What had begun to look like turning into a one-horse race for the 2010 MotoGP laurels is set to be reignited in this weekend's German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, with confirmation from FIAT Yamaha that following a six-week injury absence, record-breaking multiple world champion Valentino Rossi will return to the grid.
Having broken his leg during practice at Mugello early last month, Rossi has spent the past six weeks convalescing at home in Italy, and the general paddock consensus was that his chances of clinching an extraordinary eighth premier class crown had shattered into the bargain.
However, so swift and successful has the Urbino native's recovery been that – subject to the full approval of the circuit's chief medical officer on Thursday, having already received the all-clear from his own doctors – he will rejoin the competitive fray on Friday, following an intensive rehabilitation programme that culminated in a brace of positive test outings on a World Superbike Championship Yamaha R1 over the last few days, far earlier than expected.
Should he indeed prove fit to compete in Germany, the reigning world champion will have missed only four of the 18 races this season, and whilst sitting just seventh in the standings at 104 markers adrift of team-mate and runaway championship-leader Jorge Lorenzo, with 275 points left to play for the title might now be an uphill challenge but it is equally by no means out-of-the-question.
Moreover, 'The Doctor' has produced some masterful displays at the Sachsenring over the years, including a superb performance in 2006 when he prevailed from tenth on the grid and a narrow triumph over Lorenzo by a scant 99 thousandths of a second twelve months ago – two of five victories there since 2000 – and he is palpably champing at the bit to get back on-track again, if cautious about his prospects.
“I'm really excited that my doctors think I can ride this weekend,” enthused the 31-year-old. “Tomorrow I will see the medical officer and then we will have the final decision. I felt good on the R1; I know my M1 at the track is a different thing and it will be hard for me, but I miss my bike and my team and I want to try.
“I am really looking forward to seeing everyone and being back in the paddock – I was tired of being at home! Wataru [Yoshikawa] will be there as well, so if there is a problem he will ride my bike again.”
Indeed, Yamaha's veteran Japanese test rider will be on-hand once more in case of need, but it is clear that Rossi's team manager Davide Brivio is eager to see his talisman rider back on the grid.
“Valentino has made a big effort to be ready to race at the Sachsenring this weekend,” affirmed the Italian. “He really wanted to be back riding his M1 as soon as he could, so he's worked hard to make his recovery as quick as possible. We expect him to take a couple of races to be up-to-speed and competitive at the top after his injury, but it's very nice to see him back with us.”