The fastest bikes in the world will be attendance at the Jerez circuit in Spain this weekend as expectation mounts ahead of the first MotoGP event for 2005.

The fastest bikes in the world will be attendance at the Jerez circuit in Spain this weekend as expectation mounts ahead of the first MotoGP event for 2005.

Friday sees the return to competitive racing for the 21 riders after a long winter spent testing and developing their racing machines. Rival teams have spent the time trying to develop machines capable of breaking the charismatic Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi stronghold on the sport, particularly as Yamaha celebrates its 50th racing anniversary.

The 990 cm3 YZR-M1 being piloted this season is nothing like Yamaha's first race motorcycle, the 4-kW YA-1, which enjoyed a winning début at the Mount Fuji Ascent Race in 1955.

However, despite the modern motorcycle being infinitely more powerful than the YA-1, racing ace Rossi expects the 2005 season to be his toughest yet.

"Last year we caused a surprise but this year it will be harder because everybody knows what to expect," admitted Rossi.

"Honda have worked very hard in the winter and they have a lot of strong riders but this sport is not about one factory against another - every rider is alone. The winner at the end will be the person who stays consistent and arrives on the podium the most," he added.

Archrival Sete Gibernau has been the most threatening rider to challenge Rossi's dominance over the past two seasons and remained optimistic, saying he was better prepared for this year's title fight.

"My only aim is to raise my level of riding to a point where I don't have to depend on anybody else, and I think my level is higher now than it has ever been," said Gibernau, who took victory at this circuit last season.

"Valentino is obviously the man to beat because he has won the championship for the past few seasons by being the best. It's up to us now to raise our level, stay focused and do the best job we can at every race," he added.

At the recent three-day test session held at Jerez, young riders Nicky Hayden, Marco Melandri and John Hopkins sent shockwaves round the circuit by recording the fastest times and threatening the control of the older riders.

However, Rossi begins the season at a circuit where he has already won five times in the 125 cm3, 250 cm3, 500 cm3 and MotoGP classes. Gibernau, Rossi and Max Biaggi are again expected to pose the greatest threats in their individual quests for the championship title.

Racing alongside Rossi, Colin Edwards will be returning to the team where he received his first professional race début in 1992. The Spanish pair of Toni Elias and Ruben Xaus will ride for Yamaha's satellite team.

Troy Bayliss switches to Honda after two seasons with Ducati, where he will partner Alex Barros, while former Yamaha rider Carlos Checa joins the Ducati factory as team-mate to Loris Capirossi.

Former 250 cm3 riders Roberto Rolfo and Franco Battaini will make their MotoGP debuts this weekend riding for D'Antin Ducati and Blata WCM respectively, while Shane Byrne will pilot the KTM-powered Team Roberts machine in its first competitive appearance.

Original article from Car