Basketball legend Michael Jordan made his MotoGP debut at the Valencia Grand Prix today - riding the Ducati Desmosedici two-seater!

Recognised as the greatest basketball player of all time, Jordan rode four laps of the twisty Spanish circuit on the 990cc machine - capable of reaching speeds of over 210mph in grand prix competition - shortly after the final qualifying sessions had finished.

The American was joined by four MotoGP full-timers - Sete Gibernau, Colin Edwards, Kenny Roberts Junior and Kurtis Roberts - and watched by over 60,000 MotoGP fans.

"Today was something you'll never get to see again," said an elated Roberts, who borrowed a fan's GSX-R1000 for the occasion. "It was something real special, a spur-of-the-moment thing."

A keen motorcyclist since the age of five, Jordan is a racetrack regular in the United States, where he runs a team fielding Montez Stewart in AMA Supersport and Superstock. The six-time NBA champion is also an enthusiastic street rider, owning a Ducati 998 and 999 amongst a substantial two-wheel stable.

Jordan flew to Spain in his private jet, with the simple idea of watching this weekend's Valencia GP, the final event of the 2004 season. But he then found himself getting talked into taking control of Ducati's 230-plus horsepower V4 (pictured), which Randy Mamola usually uses to give pillion rides to VIPs.

"It was Sete who talked me into it!" laughed the six foot six giant, who wore a custom-made set of Alpinestars leathers. "That was fun, but I only got it up to fourth gear, I can't imagine what these things are like wide open in sixth!

"The straightaways were no problem, but I was trying to find the markers for the corners, then I had these other guys riding alongside tapping me on the leg!" he smiled.

"These things have so much power, I was trying to pull a wheelie, but in the end I was a bit too afraid, so I just started waving! I guess you could say I need a bit more time to get used to all that power," he admitted.

Jordan and friends also spent part of the afternoon as a guest of Team Suzuki: "That was really fun to have Michael hanging out with us," said John Hopkins. "I gave him an autographed helmet. He seems to be taking it all in and really enjoying it here."

"I've never met Michael before, but he's the nicest guy and you feel like you've known him forever," added team-mate Roberts. "Everyone loves him... he's a real people magnet."

"I've been into bikes pretty much all my life, I started riding dirt bikes when I was five," explained the former Chicago Bulls player. "And I really like this whole MotoGP thing. Maybe I'd like to have a team one day, but I'm only learning this whole deal right now."

"The visit of a world sport star with the profile and prestige of Michael Jordan is fantastic for MotoGP," said Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of MotoGP rights holders Dorna Sports, who enjoyed a round of golf with Jordan on Friday.

"We had heard that he was interested in visiting MotoGP and that he was a big fan, but we were surprised by his knowledge of the championship and the riders.

"He was here on a private trip with friends but he showed what a nice guy he is with his patience and humility... even though he beat me at golf!" joked Ezpeleta.



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