Valentino Rossi is clearly a great rider. Let us make that clear up front. The level of his domination in the MotoGP class (and the 500 class last year) does have something to do with his machinery, however.
This year, Rossi rides the consensus best bike in the paddock, i.e., the Honda V5. Until the round just completed at Brno, only Rossi and his teammate had this machine at their disposal. Rossi and his teammate, between them, had also won every round in the championship.
Last year, the Honda NSR500 ridden by Rossi was also the consensus best bike. The Honda teams that receive lesser machinery (Rossi is on the Repsol team — they get the best) were shocked at how good Rossi’s NSR500 was when they got the chance to ride it this year. That’s right, Loris Capirossi and Alex Barros rode lesser Hondas last year. This year, they again ride the one-year-old machine (although, with Rossi on the four-stroke, they are finally the “A Team” on the two-stroke).
All this points to the fact that next year will be the true measure of Rossi’s greatness in MotoGP. With perhaps as many as 12 Honda V5’s, and more highly-developed, four-strokes from other manufacturers, Rossi may be closer to a battle on even footing with his competitors (he will still have the “latest and greatest” parts and technology from Honda, however). The performance of Daijiro Kato last week in his first attempt aboard the V5 Honda (out-qualifying Rossi and finishing second in the race to Max Biaggi, after Rossi chunked a tire) points to a much more competitive MotoGP series in 2003. Bring it on!