suter-BMW CRT project in 2012 as a like a ‘monkey f*****g a football’.
Edwards is in the last of a two-year deal with the Forward Racing squad in 2013, but he has no plans to hang up his leathers just yet. Let’s hope his unique brand of humour is still around in 2014.