Australians may be the biggest sports fans on the planet, but how often does a genuine world championship visit our shores?
And when it does, how many world champions do we get to see?
The 2010 IVECO Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, round 16 of this year’s 19-race world championship series, has world title-winners galore.
The entry list for Sunday’s MotoGP race, the main event on the packed race-card, will feature 17 riders. Of those 17, no fewer than 13 can boast at least one world title. And there’s one man who has nine all to himself.
Most of the 17 have come up through the ranks of world championship road racing: first the 125cc class, then the 250cc category replaced just this year by Moto2.
Two riders have been world champions in the 125cc class only: Andrea Dovizioso, now a consistent MotoGP front-runner for Honda, and Alvaro Bautista, enjoying his rookie year in the MotoGP ranks with Suzuki in 2010.
Three men have been world champions in the quarter-litre category only. Hiroshi Aoyama, the last rider to take the 250cc crown before Moto2 replaced the class, and now a MotoGP man with Honda; Marco Melandri, also a Honda privateer; and Marco Simoncelli, now in the same San Carlo Honda Gresini team as Melandri.
Two have taken the world title in the main game only, MotoGP. Our own Casey Stoner was world champion with Ducati in 2007 and now in the final year of his contract with the Italian marque, plus his American teammate Nicky Hayden, who was world champion for Honda in 2006.
And then we have the multiple world champions!
Two have won the 125 and 250cc crowns. Spain’s Dani Pedrosa, who will defy injury to ride for Honda in this weekend’s big race, and Loris Capirossi, Italy’s 125cc World Champion 20 years ago in the 125s and later in the 250s.
One man has won the 250 title and recently added the biggest prize of all. That’s Jorge Lorenzo, crowned world champion in the premier class in Malaysia just last weekend and inheriting the crown from his Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi.
And then, of course, there’s Rossi himself – the only man in the current field to have been world champion in all three major classes.
The Italian, now 31, was top of the 125cc class in 1997, claimed the quarter-litre title in 1999, and has been 500cc or MotoGP World Champion no fewer than seven times since 2001.
We mustn’t forget the Americans either, because before coming to MotoGP in 2003 Colin Edwards had already been World Superbike Champion on two occasions, while compatriot Ben Spies, the rookie of the year in MotoGP this season, also took the World Superbike title as a rookie last year.
In all the 13 riders on the grid for Sunday’s 2010 IVECO Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix who have been world champions boast a staggering 28 titles amongst them.