Former 500cc World Champion Wayne Gardner will be offering his GP insights on a regular basis to cyclenews.com readers and we’re happy to have him. For more from the Wollongong Wonder, visit his website at www.waynegardnerapproved.com.auWRITING OFF ROSSI
It seems almost everyone in the Italian media is already writing Valentino Rossi off for 2011 following his Ducati debut at Valencia earlier this month. The consensus seems to be that the switch has already proven to be a failed gamble, and that next year will turn out to be a huge disappointment. Believe me, this type of thinking is a big mistake. While a lot of people expected Rossi to be fast straight away, I’m not really surprised he wasn’t.I’ve ridden Ducati MotoGP machines in the past and know that they’re very strange bikes. They take time to get used to and require a completely different technique to ride fast. Would Rossi have been surprised how the bike felt when he finally threw his leg over? Possibly, though we probably won’t know his true thoughts for quite some time. Regardless, I think there’s a good chance Vale now has an even higher regard for Casey’s [Stoner] ability. But mark my words: Rossi and the team will make the necessary adjustment. Everyone tends to forget very quickly what he’s achieved and how good he is. People always tend to discard his chances too early, and the same is happening again now. Yes, 2011 will be a challenge. With less testing allowed these days, the pressure will be on the factory to get the new design right over the coming months. And while Vale may struggle a little in the first few races because of the lack of testing time, it will just be a matter of time before things fall into place.The crucial part will center around how quickly the factory can respond to any additional changes Rossi requests. I’m sure they’re prepared for this aspect of the assignment. Remember: they don’t have a World Superbike team to worry about anymore, so it’s not like they have anything better to do. What can’t be overlooked at this stage is just how valuable Rossi’s early release from Yamaha was. If he’d had to wait until next year to test the bike, 2011 would probably have shaped up as a bit of a disaster. By that late stage there would have been no time for the team to go away and design a new bike and Vale would have been forced to contend with whatever he found underneath him. As things stand now, there’s a good chance next year’s machine will accommodate most of the requirements Rossi would have identified. But the simple reality is that it will all take a bit of time to sort out.
FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS
This coming weekend is shaping up as a big one for [my son] Remy, who’s getting set to race at Phillip Island for the very first time. He’s entered in a junior support event for the Bel-Ray 6 Hour, and it’ll mark his first-ever road race in Australia. The event is all about commencing his education on fast circuits. When we went to Spain in October we were amazed by the other kids’ confidence and abilities on quick corners. Remy also needs to learn how to approach them with confidence, and there’s no better place to learn than the Island.From my point of view, it’ll be a case of giving him an idea about the correct lines and the correct body positioning, while also instilling a belief in the bike and in the front-end grip. Negotiating fast corners effectively is all about getting used to the perception of speed. If you haven’t done it before it takes a little while to get your eyes and your brain around it. He just needs to take it slowly and build up to it. The Honda 70 he’ll be racing will do anything up to 160km/h – pretty fast for a 13-year-old. Once again he’ll be up against more seasoned competition, but we’re not after the result. We’re after the experience.Whatever happens, it’ll be a very proud moment for me, and also a reminder of how much water has passed under the bridge since I won the first two Australian GPs at the Island 20-years ago. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that my son will be having his first race on the very same track. But unlike me, he’ll get to blast down a straight that bears his own name. I can’t wait.