Duncan Bishop

More Spanish GPs like 2005, please

Duncan Bishop

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The final-lap battle in 2005

All indications point to a stay of execution for the Circuito de Jerez. Laughing in the face of financial difficulties, declining attendance and an unsustainable business model, the track that refused to go away is sticking around for a little longer yet.

That is by no means a bad thing, either. There have been some classic races down in southern Spain and, at the end of the day, fans prefer good racing over sound economic practice every time. One race in particular stands out.

Picture the scene in 2005: reigning world champion Valentino Rossi can do no wrong. A record breaker who has achieved the unthinkable with back-to-back premier class title wins on two different bikes coming into the season opener - the most marketable and popular rider of all time.

Rival Sete Gibernau has been Rossi's main rival for the past two seasons and, as the chequered flag is ready to be waved at the Spanish Grand Prix, looks to be on course for the win — although a move from Rossi is inevitable. When it comes, Gibernau is pushed wide into the gravel, Rossi wheelies over the line and the home fans purse their lips for some big-time whistling.

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Sete would never win another race

Now normally when you see a Spaniard named Manuel being knocked about by a lanky chap at Sunday teatime, it's a source of mirth - because you are watching Fawlty Towers. Rossi found Gibernau's reaction amusing, however: he mocked it and turned public perception of his rival into that of a whingeing drama queen.

This is exactly the situation that a grand prix media centre thrives upon. Never anything less than polarised, the Italian and Spanish factions quickly go about making their respective points in raised voices. I caught up with one of each this week to see how they looked back on the collision.

"At the time, I thought that Sete went a little bit too hot into the corner," recounts Paolo Scalera of Il Corriere dello Sport. "But Vale touched him and didn't pass in a 'clean' way. Without the lock-up that they had, I also think that Rossi would have gone slightly wide. It was a hustling move from him."

"I saw it as a strange, hard move, although not dirty like it was sold at the time," adds Alberto Gómez from Spanish sports daily Marca. "Sete was taken advantage of, as he was leant against after braking on the limit. If he hadn't have been there, then Rossi would have been taken off-track by the inertia of his bike. My opinion hasn't changed since then."

Why was this race so important, then? Firstly, it kept alive Rossi's aura. The post-Qatar "Sete will never win another race again" proclamation turned out to be true. 'The Doctor' plucked another impossible victory from the jaws of defeat.

Former grand prix winner Randy Mamola told me once that the biggest mistake that Gibernau made was relenting and shaking Rossi's hand immediately afterwards. It took the antagonism out of the incident and meant that the Italian didn't even need to win the Spanish fans over again.

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Should Gibernau have done this?

Contrast that with Jorge Lorenzo's reaction when involved in a close fight with Rossi. Or Casey Stoner's response at last season's Jerez race when he was taken out by the old Ducati front end crash. Or Karel Abraham marching over to Stoner's garage in testing.

There are no sacred cows in MotoGP any more - and nobody allows themselves to be pushed around.

Stoner hasn't won at Jerez in the premier class, but was fastest there in testing. Lorenzo and Pedrosa are both at full fitness and have an enviable record at the Spanish Grand Prix. Rossi, unfortunately, is unlikely to be involved in their battles at the moment.

If you want a fight up front, this year's race has all the ingredients of coming up with the goods and, whilst it has all been terribly civil so far, just one false move could turn up the heat that extra notch and drop the pretence of bonhomie.

Viva the Spanish GP!

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