Working as a journalist, one of the best things about MotoGP over the past decade has been Valentino Rossi. Column inches are easy to fill when your series has one of motorcycle racing's most charismatic figures who also racks up win after win - it is almost impossible to write about anything else.
Rossi has been a guaranteed angle after every race. There are hard overtaking moves (Jerez 2005, Laguna Seca 2008), memorable celebrations (Jerez 2007, Japan 2008), and, very rarely, big crashes (Assen 2007, Mugello 2010). That's before you look at all the wins - dominant or otherwise - and entertaining off-track shenanigans that 'The Doctor' provides.
This season, however, there have only really been two stories about Rossi:
1) The Ducati is darn tough to get the hang of;
2) Casey Stoner really doesn't appreciate being taken out of a race.
The latter has died down, but the Italian's troubles with the big red bike have almost become boring in their predictability.
Something is wrong when the most decorated rider of the modern era is not even expected to take a podium at a race, but that's what has happened this year. People were expecting a second coming of Welkom 2004 - a win in a first race for a new team. When that didn't happen, they expected Shanghai and Le Mans in 2006 - fortune conspiring against Rossi to deny him the championship lead in a freak season.
It hasn't happened like that. The truth is that Rossi is getting comprehensively beaten each race weekend, and isn't featuring much in the same camera shot as the series leaders.
Changes are coming slowly, and the overnight miracles born of a rider at the top of his game, a special arrangement with Michelin and comfort with his bike are a thing of the past. That's not to say that Rossi is an irrelevance: look at the number of banners and amount of merchandise and crowds around his motorhome, still a regular fixture in the MotoGP paddock. But his is very much a separate story from the title battle.
It might be a false dawn, but things appear to be picking up after the summer break. In qualifying, he was just 0.7 seconds down on pole - the closest he has been all season. Come race day, and his fastest lap was six-tenths off Casey Stoner's top time around Brno. It might be down to his affection for the track or the riders ahead of him easing off late on with no battles around them - but Rossi crossed the line less than five seconds behind Marco Simoncelli on a factory Honda.
What have been the changes then? The rigid carbon fibre chassis has left Rossi feeling uncomfortable with the Bridgestone tyres and unable to 'bend' the Ducati into corners. Many modifications have been made to the GP11 upon his request - sometimes too eagerly - but Ducati will not be changing their unique chassis material any time soon. Call it stubbornness or being contrary, but the idea will simply not be entertained.
What Filippo Preziosi HAS done, however, is give the all-clear for small holes to be put into the material in order to provide some extra flexibility.
The seating position has also been modified and the handlebars raised considerably, and don't rule out another version of the chassis being introduced before the end of the year. Even if it is not of particular use for the 2011 campaign, Ducati are the furthest ahead in their 1000cc development and are passing any new ideas from that project down to the 800cc endeavour.
It's all preparation from now on in, so don't expect Rossi to be off the rostrum for too long.
When do YOU think Rossi will be back to winning ways? Are the promising signs from the Czech Republic going to be another false Ducati dawn? Leave your Brno comments and opinions below.