In Bikes, Motor Racing

Valentino Rossi has always been the biggest crowd drawer in MotoGP and lay claim as the greatest motorcycle rider of all time. In this series of articles, we analyze what would constitute  his decision after the sixth race where he acknowledged to make one regarding his future in premiere class of racing.

ValentinoRossi-Qatar-2014Machine on third gear and tackling turn 6 in the 20th lap of the Losail International Circuit in Qatar, Rossi made his move to overtake erstwhile reigning champion Marc Marquez on the inside, braking heavily and trusting his front tires to hold up. Marquez had no more room to maneuver, relenting the position to Rossi. The next few laps will see Rossi try to defend his line, but the faster and more daring Marquez cannot be denied. Valentino Rossi will try on the next few turns but Marquez has already established a lead that was almost impossible for Rossi to overcome. Chequered flag. Marquez is 1st. Rossi took 2nd.

On that last race, the first thing that came into mind is we may be witnessing could be a repeat of the epic battle between Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi in Catalunya in 2009. Only this time, the battle between Marquez and Rossi did not played out as close to that one. Nonetheless, this race has provided a lot of insights on Rossi despite being the first race of the season.

Starting from the grid in 10th place last weekend, many have written off Rossi, sensing that the racer has lost the skills to compete in the highest level of motorcycling. A lot of pundits are already marking that age has already caught up with Rossi and that he is not as daring as he was ten years ago. Others relegated to the issue with which the factory Yamahas were having due to lack of testing and grip from their Bridgestone tires. Either way, Rossi wasn’t being pegged to be at the front when the chequered flag is raised.

VR46 is still here

But a vintage Valentino showed at the race, picking out all the riders in front one by one. He even had to overcome the challenge mounted by Alvaro Bautista who raced close to him for more than half of the race. He also had a chance to overtake Marquez on certain occasions, but the riding prowess of the young Spaniard, coupled with the outstanding machinery of Honda was able to deflect the challenge of Rossi.

One thing that stood out in this race is that Rossi at times was more trusting on the turn and braking late. He was able to showcase some of his moves which he was well known for – late braking and holding the line. Although there are other areas where Rossi already had the line and he slowed down noticeably, still trying not to push too hard on the front tires and risk crashing out of the race. In essence, Rossi was still more than capable of doing things that made him a champion and he has gained confidence that he can still duke it out with the top riders in the grid.

After this first race, all signs points to Rossi making a decision to continue racing in the near foreseeable future. The trust level he have on his bike is back and he is quickly gaining the confidence back of being able to place the bike wherever he wants in the track. He also realizes the certain level at which he could push his bike to overtake the other riders. Second place in a challenging track surely has boosted the morale of Rossi and renewed his faith and trust to his team lead by new chief mechanic, Silvano Galbusera. Buoyed as well by the collaborative atmosphere in his garage, things are looking really good for the Doctor.

Valentino Rossi has always been the biggest crowd drawer in MotoGP and lay claim as the greatest motorcycle rider of all time. In this series of articles, we analyze what would constitute his decision after the sixth race where he acknowledged to make one regarding his future in premiere class of racing.

The weekend at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) didn’t go well for Valentino and his team. Struggling all weekend with setup and tire problems while also losing out on top speed against the factory Honda and Ducati. Adding that the track was more suited with the hard accelerating , stop and go strengths of the Honda.

Valentino have had a poor start, starting from sixth in the grid, he was relegated to 9th place after getting a bit unsettled when his teammate Jorge Lorenzo made a very erroneous jumpstart. The first three laps though showed what Valentino Rossi was capable of, overtaking Bradley Smith, Andrea Dovizioso, Stefan Bradl, and Cal Crutchlow in a masterful way that he is known for. For a brief time, he tried to keep pace with Andrea Iannone, but after a few tries in passing the Italian, Rossi would have some problems with his front tires. Lacking in edge grip, he relegated his position to Dovizioso, Bradl, Smith and Pol Espargaro. Having no option to challenge for any higher position, he rode his M1 more cautiously up to the finish line, finishing in eighth place and getting those precious championship points.

This setback may have leveled down Valentino Rossi’s desire to re-sign with Yamaha for two more seasons. In one side, he knows that he can still match the pace of the upcoming stalwarts, but against the established duo of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, he knows that his bike needs to improve. His baseline of improving, as he has previously mentioned is being able to match the pace of his teammate, Jorge Lorenzo. With Lorenzo needing to do a ride through penalty, paired with the tire problems he experienced, Rossi did not have a benchmark to check whether his time has improved.

Nonetheless, the skills that Rossi has exhibited in making those overtaking moves in the early stages of the race should boost his confidence that he can still challenge for the podium every given race. But at this point in time, Rossi’s aim is not just to win some races but be declared a champion. He has done it before and with renewed faith in his team, he knows he is capable of doing it again.

The next race at Argentina in a week’s time would provide a lot more glimpse of Rossi’s desire to sign back with Yamaha. In his mind, the race at the Texas circuit was already a setback even before they lined up at the grid, given the track played to the strength of the Honda. The positive thing to note though is he knew he could have had a chance to finish at the podium if not for his tire problems.

At this point, judging from his performance the past two races, Rossi’s chances of signing again for another season or two is at 7/10.

Valentino Rossi has always been the biggest crowd drawer in MotoGP and lay claim as the greatest motorcycle rider of all time. In this series oVR-Argentinaf articles, we analyze what would constitute  his decision after the sixth race where he acknowledged to make one regarding his future in premiere class of racing.

A disappointing race

Another race weekend has gone and Valentino Rossi’s result was far from impressive. Fourth place. For someone racing at his age and as many say, past his prime, this was still something to relish. Battling it out with the current top riders in MotoGP is a daunting task.

There’s a lot of reason why Rossi only managed to finish fourth. Marquez is riding so well that perhaps, not even Valentino in his prime could manage to overcome the raw talent of this young Spaniard. Add the fact that Honda has managed to make the bike work well under different conditions, and perfectly adapting to the Bridgestone tires. Physically, mentally and technically, he couldn’t match up with the reigning premiere class champion.

Taking second is Dani Pedrosa, another factory Honda rider. His win and overtake on Jorge Lorenzo demonstrates the superiority of Honda over the Yamahas in all angle – speed, braking, corner entry and electronics.

Third place was taken by Valentino’s factory Yamaha teammate, Jorge Lorenzo, who lead for half of the race but eventually relinquishing his position against the faster Honda riders. Lorenzo acknowledges that their equipment is certainly no match to the Honda and it would need a lot of tweaking in their garage to even dream of taking a win away from the other Japanese manufacturer.

Finishing fourth place in this race though should help lean Valentino’s decision further to signing again with Yamaha. His best lap times were much faster than his own teammate and if he did not made those mistakes in the early stages of the race, he could have secured another podium finish. But after losing some places and having to battle back to regain fourth position, both tires and time ran out of him.

The other positive takeaway for Valentino Rossi, is that he knows that ditching long time friend and chief mechanic, Jeremy Burgess for Silvano Galbusera is paying some dividends now. He is riding faster and can tweak his motorcycle to better adapt his riding style. Such decision means that Rossi is in business, and he wants to regain the prestige again of winning some races and perhaps the championship.

The current level of talent in MotoGP may overshadow the progress with which Rossi and his Yamaha garage are making, but it is becoming pretty clear that Valentino is getting closer to the top guns in MotoGP. His target this year is to get closer to the top and try to challenge for wins and podiums. He is on track to achieve those. Next year would be to battle out for wins and perhaps the championship. He can only do that if he signs again with Yamaha. This stage adds more fuel to the fact that Rossi will sign again and has increased the probability to 8/10.

Valentino Rossi has always been the biggest crowd drawer in MotoGP and lay claim as the greatest motorcycle rider of all time. In this series of articles, we analyze what would constitute  his decision after the sixth race where he acknowledged to make one regarding his future in premiere class of racing.

Jerez was a circuit that many people assumed would give the Spanish trio of Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo taking the rostrum and the podium finish. But a bright spot for the Italian fans of MotoGP saw their beloved rider, Valentino Rossi take an impressive second place.

For Valentino Rossi, the love for this track is undeniable.  Six wins in the premiere class is a testament to how much he likes the technical layout of the track.  He came to the track fully aware that the Spanish riders are going to exert every effort to get to the parc ferme  and hear the adoration of the Spanish crowds who gathered for the race. But the Italian has other plans.

The race in two lines

Valentino Rossi started strong right from the start, taking the lead for a couple of laps  before reigning champion  Marc Marquez stomped his authority on the premiere class. Rossi also managed a late charge from Dani Pedrosa, thwarting the Spaniard’s thrust and secure  second place.

Rossi’s strong results will surely buoy his decision to continuing his career in MotoGP for a couple more seasons. His initial aim at the start of the season  was to at least match the speed of his fellow  factory rider, Jorge Lorenzo. This season has seen him not just matching but outpacing his Spanish teammate. A change in the direction with the chassis that Valentino has on his M1 has brought him back the confidence to brake later and enter the corner with better speeds.

Rossi’s body language after the race reveals a lot of confidence that he is back in his groove. Gone are the wry smile that covers his frustration for not getting the results he wants or thinks he is capable of. He is more positive in front of the camera, the media, and most of all, with his team. His belief is back that he can definitely challenge and should still be considered as among the elite riders in the premiere class of MotoGP.

Being able to challenge for podiums, matching the speed of Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, and to some degree, Marc Marquez – these are the challenges that would bring Rossi to a decision to continue his future in MotoGP. He is amazed at the level of talent that the young riders bring into the series, but he is undaunted, as he knows that he is getting back to peak performance, albeit slowly. At this stage of racing, we can definitely see Rossi signing that contract for a couple more years and redeem himself and prove to everyone that he is still a force to reckon with. Rating this decision would lean on 9/10.

Valentino Rossi has always been the biggest crowd drawer in MotoGP and lay claim as the greatest motorcycle rider of all time. In this series of articles, we analyze what would constitute  his decision after the sixth race where he acknowledged to make one regarding his future in premiere class of racing.

A second youth?

Lemans. France. For vr46a few laps, Valentino showed a resemblance of  his  old self when he was willing his bike to ride the line he wanted to. To cover the tracks which would give him the best possible position to overtake and make his move. For a few laps,  Valentino looked like the young Valentino – fearless and motivated to claim his throne at the front of the track.  For a few laps , Valentino was leading the race.

This race at the French circuit may have  easily provided Valentino the clues and the motivation he needs to continue his future in the premiere class of motorcycling. Recall that  prior to the start of the season, Valentino has been asked numerous times what would be his options in MotoGP. He usually pointed out that he would make his decision based on the outcome of the races, and the changes he has made in his team.  His desire to win was very evident that he sacrificed his relationship with long term mentor Jeremy Burgess. Rossi felt that doing this would pave the way to infuse some fresh insight to make him competitive and faster on the bike. He altered his riding style to suit the Yamaha which has been designed as of late to focus on Jorge Lorenzo’s smooth riding and corner speeds. He humbled himself and accepted the fact that before the year started, he is considered to be the fourth best rider in the grid, only following reigning champion Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa.

But the results this year tells a different story, and what could be hailed as the spark that would make him decide to stay in MotoGP. Placing second three times (Qatar, Jerez and Lemans), finishing sixth in Texas and fourth in Argentina, he has been fast and consistent and at the same time enjoying himself. A very far cry from the eventual years while he was at Ducati. He has been riding his bike with more ease and excitement, being able to place his bike wherever he wants on the track. Valentino is also doing a lot more of his overtaking maneuvers which he is known for, braking a lot later and taking the track lines which he previously shunned. In short, Valentino is back to his old self – full of enthusiasm, free spirited and competitive. The only thing that cannot be reversed at this point is his age.

Another thing going on for Valentino at this stage is that his aim of being as fast as his teammate, Jorge Lorenzo, has been realized. Many can point out that Lorenzo though is having a dreadful season, but race statistics and results show otherwise that indeed, Valentino is getting better than his teammate at the Yamaha garage.

Valentino Rossi knows that the odds of him beating reigning champion Marc Marquez at this point is very unlikely, but he is clearly enjoying the competition with the youngster. But this motivation will surely lean the favor towards him re-signing with Yamaha for the next couple of years. Paddock rumours abounds suggesting that Valentino is already in negotiations and talks with his factory team to extend his contract for two more years.

At the end of the day, Rossi’s decision will surely be based on him knowing that he can compete and win races. He has a solid team in place, his riding is reminiscent of the rider who ruled MotoGP in the last decade and his body language speaks of volume his desire to win. We should be seeing The Doctor for two more seasons in MotoGP.

Emanuele Venturoli
Communication Manager for RTR Sports Marketing. A degree in Communication at the University of Bologna and a passion for sport brought me where I'm today.
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