Valentino Rossi: Vindication
Valentino Rossi. Assen, Netherlands. One can summarize the relationship between the rider and the track as a match made in heaven. A track that the doctor have had many successes – including what perhaps may be the statement that shows he still has the skills, willingness and the talent to win against perhaps the most competitive pack of riders in his illustrious career.
Just as many people have been eagerly waiting for the day to come that Rossi will again take step in the podium and clutch the trophy awarded to the top position, a lot has also doubted whether he still has it. Many have written him off for the younger and more refined riders like Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and the upcoming rookie Marc Marquez. His two unfruitful years in the arms of the red machine has broken his confidence and charisma that allowed him to weave his magic both on and off the track. Coming back to his beloved Yamaha M1 machine provided an initial spark and glimpse of hope, but followed with some results that foretold that he was still wasn’t at par with the top riders in the premiere class.
But Valentino and his team lead by the uber cool master technician Jeremy Burgess continued to work their way to understanding the revamped Yamaha. A machine which has been tailored to suit the strengths of the team’s lead rider, Jorge Lorenzo. They believed that given the Yamaha’s agility and ease with which it can be configured, they would be able to find the necessary setup that deviates from the smooth butter-like riding of Jorge Lorenzo and allow the edge of grip, late-braking style riding of Valentino Rossi. They seem to have found something when they participated in the tests at Aragon, two days after the Catalunya race weekend. Applying what they learned during the tests to the bike for the Assen Grand Prix, the team showed confidence that they may have found a base setup that would allow them to play further to the strengths of Valentino Rossi.
Valentino knew that for him to break the relentless rule of the Spanish riders in the premiere class, he needs to have a good qualifying – something that would take him off the third row in the grid where the most heaviest of traffic happens especially at turn one. Thursday free practices and the qualifying on Friday was evidence that what they tested from Aragon and brought to Catalunya was working. They have the pace, they have the confidence and for the first time, you can see Valentino back in his element riding the M1. Now, they wanted to make sure that the same element can be seen on an actual race against the best riders in two wheels.
The race day itself proved to be a master class showing Valentino Rossi at his best. He bade his time at the initial laps and analyzed the riders in front of him – Bradl, Marquez and Pedrosa. Knowing that the bike has again been tweaked to follow its master, he weaved his way making clean passes from the trio of the Honda riders. After overtaking Stefan Bradl, he knew he would need to overcome the blazingly fast rookie, Marc Marquez. Knowing that the Hondas were no match in corner speeds, he made a fantastic pass across the young Spaniard at one of the twistier section of the track and pursued the front runner, Dani Pedrosa. For a few laps Valentino stayed close to Dani and when he realized that Dani was already struggling with grip on his RCV machine, he made his move with precision making a very clean overtaking maneuver. Once he has disposed all the riders in front of him, it was only a matter of consistency and keeping the pursuing riders at bay for Valentino to secure another win, after two and a half years of fruitless endeavour. Brain and heart on target for the chequered flag, we again saw what Valentino can do given a proper bike that compliments his riding style.
Valentino’s win at Assen couldn’t come at a more appropriate time. Almost everyone has written him off from winning another race against the ultra competitive grid. A lot of his fans have lost hope after seeing their hero unable to match the pace of the younger riders. Fellow riders weren’t very vocal about Valentino losing his mojo, but their on-track gestures knowing that they could pound on the Italian every race was evident. One rider even told him that his ambition outweighed his talent. All this ridicule comments and negative remarks can bring any rider further down his last ounce of strength and courage. But never Valentino. For what it is worth, this win was a vindication of Valentino’s talents and his team’s unrelenting pursuit of re-establishing him back amongst the tallest trees.
It would be very easy to write off people when they are struggling. But in Valentino’s mind, passing that chequered flag ahead of the other riders just made him smile, knowing that you cannot write off perhaps one of the best riders to grace the sports of motorcycling.
By Angelo Anolin - MotoGP contributor for RTR Sports Marketing Follow Angelo on twitter at www.twitter.com/angeloanolin Pictures from the web