Thinking back to February when the countdown to the 2009 MotoGP season began in earnest with a test at the Sepang, big things were expected of Loris Capirossi and Rizla Suzuki.
Indeed, at the time, Capirossi was showing tentative signs of being a consistent front runner in 2009, challenging Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner for the honour of topping the timesheets in Malaysia, raising hopes that Suzuki could finally get on terms with its Yamaha, Ducati and Honda rivals – even Capirossi was predicting wins…
Roll on nine months and the reality was somewhat different. No wins - not even a podium – had come Capirossi or Suzuki's way during the 2009 season as they battled indifferent form that, by the season's end, had dipped markedly.
Of Suzuki's two riders, Capirossi enjoyed the better results, occasionally bridging the gap between the 'big four' of Rossi, Lorenzo, Stoner and Pedrosa, but more often that not finding himself on a factory bike surrounded by satellite machines.
Nonetheless, at his best, Capirossi showed there was a fast bike beneath him, the Italian veteran managing fifth place on four occasions and even finishing just three seconds behind the winner at Mugello.
However, that 100th grand prix podium was never forthcoming, while a trio of poor results at the end of the year – coupled to three DNFs over the season – conspired to leave him ninth in the standings, exactly where you place him in your vote here.
Even so, Capirossi remains where he is for 2010, where he will no doubt be kept on his toes by newcomer Alvaro Bautista. With Suzuki visibly stung by its disappointing showing in 2009 – particularly after such a good run in testing -, such promises will need to be fulfilled next year…
5th (Mugello, Barcelona, Brno, Misano)
Top 10 MotoGP Rider of the Year 2008:
Top 10 MotoGP Rider of the Year 2009:
- Nicky Hayden