CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND, NOV 1 – “You know,” Valentino Rossi began at the end of a long race at Phillip Island, “in all my career I never miss a choice. Now I miss one choice.”
Rossi was talking about his choice of moving to Ducati from Yamaha at the end of the 2010 season. Rossi didn’t have a lot of choice. He’d given Yamaha a “me or him” ultimatum and Yamaha took him. Him is Jorge Lorenzo, who won the 2010 MotoGP World Championship and also took this year’s championship with one of the most consistent seasons in the history of Grand Prix racing. Other than being knocked down by Alvaro Bautista in Assen, Lorenzo has finished in first or second place in every race this season. And unless someone steps up, or Lorenzo another patch of bad luck, the two-time world champion could certainly do it again next year. Only this time with Rossi as his teammate.
Rossi was reflective about his two years with Ducati as he winds down what has been a disaster for both Ducati and the nine-time world champion. Other than a smattering of podiums, he’s rarely contended. Mostly he’s been racing around fifth, sixth, seventh, and against riders with far lesser pedigrees. What he realized, after denying it early on, was that there was only one rider who could race the Ducati with any success.
“Casey (Stoner) was the only one rider that can be fast with the Ducati; all the other guys that try have destroyed not his career but his mind, so congratulations to Casey,” Rossi said. “But two years ago I still don’t understand this difference between Stoner and the other Ducati riders and after two years that I ride the Ducati I still don’t understand.”
Did it destroy his mind?
“No, I don’t think so. Especially because I have another chance,” he said.
That chance is on the Yamaha, starting with the test following the Valencia Grand Prix. Until then, he has one more race on the Ducati.
“So, was very tough, very difficult two seasons, especially very frustrating because the bigger frustration is apart from the bad result and the bad feeling is that more or less we had the same problem that we had in Valencia in 2010 with this bike, after two years,” he said. The problems then were oversteer and lack of front end feel. Add to that chattering. “And sometimes you have the feelings you waste your time. And this is the bigger frustration.”
Rossi’s two years of downfield results didn’t diminish his respect for the hard work Ducati’s put in. The marriage of an Italian superstar with an Italian team was supposed to be the ultimate pairing, but it didn’t work out that. Now he leaves behind Filippo Preziosi, the technical boss of Ducati, while taking his crew chief, Jeremy Burgess, and crew back to Yamaha.
The final race in Valencia will be “very emotional,” Rossi said, “because I find a good atmosphere and good people to work and to make the race together. And I always make a group with my team, but not for choice, but because is like this. Maybe it’s my character. For sure it will be very hard to say ciao to the guys. But at the same time we’re not able to achieve any good results so is a good decision for me and I cannot wait to ride the M1.”
How well he’ll do on the Yamaha YZR-M1 is a source of constant speculation. Is he the second fastest rider in the world or is it Dani Pedrosa? Certainly Pedrosa’s made his case by winning five of six races before his crash on Phillip Island. And what of Marc Marquez? The Moto2 World Champion is expected to be on the pace right from the start.
“So will be interesting and for sure I’m more interested in what I feel riding the M1, for sure,” Rossi said. “And I think that after the first test we can understand in a better way my potential for next year. I want to try the bike after two difficult seasons and I think to go, anyway, at the top level like Lorenzo, like Pedrosa…will be hard for me and I have to work and my team have to work to 100% for achieve the type of result. But I think that we can have clear idea, better idea after the first test, but especially if we want to try to fight with them, we have to work, we have to improve. Will be difficult.”