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.au.IT DOESN’T GET MUCH BETTEROkay, I’m officially excited. The big news around the Gardner household this week is that my son Remy has signed to race the 2011 Spanish CMV series with the Monlau Competición team. He’ll be riding a pre-GP 125 in what is basically the toughest junior competition in the world. It’s essentially a feeder category for Grand Prix racing, so it’s an amazing opportunity and one we definitely couldn’t turn down.Remy couldn’t have signed with a better team. The Barcelona-based outfit is directed by former 125cc World Champion Emilio Alzamora and has produced a string of top class riders including reigning 125cc World Champion Marc Marquez. You can’t get much better than that. Although Remy is only relatively new to road racing, I really think he’s ready for the challenge. If he is to make the eventual progression to GPs – which is what he really wants – he needs to start the journey now and he’s very lucky we’re in a position to make that happen. This is a very expensive exercise, and without my contacts, profile and financial backing Remy would be struggling to do this, like so many other talented young Australian riders. Of course, he’ll still have to prove himself on the track, but I don’t see him winning the championship in his first year. It’s all about learning, coming to grips with the bike and getting a feel for demanding Spanish circuits including Albacete, Catalunya and Valencia. He’ll also have to get used to the demands of racing at an extremely high level against the sport’s future stars.I reckon one of the biggest difficulties will stem from all the travel involved. For 2011 we’re going to continue to be based in Australia and will “commute” to Europe for the championship’s eight rounds, the first of which is in April. That’s a lot of very long and tiring plane rides. While it’s definitely an amazing opportunity, at the same time I’m a little nervous and apprehensive. The risk of injuries and accidents is obviously a real concern, so I’ll be stressing a sensible and progressive approach to the whole campaign. I’ll also be on hand for every race, doing my best to guide and coach Remy through the whole process. I really wish I’d had that type of support when I was coming up all those years ago.Anyway, in addition to our Spanish commitments we’ll also be continuing to contest the Australian Road Racing Championship as well as keeping up the national and state dirt track and longtrack events. It’s going to be an extremely hectic year and I can’t wait for it all to get under way. At this point I also want to mention our fantastic sponsors who are helping make all this possible. Already we’ve picked up some great corporate support from long time supporters, Alpinestars and Honda, with Titax high performance products also joining us this year, and interest from quite a number of other suppliers. And, we may well have an announcement regarding a major sponsor in the coming weeks. Stay tuned……BACK TO THE ISLANDThe World Superbike Championship gets underway at Phillip Island this week and we’ll be heading down to catch all the action. It’ll be a great chance for the boys to meet the stars of the series and also get a first-hand look at how the world’s top superbike teams operate. The trip will also enable them to meet the guys from Alpinestars, who will be measuring them up for their new leathers. As for the actual racing, I reckon we’re going to see some amazing action. And while it’s always difficult to make accurate predictions before a single race has even been run, I’m going to predict at least one victory for Max Biaggi and Aprilia this weekend. Max is the defending champion, afterall, and that bike is just too strong. Also look for Johnny Rea to be right up there. The Castrol Hondas seemed to be really motoring in pre-season testing and Johnny is definitely due to make a big step up. He didn’t meet expectations last season and 2011 is the year it has to happen. Finally to round out my top three, I reckon Leon Haslam could well be the man. Phillip Island will really suit the BMW. Its top-end power is good, it steers really well and the mid-range power issues that cause major problems at tighter tracks shouldn’t be too much of a hindrance. My outside bet for a win or podium? Carlos Checa. The guy absolutely flies around Phillip Island and although Ducati have withdrawn factory support for the series, I have a sneaking suspicion that his Althea team will have that bike well and truly firing. Whatever happens, it’ll be great to finally see some racing again. See you there.THE CHALLENGES OF BEING CHAMPIONIt’ll be interesting to see how the off-season demands of being the current MotoGP World Champion will affect Jorge Lorenzo. From what I hear the guy has hardly had a chance for a break since last November, jetting around the world to promote his title and putting in appearances for sponsors and fans.
Let me tell you, that stuff can really wear you down. I remember the off-season after I won the championship very well. I was all over the place, constantly on and off planes doing the meet-and-greet thing with anybody and everybody. And that’s how it should be. As the world champion, it’s your responsibility to be the spokesperson for your sport. It’s an honor and a privilege. However, it also means less time for training and recuperation and less time for much-needed rest.I found that it didn’t start to take a toll until a few months into the 1988 season, when I started feeling a bit tired and burnt out. It’s not an uncommon thing. If Jorge’s hectic off-season schedule is going to impact him negatively in any way, it probably won’t happen until several races in. At the moment he appears to be on top of his game. But he’ll need to stay there for the next 10-months. If he does start to suffer in the slightest from mental fatigue, it could just provide the slight edge that guys like Stoner and maybe Pedrosa are looking for.