The throaty roar of an inline-four, the swish of a chequered flag, the camaraderie of riding together, and the legends and their greatest hits.


The beauty of having long breaks between race weekends is that it gives us, keen followers that we are, ample opportunities to mull over things. We can debate till we are various shades of blue, vigorously bang on tables to voice our opinion, and fight (yes, we fight too) over our favourites.

That’s exactly what happened between the Qatar GP and the Jerez GP, which was held this weekend. Our main point of contention however, was not Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner. No, absolutely not. It was, just like many million others like us around the world, about Valentino Rossi and Ducati.

Now, any fan will tell you that Vale is just about a genius when it comes to turning teams around. I mean look at Honda and Yamaha. So, it stumped many (well, not the experts), when Vale fell behind the grid last year, and then again at the start of the season, in Qatar. We scratched our heads and read innumerable articles that debated this slip down the grid. It must be Ducati, my friends said. Those were just my friends.

I, on the other hand, just sat, like a lovelorn child, looking balefully at the television, as Stoner and Lorenzo battled for the top spot. The channel didn’t even show Rossi. Losers!! It alarmed my mother, especially during the Qatar race. I don’t blame her; it was the middle of the night in India. Jerez was no better. Well, it was slightly better. Except, this time, I was screaming at the television, alternating between “Shoo Stoner” and “Forza Vale, Forza”.

Post-Qatar, I was down in the dumps, just like Vale, who struggled for a 10th position, just faster than the CRT bikes. For the first time, Vale was disheartened, and showed it. “Ducati didn’t follow the direction that I indicated, but I’m not an engineer and I can’t solve every problem,” he told mediapersons. “…The problems with the bike haven’t changed, and neither have my requests. It’s unrideable, and it doesn’t make much difference what track we are on,” said, quoting him. Read the story here.

But Jerez was different. It rained during practice sessions, and suddenly, there was the old Vale, pushing the Desmosedici to its limits, setting time, and good time at that. He set the second fastest time in wet practice. There was hope in the air, and well, all of us 46-ers prayed for rain.

Come race day though, things slipped. Teammate Nicky Hayden started from 3rd on the grid, and Vale from the 13th. In the beginning, Hayden fought off Cal Crutchlow (who raced brilliantly. He should have won, not Stoner. Cal came 4th). But soon, the tyres started losing grip and he slipped down to the 8th. Meanwhile, at the back, Vale was battling Hector Barbera. Vale ended the race at 9th. But was so much more optimistic than Qatar. It was a switch, and it made me sigh with relief. He is quoted as saying, in a Ducati press release that the Jerez race will help them do better in Estoril. “Today’s setting was very similar to what Nicky has used for a while, though not exactly the same. I must get used to riding the bike a bit differently than I’m used to, and today that caused me to lose some ground in the early laps, because I was basically starting blind.” Read the story here.

He earlier admitted to, “I know what to do to go faster, but unfortunately it doesn’t work with the Ducati. My team is in the exact same position. For 30 years with different bikes and all the tricks they do to go faster don’t work with this bike.” Read more here.

Here, though, I must tell Rossi nay-sayers. Don’t write off Vale. He has bounced back, each and every time. What about news that Rossi will leave Ducati hanging? It’s just rumour-mongers. Read this before you make up your mind. And post-Jerez, one thing’s for sure. We now have a rejuvenated Vale, who is ready to take on the challenge that’s the Ducati Desmosedici GP12. It should make a battle-worthy season.

And why, you ask, am I giving so much space to Vale and not to the other racers? It’s my revenge. So there, TV channels, you don’t show Vale, I will blog about Vale. Forza Vale!

As far as the others are concerned:

I’m determined not to talk about Casey Stoner. Yes, he’s a great rider, but Jerez saw a determined Dani Pedrosa pushing for a top spot. His face-off with Cal Crutchlow made me sit on the edge. I’m putting my money on Pedrosa and Crutchlow, as the guys to keep an eye on (when those TV channels let you) in the future races. By race-end, Crutchlow was about 0.4 seconds behind Pedrosa and 2.465s behind Stoner. He also set the fastest lap with a time of 1.40.019. Read more here.

All images courtesy Miguel Moreno

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