A three-day testing outing with Ducati alongside Vittoriano Guareschi at Mugello in Italy has prompted speculation that retired MotoGP star Sete Gibernau could make a shock racing return.

The Spaniard competed in 173 grands prix over a 15-year period spanning from 1992 to 2006, claiming nine victories, 13 pole positions, eight fastest laps and a total of 1,334 points for Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and Ducati.

The 35-year-old was Valentino Rossi's chief rival for honours for a number of years, but hung up his helmet at the end of the 2006 season following a campaign punctuated by emotional, technical and injury-related setbacks.

Despite not having ridden since then, Gibernau clocked up 20 laps with the Desmosedici GP9 around the Tuscan circuit on Tuesday, recording a best time of 1min 53.7secs before the session was interrupted by rain. Despite a long absence from the sport and the opportunity to complete only a handful of laps, he acknowledged that his first contact with the GP9 had been a positive one.

"It has been a really exciting day," commented the man many believe to have been the best MotoGP rider never to have clinched the crown. "It's like jumping back in time almost two years - as if the months that have gone by since the last time I was on-track never even existed!

"Racing motorcycles was my whole life for so many years, and now I've rediscovered that feeling I feel really good, like I'm home again. The instinct for riding came back straightaway, even though I obviously need to get back into the habit of going fast."

"I've realised how tiring it is to grab the brakes and move the bike around where I want it, but I'm sure that's just the rust from not riding for so long. I managed 20 laps on the GP9 before it started to rain, and the feeling was good.

"It is a Ducati in every way, precise but demanding - it requires a physical riding style and it instantly reminded me of the GP7 I tested at Motegi towards the end of 2006.

"As well as getting my confidence to ride back, we did a little bit of work on the electronics, in particular the engine braking, because I prefer a different calibration to Vittoriano.

"I want to say a huge thank you to Ducati for this wonderful gift. For now I'm just going to enjoy the next two days of testing and hope it doesn't rain, and then we'll decide together whether there will be another opportunity to ride their bike."

by George Holland

 

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