Dear Michael Laverty,
You are a thief.
In 2013, riding an Aprilia powered PBM CRT bike you will compete in the 18 round MotoGP world championship. Between the months of April and November you will travel the globe, racing against the best of the best on some of the most iconic circuits in the world.
You have stolen my dream. How very dare you.
I've had that dream for ages Michael. It's mine. I've thought about it, honed it, polished it, and set it in various scenarios over many, many years. The basic tenet involves being plucked from (relative) obscurity and offered the chance-in-a-lifetime ride in Grands Prix. Then being quicker than everyone expected, raising a few eyebrows and ruffling a few experienced MotoGP feathers in the process.
The Losail Circuit in Qatar is the largest floodlit sporting venue on the planet. The lighting system includes over 1000 structures, 3 million kilos of concrete, and 500 kilometres of wire. The system would power 3000 homes. Three and a half thousand separate light sources produce 450 million lumens of light. On Sunday the 7th of April, those 450 million lumens will bathe one man. Valentino Rossi.
There are others of course, every bit as worthy of the spotlight as Rossi. But people watched Muhammad Ali fights to see Ali, not the guy who was going to beat him. The focus of every spectator at the circuit and every television viewer globally will be on Rossi because, like Ali, the story is utterly compelling.
MotoGP has somehow (more by happy accident than design) contrived to take its staid feature race, replete with little overtaking, few wheelies and certainly no burnouts in these days of limited engine availability, and serve up a season that has the hallmarks of a potential classic.
How we got here is how we got here. A guy retired, another walked away from his team, a bike was uncompetitive, a rookie rule was dropped, a potential champion became injury free, and an angry young man matured into a two-time world champion.
MotoGP is missing a trick. As the 2013 season approaches there are two main topics of note, what are the rules going to be in the next two or three years and will Valentino Rossi's eventual, inevitable, retirement cause the series to implode?
Both of these questions are irrelevant. The fact is that in five, ten, fifteen years time there will be Grand Prix motorcycle racing. It will have its heroes, it will have its villains and it will have a load of middle-aged men harping on about how things ain't what they used to be. They'll moan about how these aren't 'proper' bikes and how you should have seen Kenny Roberts 'back in the day'. It will also have a rider of whom it will be said, "We'll never see his like again". Plus ça change.
Last season, it became the norm that the stand-out races of the day were in Moto3 and Moto2. Both were hard fought, both were exciting and both were won by clean-cut young men who fully deserved their moment of glory on the podium. Champagne was sprayed (or not) press conferences convened, reports written. The media pack then headed en masse for the airport, to chatter about chatter.
Which meant they missed something. On Sunday nights, the Internet was ablaze. With talk, comment, gossip, hearty congratulations to winners and heartfelt sympathies to losers. From a hitherto unnoticed and completely ignored MotoGP fan demographic.