After all the drama, the talk stops tomorrow. Two titles on the line, and five men to fight over them. On Sunday, there will be no talk of crew chiefs being sacked, of team bosses appealing for penalty points, of teams concocting dubious plans, of teammates, team strategies or team orders.
When the red lights go out, and the thunderous roar of four-stroke racing motorcycles fills the natural bowl which cradles the tightly wound ribbon of tarmac that is the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, it is every man and woman for themselves, and the devil take the hindmost. Nearly a hundred young men and one young woman will take to the track on Sunday.
Most have already had their dreams of glory shattered; three more will share that disappointment; only two will etch their names permanently into the history books.
Aleix Espargaro and Colin Edwards will race for the NGM Forward team in MotoGP next year, riding FTR-based Yamaha production machines.
The announcement had been expected for a very long time, but confirmation only came on Saturday morning at Valencia, as haggling over buying out Espargaro’s contract had continued over the past couple of months. Negotiations have finally been completed, and Espargaro has been cleared to join Forward.
MotoGP fans have been rubbing their hands in anticipation of this weekend’s final round of the championship. The race has everything: a mental Moto3 race to be decided outright by the rider who wins, with just five points separating Luis Salom, Maverick Viñales, and Alex Rins.
There is the triumphant homecoming for a newly crowned Moto2 champion, Pol Espargaro wearing a positively regal helmet to celebrate, while his title rival Scott Redding wears special leathers and helmet thanking the Marc VDS Racing team who have stood behind him for the past four seasons
And then there is the shootout for the MotoGP championship, between Jorge Lorenzo, a man with nothing to lose, and Marc Marquez, who has to balance between riding hard enough to keep the bike working properly and not taking any unnecessary risks, while ensuring he comes home in fourth, something which sounds easier than it is.
There were even a couple of sideshows: the presentation of the Honda RCV1000R production racer, and Yamaha’s annual technical presentation, in which they brief the media on how they have developed the bike to be so competitive.
All that is forgotten. Valentino Rossi’s shock announcement on Thursday that he had told long-term crew chief Jeremy Burgess that he wanted to replace him with someone else has dominated the headlines, as well as the hearts and minds of almost everyone in the paddock. In the search for the elusive last couple of tenths of a second which separate Rossi from the three Spanish superstars who have dominated the 2013 season, the Italian is leaving no stone unturned.
“It is true that next year Jerry won’t be my chief mechanic,” Rossi told the press conference. The decision had not been taken lightly, he said. “It was a very difficult decision for me because I have a great history with Jeremy. He is not just my chief mechanic. He is like part of my family. My father in racing.”
Rossi felt he had been forced to make a decision to try to make a change, to regain his competitiveness. “I’ve decided for next year I need to change something to try to find new motivation and to have a boost to improve my level, my speed. So this will be my last race together with Jeremy.”
Rossi had made the decision five days ago, he told reporters, but had waited until Valencia to tell Burgess, once he could tell him himself. “We spoke today, face to face. Next year will be crucial and I need new motivation. In the last few races I’ve felt I wanted to work in a different way. It was a difficult choice to make. Yamaha had asked me some time ago, but I decided recently.”
No decision had yet been made about a replacement, and it was unclear whether Burgess would be present at the test.
Announced at the pre-event press conference today at the Valencian GP, Valentino Rossi dropped the bombshell that he would not be having Jeremy Burgess as his crew chief for the 2014 MotoGP season. Rossi reportedly told Yamaha Racing about his decision last week, with Burgess himself learning of the news just before the press conference.
The announcement is a huge move for the nine-time World Champion, as Burgess and his team of mechanics have been an integral part to Rossi’s racing success. However, one has to wonder if Rossi’s current troubles braking on the Yamaha YZR-M1 , and his horrible two years chasing setups at Ducati Corse didn’t play a factor in his ultimate decision.