After three months of waiting with growing expectation with the off-season news and testing, the moment of race action is finally around the corner. In a matter of hours the 2006 season of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP) will kick off in Jerez de la Frontera, where the `Gran Premio betandwin.com de Espa?a' will be held.
It is enough to check all he has done in the past years to know who is the main candidate to take the first victory of the season.
Current champion and maximum star of the Continental Circus, Valentino Rossi, appears with his credit intact to defend his title and the new colours of Yamaha with Camel as sponsor. Despite Rossi's expressing many times that he is not happy with the support of a tobacco company, the yellow colour of Camel is at least his favourite.
However, the performance shown by the Yamaha YZR-M1 in the last tests might be a reason to be on alert for Rossi. "We need to find more grip when the tyre is on the side," he explains. "At the test our speed in the corner was down considerably in some places so, where we usually have an advantage with the Yamaha, we were behind."
Rossi has been victorious in round one of each of the last five seasons, all of which have ended with championship success. With his statistics, the race on Sunday should become even more important for the Italian.
The 2006 season could be a strong test for Rossi. Another year of dominium in MotoGP may help him in his recent thinking to consider a change to Formula One after his tests with Ferrari.
Although on this issue, the Italian continues as a question mark. "I haven`t take any decision yet. My target for this year and to my life right now is to be the World Champion in MotoGP", Rossi commented recently in Jerez.
The problems of grip and speed in the corners that Yamaha suffered during the recent testing at the circuit where a chassis that is well balanced could make a difference, seems to be a light of hope for the rest of the MotoGP field.
Rossi's teammate, Colin Edwards, expects to continue his rising career in MotoGP. Fifth in `04 and fourth in `05, the American looks forward to his first victory this year.
After all the pre-season tests, there is still no main rival for Rossi in the fight for the World Championship.
Honda appears, like always in the last couple of years, as the more important competitor for the crown with both teams Repsol YPF and Fortuna.
The recent tests at Circuit de Catalunya weren't as good as the guys in Repsol expected. The new bike wasn't in the best shape, but Nicky Hayden is confident of a crucial season for him in MotoGP.
"Everybody involved in the Repsol Honda Team has worked really hard and we've got a committed group of guys here. I hope to reward them for all their efforts over the winter. We are going to bring all we got! The team worked a lot and solved the problems", stated the American rider that is one of candidates for the title in the preview of the season after he was able to take his first victory in Laguna Seca.
His teammate looks relaxed before his MotoGP debut. The Spaniard Dani Pedrosa -- for many people the most talented rider since Rossi jumped into the scene -- worked really hard to be physically ready to dominate a bike of 990cc, 150 kg and 250 HP. A new challenge after all his victories and three World Championships in 125cc (`03) and 250cc (`04, `05).
"I think that we've made a very good preseason, because I've been progressing and there's always been an evolution. I've progressed physically as well, I felt much better at the end of the preseason tests compared to the first time I got on the bike", mentioned Pedrosa.
About his expectations for the season start, he added, "I've hardly been able to practice starts and I've only tested two sets of qualifying tyres so far, but I guess that's normal when you are a MotoGP rookie. I'm not worried and looking forward to the races".
Fortuna Honda is ready to be in the fight as well. With 2005 sub-champion, Marco Melandri, and Spaniard Toni Elias in their line, the team of Fausto Gresini wants to take Rossi out of the top in MotoGP. In the pre-season testing, they might be able to reach their goals.
After taking his first victory in MotoGP and being the `number two' behind Rossi's domination, Melandri knows he is in the condition to fight head-to-head with his countryman and friend during the long season.
"I am quite satisfied; after a tough winter we have managed to create a good base. We still have to improve a little bit and then I can be fast, like I showed I can be last season. I can already feel the adrenaline and I am sure that will push me to take that extra step forward and be competitive," Melandri said.
In their fourth season in MotoGP, Ducati Marlboro has shown strong in some moments of the pre-season tests. The Italian team keeps Loris Capirossi and has welcomed Sete Gibernau to replace Carlos Checa, who finally found a ride with the Yamaha Tech 3 team to stay in the category.
The Desmosedici GP6 could to be the right weapon for the Ducati team to confirm during all the calendar the good results achieved in the hands of Capirossi last year with victories in Japan and Malaysia.
After two sub-championships (`03, `04), Gibernau knows that at 33-years-old he might be in his last chance to fight for the title. The Spaniard proved to be fast with the Ducati and wants to have a strong season start in Jerez to make the fans forget last season's final lap when Rossi took the victory from his hands on this same circuit.
Rizla Suzuki arrives in good conditions to Jerez after some great results in the preview with John Hopkins. The American will have as teammate the rookie Chris Vermeulen, from Australia.
Kenny Roberts, Jr. left Suzuki with which he raced since 1999 and will be on his dad's team this time with a Honda. The 2000 World Champion will try to be competitive again after some years of bad results.
Another team that wants to surprise is Kawasaki with Shinya Nakano and Randy de Puniet, who will make his debut in MotoGP after some good years riding in the 250cc category. A fifth place by Nakano in Jerez 2005 is a good memory that the Japanese will try to repeat or even improve.
It is all set. The Continental Circus is ready to fire up in Jerez for the 58th edition of the World Championship with 17 races around the globe. Be ready for the drama, the action and the glory in two wheels and over 300km/h.