As the usual end of season rumours spread through the paddock like a forest fire in recent weeks, the wheelers and dealers in the business of putting bums on saddles all sought the answer to a very important question - where will the next MotoGP talent emerge from?

Spotting a potential world champion is a very rewarding business both for that personal satisfaction and definitely for giving similar satisfaction to your bank manager. So where do you start looking?

Forty or even fifty years ago it was a bit like whistling down a coal mine in the North East of England to find an international footballer. A similar call to the British or Italian Championships would produce a queue of riders capable of winning grands prix in all classes.

The likes of Geoff Duke, John Surtees, Giacomo Agostini, Mike Hailwood and Carlo Ubbiali leant their trade on the track and road circuits at home before spreading their talent on the European stage.

It was a natural progression and Norton, MV Agusta and Gilera could pick and choose from riders competing in their national championships and the host of international meetings that augmented the small number of grands prix.

When the Japanese invasion arrived in the early sixties the major players, Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki tended to pick riders who already were established on the international scene.

Typically they went for the very best with Honda persuading Mike Hailwood to leave MV Agusta in 1966 and then Yamaha in 1974, pulling off biggest coupe of them all. They signed multi world champion Giacomo Agostini from his beloved Italian MV Agusta team to spearhead their two-stroke attack on the four-stroke dominated 500cc World Championship.

Ago did not let them down and brought Yamaha the title they craved for in 1975. However there was revolution in the air and, despite Barry Sheene continuing the European domination for the next couple of years, across the Atlantic the dirt tracks of America where producing a crop of riders, the likes that have never been seen before or since.

A Californian rider, small in stature but rich in both talent and desire and who was never afraid to express an opinion, led the revolution that was to change the face of grand prix motor cycle racing for ever. Kenny Roberts was honed on the tough and unforgiving dirt tracks of America. He arrived in Europe to race on the tarmac and won three successive world 500cc titles at the very first attempt.

The flood gates opened and despite Italians Marco Lucchinelli and Franco Uncini restoring some European pride, the factories looked to America and under the floodlights that lit those half and mile long dirt ovals.

The likes of Freddie Spencer, Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson and Kevin Schwantz totally dominated the proceedings and the majority of those big contracts being handed out by the Japanese factories. Starting in 1983, American riders won nine out of the next ten world 500cc titles.

Forget the coal mine or those national championships, just whistle up for a world class rider at an American dirt track event and they would appear. It was an amazing period of almost total domination and the European riders were not getting a look in.

But it didn't get any better for the Europeans when the Americans started to fade. Instead a new breed of rider even further from home, but with that same dirt track grounding, arrived ready to take on the world.

In the middle of the American domination, Wayne Gardner (middle pic) became the first Australian to win the 500cc title in 1987. The hard riding Honda star had cut his teeth in dirt track racing at home before coming to Britain to make a name for himself in the national Championships. Suddenly Australia was the place for the talent scouts and they weren't disappointed.

Honda earmarked Mick Doohan to head their challenge into the 21st century after he'd impressed, not only at home but in a couple of winning rides in the World Superbike Championship. Only injury prevented him winning more than the five successive 500cc world titles between 1994 -1998 when he was forced to retire through injury in 1999.

Once again the pendulum started to swing and this time in favour of the European riders who'd learnt their trade, not in the American or Australian shale, but through the conventional 125 and 250cc grands prix route.

Doohan's team-mate, former 125cc world champion Alex Criville won the title in 1999 for Spain and - although American Kenny Roberts Junior produced a brilliant one off to bring the championship back to the States a year later - the writing was on the wall for the dirt track boys, at least for the time being.

Suddenly it was fashionable to sign riders that had performed to the highest level in the smaller classes. A certain Italian was proof of that was the way ahead. Valentino Rossi (lower pic) won 125 and 250cc world titles before joining the premier-class.

He finished second in his first year and since then won everything in sight on his way to three successive titles both two-stroke and four-stroke. There are a host of others waiting to join him with teenagers Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, Andre Dovisioso and Hector Barbara surely destined to be on MotoGP machinery in the next few years.

The advent of four-stroke MotoGP machines has also brought talent flooding in from the World Superbike Championship. It's certainly easier for riders to adjust to the four-stroke characteristics than it was to the knuckle clenching 500cc two -strokes.

As yet the Superbike riders have not quite made the impression they would have wanted, but there is one rider in particular who is currently racing in World Superbike, Australian Chris Vermeulen, whom many MotoGP teams would like to sign. His signature would also buck the trend because he's not European.

So what route would you take as a talent spotter out to appease your bank manager?

Do stick to the 125 and 250s, look again in the American or Australian shale, check the World Superbike calendar, visit the National and European Championships - or you could just take a risk on finding somebody out of nowhere... it's happened before, as Kenny Roberts Sr will no doubt tell you.