Ryder Note: Challenger Knocks Himself Out

As usual it was Beatles-level hysteria at CoTA whenever Valentino showed his face. Gi. Gi.

So, the challenger knocked himself out. And the champ did what he always does, win in Texas. It looked almost normal; two Repsol Hondas on the rostrum plus Valentino Rossi. What wasn’t normal was Valentino having his best ever race at CoTA and splitting the Repsol to go top of the championship. Yes, we go back to Europe with the Goat leading, back to the tracks he knows, the tracks he calls the real part of the world championship. The tracks that will be packed with his fans, desperate for that tenth title. The tracks that will look like they’re painted yellow (except Aragon).

I’m always tempted to wheel out Wayne Rainey’s old saying, that the ground war starts when you get back to Europe, at this time of year but this time I’m not sure.

Is the pattern already set? It looks like it. The Yamaha rider who makes fewer mistakes should be champion but the tracks in the later part of the season tend to suit the Hondas. Valentino and Maverick need to rack up the points at the grand old circuits that Rossi loves so much: Jerez, Le Mans, Assen, Barcelona and Mugello. As you’d expect, Honda are getting their act together after a rocky start in Qatar but Marc Marquez still says they haven’t got a proper base setting. Ducati? Tricky … but I believe Jorge Lorenzo has had Le Mans as the target for his first challenge since the start of the season.

In the meantime, it’s Jerez up next where much will depend on how the Michelins cope with the tricky surface. Don’t forget that 12 months ago the French tyre company was in damage-limitation mode after the Argentinian disaster so last year’s results probably won’t be a perfect guide.

Valentino Rossi’s form there over the years might be, though.

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