Rossi, Ducati And Yamaha: And The Winner Is...

So what are we to make of Valentino Rossi's not-so-shock decision to leave Ducati and go back to Yamaha? The initial reaction from fans and media was that the biggest losers from the move are Ducati as a manufacturer and Rossi's reputation as miracle worker when it comes to bike development. There is some merit in both those arguments, but perhaps it is not quite so clear cut as that. Rossi's two years at Ducati have done a lot of damage to both parties - as well as to MotoGP's popularity and TV income - but in the end, this move could have some very positive long-term repercussions.

Kissing A Frog

Valentino Rossi's honeymoon period with the Ducati lasted just a few laps. From the very beginning, Rossi realized that this was not the bike he had been expecting. The bike had no front-end feel, an excessively aggressive power delivery and a seating position that would not allow him to shift his weight as he needed. Three days after finishing third in the race at Valencia, Rossi ended the test 1.7 seconds slower than Casey Stoner, the man whose bike he was now riding. Rossi looked stiff and awkward, a shadow of the rider he was a few days earlier on the Yamaha.

After shoulder surgery and development over the winter, Rossi was not much faster. At the final test ahead of the season opener at Qatar, he was 1.4 behind the leader, Casey Stoner. In the 14 months since then, the gap has been roughly halved, but Rossi on the Ducati is still some seven or eight tenths behind the leaders, and looking only marginally less stiff, awkward and uncomfortable than he did back in November 2010. On a good day, he finishes 6th, telling reporters "this is our potential."

Rossi on a Ducati has been a failure. Despite a switch of bikes in the middle of last year, the dropping of the carbon fiber in favor of aluminium and the switch from the frameless subchassis design to a full twin spar, Rossi's results on the Desmosedici remain fundamentally the same: a long way from the podium, battling with the satellite Hondas and hoping to catch the satellite Yamahas. For a factory rider on a factory bike in MotoGP, that is simply not good enough.

An Existential Crisis

Rossi's reputation of being able to win on inferior equipment did not last his first year at Ducati. After winning his first race on the Yamaha M1 - widely regarded as no match for Honda's mighty RC211V - in 2004, Rossi's abilities became the stuff of legend. So why could he not do on the Ducati what he had been so clearly able to do on the Yamaha?

The answer is that not all inferior machinery is the same. The problem of the 2004 Yamaha M1 was mainly a lack of power, the bike being well down on the output of the Honda. But the front end of the bike was fundamentally sound, Yamaha's design philosophy always having been focused on building motorcycles which handled sweetly. Using his fearsome talent on the brakes, and ability to switch lines through the corners, Rossi was able to overcome the lack of power and exploit the strengths of the Yamaha. Those strengths would bring him four world titles.

The Ducati's strengths lay elsewhere: high horsepower and slippery aerodynamics had always given the bike a top speed advantage - an advantage it still holds to this day - but the task of manhandling the bike through the corners was very much left up to the rider. Without a strong front end to rely on Rossi was lost, scratching around for ways to compensate. Robbed of his strongest weapon, Rossi was simply losing too much ground on corner entry, then struggling again on the exit as the bike ran wide. Where once he had a grenade he could toss into the mix as he stalked his opponents, now he found himself carrying a knife into a gunfight.

The comparisons with Casey Stoner were inevitable, and justified. Stoner won three of his last six races on the Ducati in 2010. On the bike that was basically only slightly changed from the one that the Australian had left behind, Rossi was over a second off the pace. Where Stoner had found a way to ride the Ducati - based on his blind faith in the front Bridgestone tire, a faith that was sorely tested in his final season with the Bologna factory, crashing frequently in the first half of the year - Rossi could not, and struggled badly. That was the first strike against Rossi's name.

A Little Bit Of History Repeating

But Rossi is not the only rider to have struggled on the Ducati. A recent article on compared Rossi's two seasons on the bike to the first two seasons of every other rider to race in the Ducati factory team. With the exception of Stoner, every rider has underperformed, the only time Ducati having had any real success is once the factory switched to Bridgestone tires and had them custom built to their own spec. Those tires helped compensate for the Ducati's lack of front-end feel, giving their riders a fighting chance of competing. Once the spec tire was introduced, and Bridgestone had to build a tire that met everyone's requirements, Ducati lost out, and it showed in the results. After his first devastating championship win in 2007, Stoner won fewer and fewer races each season. In 2008, Bridgestone was building tires for Rossi's Yamaha as well as Stoner's Ducati, and the Australian started to suffer the first of what would be an ever-growing list of inexplicable front-end crashes. By 2010, his last season on the bike, and the second season of the spec Bridgestones, it took Stoner and his crew two-thirds of a season to find a setting for the bike that worked. The man who was once deemed invincible on the bike was going backwards, and had decided it was time to go.

His reasons for leaving were basically the same as Rossi has for leaving now. The bike that Ducati starts the season with is more or less the bike that they finish the season on - the honorable exception being 2011, when they brought two updated chassis through the season. And this brings us to the other big loser in the affair, the iconic Italian brand itself. The press release announcing Rossi's departure spoke of racing being in Ducati's DNA; an employee of Yamaha once put it to me that while Yamaha go racing to help sell bikes, Ducati sell bikes so they can afford to go racing. They are famed for taking original and innovative approaches to problem-solving, and building stunningly beautiful high-performance racing machines.

The problem is that without the combination of the idiosyncratic genius of Casey Stoner and a special tire to help, those original and innovative ideas are simply not competitive. The spec tire allows only a single solution to create grip at the front of the bike, and provide usable feedback to the rider. The manufacturers are forced into a design straitjacket, allowing only limited freedom of movement around the central requirements imposed by the spec tire. Ducati's original and innovative ideas become worthless, and they need to build a new bike from scratch, one that is much more conventional.

Dogma vs Pragma

The unwillingness to accept the need for change has been Ducati's biggest obstacle to progress. Though Casey Stoner continually asked for changes - one change in particular, which infuriatingly, the Australian refuses to reveal to this day - Ducati saw he was winning races and was in no rush to give in to his demands. Marco Melandri came and went, and his results were put down to a failure on the part of the Italian to adapt. When Rossi came, a man whose talent was above questions, acceptance was slow to come. A quick fix was attempted, shortening the stroke of the bike Ducati originally intended to race in 2012 and handing it to Rossi at Assen in 2011.

More changes came in the shape of a modified chassis, and for 2012, a switch to a twin spar frame. Other modifications have come, but at a glacial pace. Fork bottoms, steering head inserts, triple clamps; all changes, but mostly tinkering in the margins, rather than a fundamental reappraisal of the motorcycle itself. The design philosophy has remained the same: at heart, the Ducati Desmosedici is still an extremely powerful engine with a selection of parts to connect the engine to the wheels.

When it suited his purposes, Valentino Rossi did not shy away from pointing out Ducati's lack of progress. His outbursts were rare, but carefully timed and even more carefully choreographed, with players inside Rossi's inner circle testing the waters with the Italian media beforehand. The harsh criticisms were always uttered strategically, and to the audiences which would have the most effect, Rossi attempting to force Ducati's hand. When updates were still slow to come, fans were quick to blame Ducati, with good reason. The criticism was harsh, and perhaps not entirely deserved. Ducati were working hard to try to fix the problem, with staff sacrificing weekends and vacations to design, test and fabricate new parts. The trouble was, the new parts were built around the old philosophy; they were at best just bandages, when major surgery was required.

Change Is Gonna Come

The irony is that Rossi elected to leave just as such major surgery - or at least, faster updates - may become possible. Audi completed the acquisition of Ducati between the Mugello and Laguna Seca rounds of MotoGP, and the German car giant is expected to provide a major boost to the speed of development. Not so much in terms of design - Audi are resolutely a car company, with no direct experience of motorcycle design - but they do have valuable experience of rapid prototyping and parts production. Audi take their racing very, very seriously, as their victories at the Le Mans 24 hour race have proven. Though no changes will come in the very short term, Audi are sure to want to take a very close look at the Ducati Corse engineering process, and streamline it. This won't help for the 2012 season, but the pace of progress should start to improve some time next season.

That came too late for Rossi. At 33 years of age, the Italian knows that his time in MotoGP is limited. Two, possibly three more seasons are all that Rossi has at the very highest level before the competition from Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa, Pol Espargaro, and who knows, maybe even Maverick Viñales starts to get just beyond his reach. Two winless seasons have been too much for the Italian, and facing an uncertain outcome at Ducati - despite assurances from the very top level of Audi management of their commitment to MotoGP - he caved in and took the option to return to Yamaha.

Reaction is mixed to the move. Overwhelmingly, there is a sense of relief from his fans, who believe - with some justification - that he will soon be back battling at the front on the Yamaha, the bike that still suits his strongest points, braking and corner entry. However, there is also a sizable contingent, even among his most hardcore fans, who cannot hide their disappointment. Rossi relishes a challenge, of that there can be no doubt, as the title of his autobiography "What If I Had Never Tried It" underlines. But for the first time, he is giving up, surrendering, and walking away. The challenge has proved a bridge too far this time, and he no longer has the luxury of time to try to turn this one around.

That, perhaps, will be the most damaging part of Rossi's return to Yamaha. Dennis Noyes called the decision to abandon the challenge of the Ducati for the guarantee of a winning Yamaha "the racer's choice," and that it surely is. Racers, like all professional athletes, do not compete to make up the numbers; their motivation is to compete at the highest level, doing all that they can, sacrificing much more than even the most committed fan can conceive, just to give themselves the best possible chance of winning. But to many, Rossi was more than just a racer; for millions of fans around the world, Rossi was a hero. Leaving Ducati with the job undone is not a hero's choice, and Rossi's image around the world - and perhaps his self-image - will be tarnished because of it.

Wiping The Slate

Such doubts will more than likely quickly be dispelled after Valencia. Once Rossi goes from the Ducati to the Yamaha, he should undergo a reverse of the metamorphosis which saw him transmogrify from butterfly to caterpillar two years ago. Jumping off the Ducati, which has seen him kept trapped, stiff as a chrysalis, he will once again hope to find the wings which carried him to four world championships. His prospects are good; his form in the rain indicates that he has lost little of both the desire and the ability which made him such a fierce competitor. Where in the dry, Rossi looks like an impostor stole his leathers and is trying to fake his way around the track, once the track is wet, the Italian returns in all his glory. It is no coincidence that both of Rossi's podiums were secured in the wet; his confidence returned and his ability had only been masked by the weak front end of the Ducati.

Rossi's objective, a return to winning races, looks eminently achievable. The last time he was on a Yamaha, he was winning regularly and challenging for championships, despite injuries and accidents. Rossi on a Yamaha was something very special indeed, his style meshing perfectly with the bike he led the development of for so long. The bike plays to Rossi's strengths, and the Italian has shown time and time again that he can ruthlessly exploit those strengths to pull out some remarkable victories. On a Yamaha, you could never count Valentino Rossi out, and there is plenty to suggest that will still be true upon his return.

Since Rossi left Yamaha, the bike has got even better, if anything, but another MotoGP title will not be so easy to come by. Jorge Lorenzo is two years' older and has two years more experience than when Rossi left at the end of 2010. What's more, he has faced Casey Stoner on a Honda, an experience which raised the Spaniard's riding to its current stellar levels. So far this season, when he wasn't being knocked off in the first corner by fellow Spaniard Alvaro Bautista, Lorenzo's worst finish has been second, with plenty of wins to offset the second-place finishes. Though Casey Stoner will be retired by the time Rossi walks into the Yamaha garage, the Italian will face a more complete rider in Jorge Lorenzo, and the undisputed number one in the team and in the championship. He will have his work cut out for him.

Secondary Benefits

Yamaha, of course, benefit even more from Rossi's return than the Italian does himself. The house of the tuning forks gets to show its most magnanimous face in welcoming its prodigal Italian son back into the fold. But the balance of power has also shifted much more in Yamaha's favor since Rossi left and then decided to return. When Rossi left Yamaha, he took an entourage of some 15 people with him, including crew chief Jeremy Burgess, garage crew, hospitality staff and other helpers. With his return, he will likely be limited to a core group of five or six names, consisting almost solely of his garage crew. His role, too, is clear, as the number two rider behind Lorenzo, though in practice this will only be enforced should the championship come down to the very last race, with a non-Yamaha rider such as Dani Pedrosa still in contention for the title.

More importantly, Rossi will make it much easier for Yamaha to find a title sponsor once again. Though it remains unclear whether Rossi has been asked to bring a sponsor as part of the deal for his return, his very presence in the team makes it much easier to persuade companies to pay out the premium required to be title sponsor in a team which includes Valentino Rossi. After two years of having the factory foot the bill for a large part of the team, Yamaha need the help. Many rumors surround who that sponsor will be - the names of Marlboro, Coca Cola, San Carlo and Monster have been bandied about, though only the latter appears to have much credence - with little concrete information emerging. The chances of Yamaha racing in corporate colors again next season are fairly slim, however.

To The Victor, The Spoils

If needs be, Dorna may even move in to help fund Rossi's transition to Yamaha. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta's statement at the Valencia Formula One GP that Rossi would be 'on a competitive bike' in 2013 immediately set the alarm bells ringing among the conspiracy theorists, and while it seems unlikely that Ezpeleta can persuade both Rossi and Yamaha to accept the deal against their will, it is clear that Rossi's return to the Iwata factory is a massive boost for Dorna's prospects. Viewing figures have dropped off as Rossi has struggled, especially in Italy, one of the two key markets for MotoGP. Having Rossi running round at the back of the field was an expensive business for Dorna, especially when it came time to renew TV contracts. With Rossi back on a Yamaha, and expected to be racing at the front once again, TV audiences should receive a big boost.

This dependence on Rossi is a huge risk factor for Dorna, and they know it. Rossi is a genuine superstar, a racer who transcends the sport he competes in, just as Muhammad Ali was in boxing, or Tiger Woods was in golf, or Bjorn Borg in tennis. Rossi has captured the imagination of the casual fan, those who love sports, but not necessarily the sport of motorcycle racing. This audience is much, much bigger than the hard core of racing fans who will tune in anyway, and determine the size of TV contracts to be awarded. The casual fan needs to be given a reason to tune in, and having a superstar in your series is one very, very good reason to do so. Superstars, however, will only appeal if they are at the front; it is hard to explain to a new fan just why someone is such a phenomenon when he is struggling in mid pack.

Without their marketing superstar Rossi, Dorna are in real trouble. They need to have something to maintain the popularity of the sport once Rossi inevitably retires in a few years' time. Hoping for another rider to take up Rossi's mantle of popular appeal is a vain and futile exercise: Rossi is a once-in-a-generation phenomenon, the previous man to have his appeal outside of the sport probably being Barry Sheene. Superstars cannot be created, at least not in a sport as niche as motorcycle racing. And so Dorna need something else to take its place.

Bread And Circuses

Two factors can help to keep the casual fans from departing the sport, things which every sport tries to generate. The first is a local hero to cheer for - and by local, I mean local to the audience you are pursuing, which in this case means Europe, the US and Asia - and the second is a spectacle to keep the fans entertained. Both of these goals are being actively pursued by Dorna, though neither is simple to implement.

The utter dominance of Spanish riders, highlighted so shockingly at Mugello, where the qualifying press conference consisted entirely of Spaniards, with the polesitters in all three classes plus the entire front row of MotoGP racing on a Spanish passport, is very close to its peak. Despite the wealth of Spanish talent coming up through the ranks - Pol Espargaro, Marc Marquez, Maverick Viñales, to name but a few - the combination of the Red Bull Rookies and expanded national programs are starting to pay off. In the next five years or so, there are riders from Britain, Germany, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Italy, Malaysia, France, Australia, Austria and the Netherlands expected to make their mark at the Grand Prix, with many more to follow. The Italian federation has expanded its program, as has the Netherlands, where racing is very much a niche sport despite former glories. Czech Rider Karel Hanika is tipped by many as being the most talented rider to pass through the Rookies program in years. Given a little time, soon there will be a much, much wider variety of nationalities in any given MotoGP race, enough to suit most markets.

Having a wide spread of nationalities is all well and good, but if the races are decided in the first 5 laps, then there is nothing to keep the audience watching. The excitement has seeped from the races as the rules pushed through by the manufacturers - the switch to 800cc and the fuel restrictions being the main culprits - have placed their stamp on the racing. The end of tire competition and especially the demise of the qualifying tire have made things even worse, cutting costs but at the same time meaning that riders finish the race more or less in the order they qualified. Without a spectacle, Dorna has no product to sell.

Room For Maneuver

And so Dorna have seized back the imperative. The agreement with the manufacturers giving them a monopoly over the technical regulations has been allowed to lapse, and Dorna is pushing through a long-term strategy to give them more control over the technical level of the machines. The switch to 1000cc was the first step in that process, as was the request to Bridgestone for softer tires. The next step is the imposition of a rev limit and a spec ECU, but these cannot simply be imposed directly after one major change in the technical regulations. It cost Honda, Yamaha and Ducati a lot of money to design their new 1000cc bikes, and having a 15,000 RPM rev limit and a spec ECU with restrictions on electronic capabilities would require them to build a completely different bike. A lower rev limit means finding different ways to maximize horsepower, while depending on the options available with a spec ECU, it could require a completely different engine characteristic.

For the past 6 months, Dorna and the MSMA have been locked in negotiations over when to introduce these changes. Dorna wanted the changes in 2014, but Honda, in particular, has issued vague threats over leaving the series if they are pushed through before 2015, claiming they cannot afford to make more changes to their bikes so short after the last switch. With Rossi on a Ducati, Dorna needed the spectacle to return as soon as possible, but with Rossi on a Yamaha for at least the next two years, and challenging for wins, they hope, then Dorna has a little leeway, and can hold off until 2015. Rossi can be relied upon to entertain the crowds in the intervening period, until the performance of the bikes can be balanced sufficiently to make the racing a little closer, and hold the interest of the casual fans once he departs for pastures new.

Dorna and the MSMA should now be able to reach an agreement more quickly, with the extra breathing space affording Dorna room to wait another year. The earlier the agreement, the better it is for all concerned, as both Suzuki and BMW are waiting in the wings for a stable rules package before taking the plunge to enter MotoGP. The spec ECU, in particular, has been a sticking point, and knowing the capabilities of that will be a key factor for the development of their engines. More manufacturers in the series helps in many ways, providing more competitive seats for riders to take, strengthening the series once again. That helps Dorna hugely, dovetailing nicely with the wider range of nationalities. After all, it's no good having, say, a top South African rider if there's nowhere competitive for him to race.

Everyone's A Winner

Overall, the return of Rossi to Yamaha is a positive move for all concerned. Valentino Rossi gets a chance to redeem himself by proving that he can still race competitively, and help to wipe away the memory of two bad years on the Ducati. Yamaha gain a top rider, are likely to secure a title sponsor and are looking the hot favorites for the triple crown of rider, team and manufacturer titles next year. Even Ducati benefit, returning to the role of underdog, of a small company battling against the Japanese giants, and can focus on developing the bike without the million-watt spotlight of public attention that Rossi's presence in the garage ensured. Rossi's departure even makes it easier for the man brave enough to take his place at the Bologna factory: if Andrea Dovizioso (as it is almost certain to be) struggles, then he has merely suffered the fate of everyone except Casey Stoner at the factory. If he succeeds, then he will have done better than the legendary Valentino Rossi.

But the biggest winners of all out of this are Dorna, the commercial rights holders to the series. They get their superstar rider back racing at the front, giving them time to formulate a strategy for when he finally leaves the sport for good. Many will claim that they pushed for this result as soon as it became apparent that the marriage Valentino Rossi and Ducati was doomed to failure. Whether they were instrumental in making it happen or not, it is clear this was their desired outcome. Those conspiracy theorists who despise the role they believe Dorna plays behind the scenes in manipulating the outcome will be livid at Rossi's return. But for most fans, they simply won't care. All they want to see if Valentino Rossi mixing it up at the front again, and they are prepared to forgive him the act of hubris that saw him jump to Ducati. By the time Qatar rolls around next year, all will be forgiven, if not quite completely forgotten.

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Rossi. he leaves with bags of euros and what all heros need, a big challenge. Among the other winners you mentioned one was omitted, Casey Stoner. As Casey saunters off into retirement it will be with a warm glow surrounding his genius riding abilities aided in no small measure by Rossi's performance at Ducati.

After a year of fishing and changing nappies, a bored Stoner gets talked into a return to Ducati... and makes it win again. How much of a legend would he become?'s always the tires.  There were many of us who were against the spec tires for this reason:  the list of riders (and factories) failing spectacularly because of whimsy from the tire manufacturers and rules makers just keeps getting longer.

Ironically, Suzuki's best year in the 4-stroke era was in that same 2006 -2008 era when Ducati were at (or near) the top.

Indeed, prototype racing is about disparate concepts competing with each other.  Increasing the number of narrowly specified parameters to which all competitors must conform is, by definition, the opposite of "prototype".

I understand what you're saying, but what about the preferential treatment the top riders got? When looked back on, there is always someone pointing out that "he only only won because of the overnight specials". The top factory guys get their pick of the best.

Imagine Casey and Jorge on superior rubber than the rest of the field?

Casey was on superior rubber in 2008....He came 2nd. Many riders got overnight specials from miche when racing in Europe. It was the stopping of overnight tyres that played apart in their(Michelin) leaving. The skill was in asking for the right overnight tyre . If it was just a case of a tyre being perfect because it flew first class we'd have heard more about it. No doubt one would be a peer by now........

He came second to Rossi in 2008... who switched to Bridgestone for the season because they were that much better.

I am not advocating "overnight specials" was why racers won, but it has been a constant anti-Rossi argument forever. I do agree with them that he did get a pick of tires over some other riders. But, I 100% agree with you that it's not as simple as having an overnight flight, it's how to pick them.

The race Toni Elias won was on discarded Pedrosa overnight specials (I have no proof of that, just what I've been told). And we know how finicky his riding is to tires.

I would like to see the competition back between suppliers. I just don't want to see certain riders getting an unfair advantage.

seriously though, could they not have a rule where any rider could claim the tires of any other rider who is using the same brand (assuming they went back to non spec rules). Sure, no one is gonna want the used tires but they could claim them before the race? Am I crazy here?

Bridgestone and Michelin had a totally different working system. The Japanese company worked in difficult circumstances, because their factory is in Japan, so everything had to be done well in advance with lots of guesswork and even more airfreght costs involved.

Michelin, on the other side, had a different approach. The French factory is in Europe and company was able to react to conditions race by race, finally tailoring track-specific tyres for favored riders after the weekend had began, and trucking them overnight from their French facility to wherever they were racing in time for Sunday's race.

i'm sorry, I just won't cop this silly arguement. no-one ever barracked for a tyre. a rider yes, even a bike but not a tyre. I'ii never forgive the farcical laguna gp which michelin wrecked. it's motorsicle racing NOT tyre racing. also tired of slow riders like tony the turtle using this p poor excuse.

This is an article that will take time to digest, read again and then form some sort of opinion. Thanks again for putting so much thought into an idea, and then publishing that idea.
1st thought is that Moto2 and Moto3 are racing and MotoGP are a spectacle.
MotoGP needs the kind of excitement that Moto2 and Moto3 races routinely display. Relying on a faded superstar or hopes of producing the next superstar is doing nothing for racing excitement.
MotoGP to me is like the NBA was after Michael Jordon left, for the 2nd time. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird passed an exciting game to Jordon. Now decades later, I’ll channel surf past a NBA and wonder why I ever watched, or played that game.
NBA is no longer about basketball but about product promotion. The products are pushed by spokesman, and those spokesmen just happen to be dribbling a basketball.
Has MotoGP ventured to far into this territory already? Maybe Casey Stoner and Ben Spies already answered that question.

Excellent article but one small correction. The first podium of Rossi in the Ducati was dry. The infamous Simincelli-Pedrosa crash gave him the opportunity.

It's mostly a summary of other articles you had, but it gives quite a complete picture of the issue Rossi/Ducati/MotoGP and it's repercussions, such as in the rules. Very nice to read about all of these politics.
I'm very interested on how competitive Rossi will be. If he wins the first race, all is forgotten by most fans, if he keeps being beaten by his team-mate, maybe not?
Also very interested in Ducati's future. I hope that they manage to be competitive, as the series needs them.
@David Emmett, why no mention of Stoner's comments regarding Rossi/Burgess? Are you working on a separate piece on this?

I don't see Monster being the team sponsor. I believe Lorenzo is personally sponsored by Rockstar so I wouldn't expect the #1 rider and who may be the champion having to give up that sponsorship.

But well worth the effort.
Another great article.
Though I still think its a backward step for Yamaha.
Dovi deserved that ride.

I worry that the U.S. does not take more action to nurture more talent for road racing. We seem to "lose" all our talent to motocross. It is just so much more relevant to most two-wheeled fans here. Almost all of my friends grew up riding dirt bikes on trails and local tracks.

We are going to lose Ben, Nicky, and Colin here pretty quick in the next few years and I don't see anybody worthy in our AMA worthy of a factory GP ride (no slight to our AMA guys). Now this won't affect the people who frequent this site, we will watch anyway, but I can see MotoGP disappearing even more off the American radar than it already is. Which sucks.

Although I will say... yeah, I guess I do tend to root for the U.S. guys by default, but other than that, I don't care what country a rider is from. In fact that is one of the things I love about GP's, is that I get exposed to different cultures and personalities from around the world. Pretty cool.

(By the way.... thanks for not posting the latest drama riders are saying about each other through the media... right, wrong, love, hate... whatever, it is generating nasty stuff from all sides. It's nice to come here for some calm)

Like road racing cars, Americans have historically looked at roadracing as European.

Motocross while originally European was rapidly embrassed in America because it had similarities to dirt track & scrambles. Where can you (legally) practice roadracing...there are plenty of empty fields to make into a MX track to practice or race on. Additionally, the cost of roadracing has always been multiples of MX.

I'm sure there is someone in Spain bemoaning the talent drain to roadracing who might have been MX stars....its just how it is.

Putting all the facts together to come up with an educated view of the situation. But after reading all that, makes me wonder, if all that together is what Casey Stoner was watching and listening to, and got disgusted. I think he is retiring way too early. Will miss him. Hopefully Marc Marquez brings in some new excitement. There sure does need to be more than just Rossi as a 'Superstar'. There will never be another Rossi, but there sure can be more exciting racers.

had me tittering at a minds eye vision of Preziosi and Rossi in a clinch, begging the question - which one is the beautiful princess that needs protecting, if that's the right word?..perhaps they both need a good protecting.

Elucidative tome worthy of the subject and a spanking good read - Ta.

One thing regards Qatar 2011 and Rossi's debut..

Did you that race he lapped as fast as he'd done the year before while winning as champ on the M1 and that everyone in front of him at the flag, Val finished 7th, had a faster race winning time than him in 2010 too?

How the world turns, just not at Ducati.

A very thorough colomn that put all in the players in the mix in an entertaining light.

Lets hope that Rossi does well on his return to Yamaha so we fans can have some nail biters again like '08 Laguna Seca, '09 Catalunya and Sachsenring and '10 Motegi.

This sport needs some excitement and i'm sorry to see Casey go, if only to see him again battle Rossi and Jlo on the Yamahas.

Keep up the good work David and lets hope that ur articles focus more on exciting racing and not behind the scenes drama which was all that was left to excite the fans.

I disagree with Hottbaje. In MotoGP, and every other sport, the "behind the scenes" goings on are fascinating and crucial to true understanding of what is happening. One of the great strengths of Motomatters is that we get in-depth reporting and analysis of what you *don't* see on TV. I sincerely hope that continues.

This year we have three riders fighting for the championship, next year we have three guys fighting for the championship. It will be good, of course, to have Rossi back up front. But the loss of Stoner will be felt all season long. Given the black cloud that has been hovering over their relationship, the loss of Stoner removes what would have been the drama the series could really need. Not only would we have been tuning in to see who wins, we would have also been keen to see where the two of them finished in relation to the other. Who would have braging rights until the next meeting. A true gift to the media, as both guys are prone to speaking their minds. Damn, I'm going to miss Casey.

"an extremely powerful engine with a selection of parts to connect the engine to the wheels" - is worth gold. Nobody ever summed it so well.

...the series becomes just another race meet for me and I will be satisfied with the mediocre presentation on Speed. Yes Nicky and Colin will be plugging around but without the ghost of a chance of winning. The thrill is gone. Too bad especially with 2 and perhaps 3 US races possibly on the calendar. All this hyper-study of the tea leaves and goat entrails mean nothing as far as I am concerned. . Cameron Beaubier's thrilling win over Cardinas at Leguna was by far the best event of the meet. Don't tell me we don't have talent here. But the logistics are formidable and even prohibitive for an American to enter the European series. Australia was lucky to have such a talented and determined representative in Casey. They won't see his like again soon. .

I think you hit the crux of the issue with that comment David. Spec tires (along with the fuel restrictions) are the biggest detriment to MotoGP being a more interesting race to watch. As long as everyone has to design their engine power curves and weight distribution around the same tire then the bikes will all basically be the same: the infamous and derrogatory UJM term!

You and Dennis Noyes had a good thread on Twitter about bringing back direct injection 2 strokes or turbos since those engines are making a comeback in the marketplace. But they would require different tires to work, and the spec tiresake that impossible. Love to hear more about your thoughts on those possibilities!

And i get to sit in my hotel room and read another excellent article on my favorite website. Bring on FP1

A fascinating read David. Some things I suspected, and plenty I hadn't realised. It's often forgotten that sport is entertainment; that's why despite two bad years, VR is still important to Dorna and everyone else who promotes. I haven't bought a Silverstone ticket for years which doesn't have his picture on the front of the wallet and his image on the website, they know who sells.

The bad thing for this sport is that the casual sports fan has never heard of Lorenzo, Stoner, Hayden or any of the others, but they've always heard of Rossi. In F1 most could name more than one driver (even me, and I can't stand F1).

Moto GP will not find another Rossi for years; Simoncelli's loss was surely a great one. They will have to accept that the revenue stream will fall, and adapt accordingly.

Thanks David. Fantastic piece. You gave us a global vision of the whole Rossi situation and really of the sport too. Mostly our posts and comments on the site tend to be opinions and very one-dimensional related to a specific topic, so its great that you feed us this holistic analysis with all the ramifications of Rossi's decision.

In all this somebody say a prayer for Philippo Preziosi. Till a couple of years he was being hailed as a design genius. Now he is the evil one who will not change and will stick to the Ducati DNA. Masao Furusawa called him a "real samurai" who did not mind sacrificing himself for Ducati. And Rossi has sacrificed many reputations of others to keep his intact. I have changed from being a Rossi fan to a Rossi disliker (I do not like the word hate) over the years. It is a nice article to read David, but if you read between your lines, you will see the true colours of MotoGP. It is stupid to call it a sport now. It is all show business and we know there is no business like show business. Valentino the clown will keep us all entertained while we naively believe that we are watching a sport where the best compete.

Another stellar article frm the inimitible David Emmett - thanks!

As other have said, tyres seem to be copping a lot of flack in the discussions on why bikes and riders are working well or otherwise. It has never been a glamourous subject but even the casual road rider can tell the difference between a horrible old tyre and a lovely new one. Maybe Motomatters could shed some light on the issue of racing tyres and the extent to which they dictate bike design by interviewing tyre manufacturers (Michelin as well as Bridgestone would be interesting) as well as teams, riders and well placed commentators of the sport.

Making tyres intersting is a big challenge but without a better understanding I feel that I (we?) are missing such a significant part of the MotoGP puzzle that it's impossible to understand the rest. As the leading website for the MotoGP connoisseur I can't think of a better forum for truly informative tyre article ...... please!

Yamaha's entry into the 4 stroke MotoGP era was misjudged.
It was corrected in 2004 with a stunning bike (which Rossi benefited from greatly).

So the hagiology about Rossi and his crew at the time is overplayed, given life by Rossi, his crew and large group of minders.

The winner will eventually be Casey Stoner and his chapter in GP history will be writ large. It may not be now, or the short term, but in the long game, it will be borne out.

He will join Freddie Spencer in a select and special group of two.

On a side note: I'm not a great fan of Loris Capirossi (post Harada incident) and I know his Ducatis were very different from those ridden by Stoner but I think his part in the Ducati story is underappreciated. If he hadn't been caught up in the accident in Barcelona in 2006 he might well have won the title.

Agreed. Ducati were on the right track with the GP6, just look at Bayliss' one off ride and victory at Valencia.

re: "Honda, in particular, has issued vague threats over leaving the series if they are pushed through before 2015, claiming they cannot afford to make more changes to their bikes so short after the last switch."

they can afford it, they just don't like somebody trying to tell them what to do... especially when it's BIG RED who's ultimately in the position of power.

I would love to see Honda leave this (currently) farce of a series.

It would be the wake up call that is apparently needed there with their lack of leadership and vision.

re: "Even Ducati benefit, returning to the role of underdog, of a small company battling against the Japanese giants"

that's right GIANTS who themselves can't afford to have a presence in 2 series simultaneously... :( yet tiny ducati (albeit VW owned, but selling only street bikes) is expected to persist doing this how...?

re: "and can focus on..."

...mothballing the GP kit ideally in exchange for developing the 1199. ie. one of the bikes if we recall, audi just spent $1.1 billion (that's BILLION with a "B") for the rights to manufacture and sell.

Audi also are buying Ducati's debt, rumoured to be at least $250million.

One thing about Ducati in WSBK, they only competed on an equal capacity in 2005 & 2006. Being small they also can homologate specials, whereas the giants are using their bread and butter (true production) bikes.

I just read a technical article on Ducati's journey from the Pantah to the 1199.
Ducati is a flawed company, or at least hangs onto flawed technology for the sake of difference;
-Desmo vs Air Springs,
-Trellis & Carbon vs Twin Spar,
-Twin vs Triple & Four,
-90 degree L vs Narrow Angle
-Single injectors vs Double injectors

At least we know why Ben Spies left so quick. He was trying to beat the door hitting him in the ass in this whole Rossi farce.

With all due respect to a 9 time WC; does anyone really believe he will be winning races next year? Of course you do. However, I recall him going 12 months or so without a win on the Yamaha before. I'm thinking he's going to do it again at the cost of shuffling out a talent like Spies.

Spies didn't fail this year, his Yamaha did. Repeatedly. Let's not forget this in our rush to put Mister Money on the yhamica.