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.THE WAYNE IN SPAIN
My apologies for filing my review a bit late this week, but I've been in transit from Australia to Spain via the UK with Remy and haven't been able to put any thoughts down on screen. Right now I'm sitting in our hotel bar having breakfast and recovering from the trip, so it's as good a time as any. For starters: what a journey - all 30 hours of it. It all started pleasantly enough and we were very well looked after by V Australia and Etihad, who are kindly assisting Team Gardner's 2011 Spanish campaign.
It's when we actually landed that the fun began. I'm not sure what we enjoyed most - the two-hour wait to get our passports stamped at Heathrow by one of only five customs officials on hand, or the fact the sat-nav in our brand new Volvo V60 only spoke Spanish when we arrived in Barcelona. We sat there for 45-minutes trying to make sense of it all before I finally gave up and drove around until we found a petrol station with a car wash.
Luckily my old mates the motorbike riders were out in force cleaning their bikes and one of them, who turned out to be a long-time GP fan, recognized me. The other good news: he also spoke English and, after half-an-hour, was able to re-program our sat-nav and send us on our way. So, a huge thank you to him. Without his assistance I reckon we'd still be driving around Barcelona in circles. We finally located our hotel on Sunday night and I can't remember the last time a bed looked so good.
CHECA IN CHARGE
I have to say, I'm seriously impressed with Carlos Checa. The fact he's been able to establish a 43-point lead in the World Superbike Championship after just three rounds on a bike that isn't really on par with the other factory machines speaks volumes for his ability. We all know he's had a tendency to throw away great opportunities in the past, but it looks like he's been finally able to turn it around. It's fair to say he's firmed as the definite favorite to win the 2011 WorldChampionship. A lot of people are seemingly a bit surprised at his form and results, but they really shouldn't be. As a former MotoGP rider, he should be way better than most of the guys out there.
As much as I love World Supers as an entertainment spectacle, the level of ability you find on that grid is just not the same as in the premier class. A lot of people will probably disagree, but it's a fact. True, there are other MotoGP riders who have gone there in the past and been less than amazing, but that was probably down to things other than ability. The fact is that Carlos is beating factory Hondas, Yamahas, Aprilias and BMWs on a bike that few thought would be competitive at the start of the year. His results so far in 2011, and to a lesser extent those of Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri, highlight just what an ex-GP rider can do on a superbike when all the ducks are in line.
After Assen I reckon a few of the top teams will be really scratching their heads. Yes, it was a top result for Johnny Rea in race one, but it's just not enough for the Honda rider. I've rated his ability for a while now, but I'm starting to doubt he'll ever be able to muster the consistency needed to win the title. I should also mention Chris Vermeulen. I was really hoping his comeback to racing would last longer than eight laps. But it's obvious his injuries are still making things next to impossible for him. It's a very disappointing situation and I really hope he can improve enough to not only finish a race, but deliver some decent lap times and results. It's pretty clear the clock is now well and truly ticking on Chris's career, and he'll need something pretty special to turn things around. Right now I'd have to say it's not looking good.