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Rossi return should prove a real crowd pleaser

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Matt Roberts | 15:52 UK time, Thursday, 16 August 2012

After a short but enjoyable summer break spent, like much of the nation, revelling in the achievements of Team GB at the Olympics and enjoying the brilliant BBC coverage, it is nice to get back to work this weekend as the MotoGP World Championship resumes with round 11 of 18 in Indianapolis.

While I can't promise you emotion to match the Olympic Stadium, London Velodrome or Eton Dorney, on Sunday the world-famous 'Brickyard' circuit provides an equally iconic stage for talent that can rival anything those venues have had to offer over the past few weeks.

Watching Usain Bolt celebrating victory in the 200m final reminded me very much of Valentino Rossi at the peak of his enigmatic powers: charm, charisma and that rare ability to switch from crowd pleaser to ruthless racer in a split second.

Millions of fans around the world have grown to adore him because he's the funniest but also because he's the fastest - except not, in Rossi's case, any longer.

A dream move to Ducati has turned into a nightmare that has yielded just two podiums in two seasons and will conclude when his current contract ends. If you really have been living in an Olympic bubble over the past two weeks, the Italian has agreed to rejoin Yamaha, where he won four of his seven premier-class titles, in an attempt to rescue his reputation before retirement.

Rossi's time at Ducati represents colossal underachievement by all parties. Last season, riding the same bike on which Casey Stoner scored 10 podiums in 2010, he managed just one - at Le Mans in the wet. So far this season he has an identical podium return from identical circumstances in France and he trails team-mate Nicky Hayden in the championship by two points.

Valentino Rossi is a seven-time Moto GP champion. Photo: Getty

Rossi is not the first rider who has failed to tame the notorious Desmosedici, a bike so unpredictable and so genetically removed from its Japanese contemporaries that it all but ended the MotoGP careers of past race-winners including Marco Melandri, Loris Capirossi and Toni Elias.

Since the start of the 800cc era in 2007, only Stoner has won a race in dry conditions for the Italian factory and, perhaps understandably, Rossi has given up hope of being the man to turn around their fortunes as the end of a glittering career edges ever closer.

A two-year contract with Yamaha presents an opportunity for him to be immediately competitive again and means we will all get to revel once more in the sight of that bright yellow number 46 fighting at the front of the pack, an image synonymous with a golden era for MotoGP.

With Stoner announcing his retirement and an uncertain future for Ben Spies, this is a huge boost for the sport in general.

Rossi remains a top-class rider, one of a handful capable of winning at this level, and his place among the all-time legends of this sport is secure.

However, his own part in the Ducati debacle should not be overlooked.

Rossi was essentially allowed to leave Yamaha at the end of 2010 because Jorge Lorenzo was starting to prove that he could ride the YZR-M1 faster than his senior team-mate.

Two years later and Lorenzo has improved still further as a rider, the new 1,000cc bike has been developed around him and Rossi, of course, is arguably another 24 months beyond his athletic peak.

If he could win the championship again, it would be akin to Bolt being re-crowned as fastest man on two legs, not at Rio in 2016 but at the following Games in 2020.

Nobody knows this better than Rossi himself and a return to the boys in blue is perhaps less an attempt to be world number one again than a quest to restore self-pride.

And you can't put a price on that - not even 17 million euros (£13.3m), apparently.

That, reportedly, was the figure Ducati were offering in a desperate attempt to retain his services for another season - more a reflection of Rossi's commercial worth to their brand and their sponsors than his market value as a competitor.

While Rossi's replacement for 2013 looks increasingly likely to be the experienced and consistent Andrea Dovizioso, the theory that a fresh approach and a relative lack of MotoGP experience would be an advantage in terms of taming the Desmosedici makes Cal Crutchlow an interesting option for Ducati.

Long term, their best bet is to blood new talent so it was good to see them putting Plan B into action last week with a behind-closed-doors test at Mugello for young British Moto2 star Scott Redding, with a view to including the 19-year-old in a factory-backed satellite "Junior Team".

If there is one thing the success of the Olympics proved it's that we Brits love a home hero in any sport, so the consolidation of a talent like Crutchlow or Redding in the elite class of motorcycle racing would really propel the sport into the national psyche.

However, we also showed that we can appreciate the talents of the very best and Rossi's huge and faithful following in the UK is testament to that.

World champion or not, we at least get to enjoy watching him perform for another two years at the top.


  • Comment number 1.

    Well personally I watched the Olympics on Eurosport having gotten fed up of the BBC's blatant bias towards many of our "British" team members.

  • Comment number 2.

    I still reckon Dovizioso deserved Spies' ride more.

    Good for Valentino, despite it being a pure business decision. I dont think hes lost his class yet. Probably wasted two years worth of muscle mass and reaction speed at Ducati but Im very, very confident he will win at least a couple races next year!

    Makes Stoners achievements even better though.

  • Comment number 3.

    I don't think its purely a business decision I think Rossi wants to be at the front mixing it up with everyone again, can't blame him it must feel strange not being at the pointy end. As much as I've enjoyed this season the prospect of having a competitive Rossi, possibly with Redding and Ianonne in the mix is very appealing, especially with it looking like we might have Cal and Bradley as team GB on the Tech 3 bikes, bring it on. But first off Indianapolis this weekend, feels like forever since we had a GP especially with the short coverage we always get at laguna for whatever reason, bring on the racing :)

  • Comment number 4.

    Great that Vali will be riding a competitive bike again and that Cal gets a chance (maybe) at a more high profile team.

    Regard post #1 what did you expect from the BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation. I bet the US and Australian and Japanise and Russian and... broadcasters where biased to their own competitors as well.

  • Comment number 5.

    I mean business decision from Yamahas perspective. Rossi SHOULD bring sponsors with him, his marketing potential hasnt waned at all. Eneos replaced Petronas for pretty much the same value I think but the hole left by Fiat remains.

    Of course for Valentino himself hes motivated to win.

    Also some are sounding off that while Bradley seems to have secured his MotoGP seat over summer, Poncharal, tired of Cals dithering with Ducati pre Mugello began talks with Randy de Puniet. And since Cals contract will soon be up, Im not sure his seat IS tied down even if Dovi leaves.

  • Comment number 6.

    Whilst its true the Ducati did end the moto gp careers of Elias and Melandri,i would argue that it was age and niggly injuries that put paid to Loris,i saw him totally destroy the field at Brno some years back on the Ducati and it was awesome,had it not been for a bad crash earlier in the season he would have been in with a title chance that year. Sad to see Rossi struggling hope the yam move works out for him.

  • Comment number 7.

    The Doctor's return WILL prove the spark that this almost moribund championship desperately needs. Currently either Dani or Jorge or Casey clear off and precious little else happens in the race and CRT is a total embarrassment.

  • Comment number 8.

    the Doctor will win again but sadly his reputation has been damaged by his two poor years at Ducati.

    Casey Stoner must be having the last laugh in mentioning that Rossi has been doing too much moaning and he feels sorry for the Ducati guys.

    Like him or not Stoner has proven he is an exceptional rider as he is the only one who was tamed the beast that is the Ducati Desmodeci and make it go fast

    Wayne Rainey was also critical of Rossi's attitude to the team.

    It has been a sad sight to see Rossi struggling and kinda reminds me of Schumacher in F1 where his performances are inadvertently being blamed on the machinery at his disposal and lesser extent his age.

    Rossi's situation reminds me somewhat of when Eddie Lawson went to Yamaha to partner Wayne Rainey back in 1990. Steady Eddie was at the end of his peak and Wayne Rainey was up and coming and unlike their previous time as teammates he was ready to take on Lawson

    This is the same stage Rossi will be at Yamaha with Lorenzo as he is no longer de facto no 1 next season

    I was hoping Rossi becomes the most decorated GP winner ever to cement his status but the opportunities are now gone apprarently

    What surprised me was Rossi could have had Tech 3 Yamaha or Gresini Honda were he would be guaranteed No 1 with semi factory support and bring sponsors money with him probably suggests that he is unable to rely on his talent to make up performance deficit like he use to


    I feel sorry for Cal Crutchlow who has ridden the balls of his Yamaha and deserves a factory ride but is pushed aside by the sponsorship reasons if its true Doviozso is going to get the nod

    I don;t rate Dovi as he had his chance at Repsol Honda and was not on the same level as Pedrosa or Stoner

  • Comment number 9.

    Wasn't the podium last year in the dry - because Marco had unseated Danni and got a drive through?

    You're supposed to be the BBC's lead on this...

  • Comment number 10.

    This article is very light in substance, there are many more influences on Valentinos performance. I do think he will win races but I do not think the fire is there after his crash with Edwards and the terrible death of Simonccelli, Valentino is also a multi millionaire and to find the hunger and desire will be difficult for him. Yamaha was his best option as he implied that it was him rather than the Honda that was the outstanding perfomer when the 800's were introduced but even he could not tame the Ducati. It will make for great television and a fantastic specticle for those who can witness it at the tracks, bring on 2013!

  • Comment number 11.

    I agree with piroflip. I got fed up with the self complacent British pride during the games, missing out many competitions because to busy celebrating your "heroes". So, I watched most of it on eurosport France and sporza, even if I do not understand the language.
    For the rest, it would be a sweet revenge if Ducati would have a very competitive bike next year

  • Comment number 12.

    Stoner's sour and vitriolic attack on Rossi for leaving Ducati and going to Yamaha is completely in character, and a touch illogical. I don't remember anyone pitching into the Moaner when HE left Ducati for Honda. What's he so angry about all the time?

    Rossi came along and made MotoGP watchable and exciting. He's also the showman that Stoner could never be, and a much nicer guy. I hope he has great success at Yamaha and puts the life back into MotoGP, although I think Lorenzo is now faster and just about the smoothest rider out there.

    It would have been much more interesting if Rossi had gone to Honda and taken Stoner's ride, but Respol want Spaniards and Ducati want an Italian. I hope Cal stays at Tech3 and consolidates his skills on a bike he clearly suits. I'd hate to see him drop down the order on an uncompetitive bike.

  • Comment number 13.

    I tend to feel that this move from VR46 is more about salvaging his reputation and not a purely business decision. He should have shifted to f1 when he had the chance and not wasted 2 years at Duc. The last 2 years have made a worse impact on his future since he will now be a no.2 at Yamha(barring an exceptional 2013) and will either retire after 2 years or move to superbikes just like his former rivals( MaxB, MarcM, etc.). Not a deserving end to an outstanding career affected by a crash and a poor decision.

  • Comment number 14.

    @ 4Cam - to say Rossi wont have the hunger as he is worth millions of euros is just nonsense! Rossi has been worth millions of euros for a few years now and has still won a title / races e.t.c...

    Ducati need to take a step back and look at things. There is only one rider who has had the most of that machine and thats Stoner. In WSB Checa is getting the best out of it as its smooth, predictable and planted, compared to the Prototype version which is twitchy, unforgiving and is numb in its return of feeling to the rider - How many front end losses have we seen on this year???

    Rossi will win races FACT. Will he beat Lorenzo??? Not sure? Is he still needed in MotoGP? Without a doubt. In my view, Marco was the only one who may have dragged MotoGP into a new era.. Right now? I don't know. Scot Redding may do it... hes a character and likes to mix it up a little...

    Cal should bide his time. I think for 2014 Lorenze will get Pedrosa's ride and Factory Yamaha can be a Rossi and Crutchlow line up. Cal, let Dovi have the red machine as right now, you'd be better off on a FS1E with a puncture than to take on that thing.

    Either way, I cant wait for the next race, never mind next year!!

  • Comment number 15.

    @ Mr Wonderful,

    I think it should be pointed out that Rossi very publicly said that Stoner didnt ride the Ducati hard enough, then going on to say that this resulted in minimal and insubstantial feedback that his (Caseys) engineers couldnt use to make the Ducati package more rideable.

    I dont condone Caseys manner because a lot of what he says leaves him backtracking, but given that now after Loris, Marco and Valentino and to a lesser extent Nicky have proven how good Casey is, he would deserve a lot more respect.

  • Comment number 16.

    Nobody can criticise Stoner's skill on the Ducati, as he seemed to achieve what no-one else can, but at the end he was just as happy to climb off it as Rossi clearly is.

    With the benefit of hindsight, Stoner made a good decision, Rossi made a bad one, which is clear to everyone. So what is Stoner banging on about? Does anything ever make him happy? Even when he's on the top step of the podium he seems dissatisfied, which may explain why he's getting out.

    I just hope he finds some joy in his life. Life is great - especially when compared to the alternative. Be happy.

  • Comment number 17.

    Olympics bias? It is the BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation!
    Rossi still has it, you can't blame him for not risking life or limb on bike not up to scratch!


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