Monday, November 29, 1999

MotoGP title loses lustre without Rossi, rivals say

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Valentino Rossi's injury-enforced absence will take the gloss off this year's MotoGP championship no matter who wins it, the Italian showman's rivals said on Wednesday.Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo, Rossi's Yamaha team mate and favourite for the title, told reporters that winning without the sport's champion and most flamboyant rider made it less of an achievement."It's a pity for everyone that Valentino is not here. Winning a world championship is always a great feeling, but without Valentino it maybe loses a little bit of its value," he said ahead of this weekend's British Grand Prix at Silverstone.Rossi, a nine-times champion in all categories, is expected to be out for between four and five months after breaking his leg in practice for his home Italian Grand Prix at Mugello 10 days ago."I want to be world champion with Valentino on the track," added Lorenzo, speaking after a photo shoot at Lord's cricket ground where he donned gloves and pads and flailed at some gentle deliveries on a practice wicket."If I could put all the legends in the history of the motorcycle with me on the track, I would for sure."Nicky Hayden, the American Ducati rider who beat Rossi to the title in 2006 on a Honda, agreed that an asterisk might have to appear in the MotoGP history books against this year's winner."You know, it's a shame that you've got to think like that but it's true," he said in his languid Kentucky drawl."I try not to get caught up in ifs and buts, good or bad in racing or in life. but it's true," added the 28-year-old, who beat Rossi by just five points after a season that went down to the wire."Whoever wins will feel a little bit less because the guy who has won so many (titles and races) wasn't out there. But that's how it goes. He made a mistake."BROKEN LEGEven if Rossi returns quicker than expected, the 31-year-old's titles hopes have evaporated. Hayden said he would be sorely missed in the meantime."The sport's better with him in it," he said. "On the track he's raised the level, off the track he's a showman and I think it's better with him here."Lorenzo, who was already leading Rossi in the championship standings before the accident, has a 25-point advantage over compatriot Dani Pedrosa with 14 races remaining including Sunday's.The Spaniard, who had won the two races immediately before Mugello, suggested that maybe Rossi had been feeling the pressure in front of his home fans."Before Valentino's crash we beat him two times. I don't know if it's affected his mind or not, I don't know if he crashed because of that or not," he said.Lorenzo recognised that his team mate's crash had played on his mind at Mugello and felt he had not been able to race as normal afterwards, but said he would be at 100 percent on the new Silverstone layout.Hayden said the Spaniard would still be feeling the pressure, however."He was the guy trying to beat Valentino and now it's basically his title to lose," he said.(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Clare Fallon;To query or comment on this story email
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