MOTEGI, JAPAN, OCT 14 – It has come to this: Ducati Marlboro’s Valentino Rossi, the nine-time world champion, was quibbling over whether he’d finished 24, 25, or 26 seconds behind race winner Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) in the Japanese Grand Prix.
Asked about his seventh place finish, 26 seconds in arrears, he said, “No, 24 or 25…24, ah 26, f--- 26. Twenty-six, yeah, 26.”
The question was whether this was a reality check following his second place in the San Marino Grand Prix, where Rossi finished 4.398 seconds behind Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo at Motegi. The Misano race was an aberration. In the following Aragon Grand Prix he was down in ninth and 44 seconds behind Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa.
“Yes, I think,” it was a reality check, Rossi said. “I have a lot of races where I take more than 30 seconds. Also today in the second half of the race I always see (Casey) Stoner at the same distance and I was a bit faster than (Stefan), Bradl so I can fight for something, but sometimes it was worse.” Stoner was riding at less than full strength and with an injured ankle in his first race in two months. Bradl was also riding injured, having fallen in qualifying at Motegi the day before, then suffering arm pump. Stoner finished fifth and Bradl sixth. “So my potential on this bike is this. And we lose a lot in some points of the track. And also if you see all the sections we take 0.2 in every section. It means we don’t have any particular problem. It is 0.2 , 0.2, 0.2, 0.2 in every section. At the end its 0.8.”
He continued. “For me we make a step, because was one point of the season where I was a lot, a lot worse and also last of the MotoGP,” he said of the 2011 Motegi race. Rossi qualified 1.2 secs. off pole, then crashed on the first lap. “Now I improve and I can stay constant with one pace but we need half a second more for fight for the podium.” And, he agreed, a second a lap to fight for the win. “Take out (Jorge) Lorenzo and (Dani) Pedrosa that now are so fast. But look at the reality for reach the podium for stay with (Alvaro) Bautista was very fast, but he is half a second per lap faster.” San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista finished third in Motegi, 19-plus seconds ahead of Rossi in the 24-lap race.
Two laps from the end at Motegi Rossi did a 1:46.9 lap—Bautista’s lap time was 1:46.854—and it wasn't “so bad, but unfortunately the other guys are going faster,” Rossi said. “For me, braking and entry we are not fantastic , but in acceleration we lose a lot. The other manufacturers are able to put more horsepower on the ground without spinning and I spin a lot and I have three or four acceleration where I lose so much.
“But anyway, we have to remain 100% concentrated, we have three races left, we can fight also for the fifth place in the championship.” Rossi currently trails the surging Bautista 144 to 137. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow has 135 after running out of gas on the final lap of the Motegi race.
“But anyway we have to give the maximum and I hope that in the next three races we have one different race where we can make a better result like in Le Mans,” second in the wet, “or like in Misano to close the season. But is very important for me.
“Today I gave the maximum and I pushed 100% to the last lap because it is important to remain concentrated because if not it is also dangerous.”
And with only three races remaining—Sepang, Phillip Island, and Malaysia—in his disappointing two-year stint with Ducati, he seemed wistful.
“I really would have liked to win with Ducati,” Rossi said after the Motegi race. “It would have been nicer than returning to Yamaha, and I always did my best. I always gave 100%, just like all the guys that are working at the track with me. There were times when I got angry, but I was more disappointed, because when we failed to resolve our problems it was always the fault of the riders. They tried to find a rider who was able to ride this bike, when I think they should have focused solely on its problems.”