Can Rossi rekindle the old magic?
Valentino Rossi, reduced to playing the role of MotoGP's sleeping giant during his disastrous spell at Ducati, is eager to emerge out of his enforced slumber in 2013 after returning 'home' to Yamaha.
Rossi, with just three podium places to show for his ill-fated two seasons at Ducati, is teaming up again with Jorge Lorenzo in what promises to be a fascinating partnership.
While the effervescent Italian, who won four of his seven MotoGP titles with Yamaha, now finds himself in the unusual position of having something to prove, Lorenzo approaches 2013 as a double world champion.
The likeable Spaniard prevailed in his gripping season-long tussle with Dani Pedrosa, claiming the title in the penultimate race in Australia after his Honda rival crashed out.
Despite missing out on the crown Pedrosa closed his own campaign on a high note with victory in the season-finale in Valencia after Lorenzo crashed out in the season’s most spectacular highside.
Pedrosa's 45th win of his career pushed him up to 332 points, 18 shy of Lorenzo.
Third in Valencia was outgoing champion Casey Stoner in his final Grand Prix before retirement.
Stoner’s Honda crew marked the occasion by hanging a sign over the pit wall saying: “Going fishing”.
Stoner, who’d been outspokenly critical of Rossi's move back to Yamaha, got off his bike and declared: “It's fantastic to end my career this way, a big thanks to my supporters all these years, there are a lot worse ways to go out.”
Lorenzo for his part claimed his second title had left him liberated.
“It's been a big emotion because this year has been tougher than my first world title in 2010. I knew my competitors were stronger and more constant this year, and I knew I had to be more constant than them,” he said.
“When I first came into MotoGP I needed to learn from my mistakes, know my limits and try not to go over the limit, so for this reason I am very proud of my evolution.
“I feel emotional for the toughness and the hard competition. I needed to be strong and really focused. For this reason I now feel liberated of the weight off my shoulders.”
It's probably just as well Stoner is not around in 2013 given the way he castigated Rossi's dismal time at Ducati, accusing the Italian of “jumping ship”.
As for Rossi, the move is set to inject fresh life into his faltering fortunes.
He said: “It's a return for me, and the feeling was like having never been away.”
Reflecting on his ill-fated spell with Ducati, Rossi said: “It was a dream, it was a great and important bet to try and win for Ducati but unfortunately we have no way. It has been two very difficult seasons.
“We try lots of things but we were never able to fix the problems. We had some good races and a few good results but not what everybody expects. We lose the bet.”
Of his prospects for 2013, the 33-year-old added: “I am at a certain age and I don't know how many years I will continue in MotoGP, so I have to race with the best bike that I can.
“Fortunately during my career I have won more or less everything so I need to enjoy it to have the right motivation.
“I need to arrive at the circuit every weekend with the chance to fight for the victory. It will be difficult but that is why I change teams.”
If Rossi can reignite his old sparkle Lorenzo and co are in for a huge battle next year. - AFP