Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Valentino Rossi's Options for the Future

It is ironic that the high point of the relationship between Valentino Rossi and Ducati came as he rode the first few meters out of pit lane and on to the track at the Valencia MotoGP test in November 2010. All of the excitement that had been building since the first rumors emerged in early June that the nine time world champion would be leaving Yamaha to join the iconic Italian manufacturer culminated as Rossi emerged from a crowd of photographers and powered down pit lane, watched by a large group of fans who had come to the test to see this very moment.

From that point on, it was all downhill. Within a few laps, it was clear that Rossi would struggle with this bike, and though everyone was putting a brave face on his performance, he left the test in 15th place, one-and-three-quarters of a second behind his ex-teammate Jorge Lorenzo, and 1.7 seconds behind Casey Stoner, the man whose bike he was now riding and who had left Ducati to join Honda. The contrast between the two could not be greater: where Stoner was bullying the Honda around as if he had been born on the RC212V, Rossi - handicapped in part by his still-injured shoulder - looked like a frightened rookie, thoroughly intimidated by the bike.

Rossi learned two important but disturbing things at that test: the first was that the Ducati was a much, much worse bike than he had expected. Stoner's brilliance and the genius of his crew chief Cristian Gabbarini had flattered the machine, disguising its massive weakness. The second was that Casey Stoner had to be a much, much better rider than he thought if the Australian had managed to be competitive on the bike that had so shaken Rossi's confidence. Throughout the year, as Rossi struggled, he was forced to answer the same question over and over again. Why could he, the man with nine world titles and widely regarded as one of the greatest racers of all time, not be competitive on the bike that Stoner had won three races on the previous season, and put on the podium at Valencia before handing it over to Rossi? "Casey rode this bike in a special way," Rossi answered every time. "I cannot ride this bike like that."

Understanding that Stoner could be so competitive on the Ducati must have been a blow to Rossi's confidence and his self image. After their legendary and heart-stopping duel at Laguna Seca, Rossi had felt he had the measure of the Australian, beating Stoner more often than not and taking the 2008 and 2009 titles. Once he realized that throughout that period, Stoner had been bringing a knife to a gunfight and still regularly beating him - even after the introduction of the spec tire - Rossi must have asked questions of his own ability.

Ducati, Development and the Future

From Valencia onwards, Rossi looked to his track record of developing bikes. Together with his legendary crew chief Jerry Burgess, The Doctor worked at providing the feedback and input to Ducati that would help them turn the bike around. That, surely, was where Casey Stoner had fallen short, in not developing the Ducati in the right direction to make it competitive. And that was one of the reasons that Rossi had been hired, to help create a machine that could be competitive in the hands of more riders. At Qatar in 2011, one of Rossi's mechanics expressed the commonly-held opinion that this was the key problem at Ducati, that Stoner did not have the skills to develop a bike that was easier to ride.

Qatar 2012. After three chassis for the 800cc machine and two for the 1000cc bike, Rossi finds himself only a little better off than at the start of the process. The latest iteration of the GP12 - the bike completely redesigned from the ground up between the Valencia test in 2011 and Sepang in 2012 - does at least respond to setup changes in a way that previous Ducatis never have, but the core of the problem remains: a lack of feel from the front end, and a tendency to run wide in the corners. The bike is better, but it still has the fundamental flaws that the Desmosedici has had in every iteration since its inception. Despite all of the testing Rossi has done, despite all of the feedback he has given Ducati, real change is yet to come.

And so Valentino Rossi learned a second important but disturbing lesson: The state the Ducati was in when he inherited from Casey Stoner had nothing to do with the Australian's development skills, and everything to do with Ducati's attitude. Whether Stoner can develop a bike or not is unknown, for his input was either ignored or misinterpreted at Ducati. That was one of the reasons that Stoner himself had cited for leaving the factory. "I asked Ducati so often for changes," Stoner told the press after he had joined HRC, "But we never got them. The bike we started the season on was what we had to work with all year."

Ducati would disagree with that statement. One Ducati spokesperson impressed upon me in 2010 just how hard Ducati were working. "We've given Casey many things this season. New forks, new triple clamps, many things." That season, Honda worked their way through five different chassis in an eventually successful attempt to cure a chronic stability problem.

How To Say Goodbye

Return to Qatar 2012, and Valentino Rossi's outburst on Italian TV - though watching the video, it was as polite and as measured as all of his responses have been since joining the Italian marque - that Ducati had not given him the bike that he wanted, and that he simply could not be competitive on the machine he had to work with. His frustration was apparent, saying that he had considered pulling in, but had continued out of respect for his mechanics and crew. Hope had died in 2011, he said. "Ducati did not follow the direction I have tried to steer them in. I am not an engineer, and I cannot solve every problem."

In the days that followed, a string of rumors emerged. Sightings of Rossi's friend and confidant Alessio 'Uccio' Salucci talking to Phillip Morris boss Maurizio Arrivabene had the press abuzz with rumors of Rossi wanting an early exit to his Ducati contract. Talk had already emerged of a Coca Cola-backed satellite Yamaha for 2013 even before qualifying had started for the 2012 MotoGP season opener. One Spanish source even went so far as to report that Rossi would not finish the season with Ducati, and would take a sabbatical this season, to return to try again on a Japanese bike in 2013. Ducati CEO Gabriele del Torchio was quick to step in and dampen suggestions that the Bologna factory and Rossi were heading for an early divorce, and at Monza, where Rossi was racing a Ferrari in the exclusive Blancpain Endurance Series, the Italian himself told a comic TV show that he would not be going anywhere, and would be trying to make the relationship work.

A divorce before the end of the season seems unlikely, however. Rossi's contract is with Ducati via Phillip Morris, and the tobacco giant's legal team handling sports and sponsorship is notorious for writing watertight legal documents. The chances of Rossi getting out of the contract without suffering major financial consequences are nonexistent. Not only would the Italian have to forfeit his salary for this year, but penalty clauses for damages would probably also put a sizable dent in Rossi's personal fortune. An early exit would damage all three parties: Rossi, for giving up on the contract so early in the season; Ducati, for failing to give a proven champion a winning bike; and Marlboro, for backing a losing combination, and being associated with failure.

Whither Valentino?

So if there is to be no early exit for Rossi, just what are the nine-time World Champion's options for the future? Speculation has been running rife since last week, and given that almost every rider in MotoGP is out of contract at the end of 2012, the possibilities for 2013 seem endless. And yet it may not be as simple as it at first appears, with Rossi's long history in the sport making the situation more, rather than less complicated.

With the contracts of the factory riders up for renewal at the end of 2012, the most obvious step - to his many fans, at least - is for Rossi to be offered a seat at either Repsol Honda or Factory Yamaha. Rossi's strong form at the end of 2010, winning in Sepang despite suffering with a shoulder injury, would suggest that at the very least, he would still be competitive. But that very competitiveness could well be an obstacle, rather than a benefit. Both HRC and Yamaha have bet their immediate futures on the success of their younger champions Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo. Both men have proved in the past that they are capable of beating Rossi, a natural result of their having grown up knowing that he is the man they would have to beat if they had any aspirations of becoming World Champion. At the moment, Stoner and Lorenzo are arguably better and faster riders than Rossi, and on equal machinery, the Italian would have his hands full trying to beat them.

That only weakens Rossi's case for a factory seat. No doubt that Rossi on a factory Honda or Yamaha could run with Stoner and Lorenzo, but the most likely scenario is that he would end up taking points off his factory teammate rather than challenging for the title himself. Rossi could well end up being decisive in a championship race, the danger being that he prevents his teammate from becoming champion, allowing a rival to take the crown. Viewed from the perspective of HRC or Yamaha Racing, Rossi offers more risks than he does rewards.

Then there's the personal factor. Neither Honda nor Yamaha were particularly overjoyed to see Rossi leave, and there is still some resistance to welcoming him back into the fold. Even if the management were interested in signing Rossi, they would then have to face the objections of their current number 1 riders, with Jorge Lorenzo's memories of having Rossi as a teammate far from happy, and Stoner and Rossi locked into one of the bitterest rivalries since Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey in the early 1990s. Neither Stoner nor Lorenzo would happily accept Rossi as a teammate, probably preferring to have each other as teammates over Rossi.

The Satellite Option

That leaves a satellite bike, but here too, there are complications. The most obvious place for Rossi to end up would be with Herve Poncharal's Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad, but here again, Yamaha may decide to veto such a move. Rossi could be more of a risk in a satellite squad than in the factory team, as the difference in spec between the factory and the satellite machines would make it even more likely that Rossi could end up splitting the points. On a bike that is slightly inferior to the factory bikes, Rossi would struggle to win races, though podiums might be possible. Winning would take points from both Stoner and Lorenzo, while a podium could see him behind Stoner but ahead of Lorenzo, making Lorenzo's title assault even more difficult.

A private team with a Yamaha would face even more complications, as Tech 3 have a contract with Yamaha to run two M1s in 2013. Yamaha have long made it clear that they are unable to supply more than two factory bikes and two satellite machines, and so expanding to field a fifth bike would be complicated and expensive, unless Rossi could find a sponsor willing to pay well beyond the normal lease price for a Yamaha M1. Though Rossi's commercial marketability remains as high as ever - more about that later - the price Yamaha might ask would be pushing the bounds of value for money.

A more logical place for Rossi to try might be the Gresini Honda squad. Gresini needs an Italian rider to keep his sponsor, Italian snack manufacturer San Carlo, happy, and no doubt they would be elated to have Rossi. So much so, in fact, that Gresini might even be able to afford to run two prototype bikes again.

Increasing the number of satellite bikes it runs is much easier for Honda to achieve than it is for Yamaha. Just last year, HRC supplied a total of 6 bikes, a number which for a variety of reasons has been reduced to 4. Expanding that number would be possible, allowing Rossi to even consider the option of running a private team for himself, allowing him to more easily bring his crew along with him.

But the problem would remain of whether Honda, like Yamaha, would be willing to lease Rossi a satellite bike. Rossi on a Honda would merely be complicating the title race for Casey Stoner, the man that HRC have staked their immediate future on. What's more, Rossi could also divert resources away from Marc Marquez, the next young rider being coached to take his place in the HRC hierarchy. Marquez, if he lives up to the promise he has so far shown, looks set to become the next alien to join the MotoGP field, and with Stoner likely to start looking at retirement in another three seasons or so, the young Spaniard is being groomed to replace the Australian as Honda's #1 rider.

Even ignoring the difficulties of persuading either Honda or Yamaha to give him a satellite ride, the question is whether Rossi himself would want to race a satellite bike. Though he would undoubtedly immediately be much faster on a satellite Yamaha than he currently is on the Ducati, a satellite M1 would still be different enough from the factory bikes to make it hard for him to win races. To illustrate the problems of racing on a satellite bike: last year at Qatar, on board a factory Honda, Andrea Doviziosi finished just over 5 seconds behind the winner, Casey Stoner. In 2012, this time on a satellite Yamaha, Dovizioso crossed the line over 17 seconds after the winner Jorge Lorenzo. Even taking into account the difference between Rossi and Dovizioso as riders, and Rossi's greater experience with the behavior of the Yamaha, that is a huge gap to overcome, and indicative of the difference that is in the bike. A satellite machine may make it easier for Rossi to get nearer the podium, but it is not a guarantee of being able to fight for wins. In that respect, taking a satellite ride may not necessarily work out that much better than staying with Ducati.

Commercial Realities

But what of Rossi's selling power? Is his massive commercial value not enough to ensure that he gets the bike that he wants? This is in itself an interesting question, and adds several complications of its own. Would signing for Yamaha or Honda help a factory shift more bikes in their target markets? It seems safe to assume that it would, though the benefit gained is likely to be smaller for Yamaha than it would be for Honda. Rossi is still closely associated with Yamaha in the minds of the fans, the Japanese company still profiting from the afterglow of Rossi's legendary time with the factory. Rossi might be of more commercial value to Honda, but as discussed before, that would risk Casey Stoner leaving, taking with him perhaps the best chance Honda has of another championship.

The party with the real power to put Rossi where he wants to be is surely Dorna. MotoGP's commercial rights holder has been riding the Rossi money train ever since the Italian joined the premier class, and has benefited massively from the marketing tsunami that Rossi has been. Surely it is both in Dorna's interests and within their power to make sure Rossi gets a competitive ride?

Up until the end of last year, that was undoubtedly true. But in a twist of irony, with the lapsing of the contract granting the manufacturers a monopoly on the technical regulations, Dorna also lost some of its grip over the factories. Before, Dorna and the MSMA had a simple bargain: the factories got the rules they wanted, while Dorna was left to handle the commercial exploitation of the series. Dorna did not complain about technical regulations - no matter how much they might object to them - while the factories that made up the MSMA were willing to go along with Dorna requests to place riders when commercial realities demanded it.

But after seeing the MSMA lead MotoGP down the road to ruin through a series of disastrous technical rule changes, including the switch to the much-despised 800cc formula, and then seeing individual manufacturers scale back their involvement and pull out of the series, Dorna has taken the rules into their own hands. Technical regulations are now being drawn up in conjunction with the FIM and IRTA with the sole aim of making the series more affordable and filling out the grids once again. The role of the factories has been reduced to more of an advisory role, their input on rule changes now subject to bargaining rather than being adopted without argument as it was before.

What this means is that Dorna's requests are now also subject to the same bargaining. Where previously, the two parties had an (almost) unspoken arrangement, now each move and request must be bartered over. If Dorna wanted to put Rossi on a satellite Yamaha - or even a factory Honda - then Dorna will have to give up on some of the technical rules they have been hoping to push through to make the series cheaper and the racing more entertaining. That leaves Dorna facing a painful and difficult dilemma.

Facing the Future, Long-Term vs Short-Term

Here, too, Rossi's age is starting to work against him: Dorna have been preparing for Rossi's retirement for several years now, as the Italian has talked about leaving the series consistently the last couple of times his contract has been renewed. With the goose that has laid so many golden eggs for them on the verge of quitting, Dorna have realized that they need to put something in place to compensate. Although they will never be able to replace a global superstar of the stature of Rossi, their plan for limiting the financial damage that Rossi's departure would undoubtedly do the series is to try to bring back the exciting racing seen in the past, to create a more stable commercial base. By jumping on the Rossi bandwagon - the Italian is truly a global star known far outside the world of motorcycle racing, a once-in-a-generation phenomenon - Dorna ended up with too many of their eggs in one basket, and now they face paying the price. Their new strategy is to try to create closer, more exciting racing, and reduce the importance of a single individual to the series. The riders will always be the stars, but having great racing ensures the long-term commercial stability of the series as riders come and go, as they inevitably do.

And here is Dorna's delicate dilemma: by forcing either Honda or Yamaha to provide Rossi with a competitive bike, they will have secured the commercial success of MotoGP for the next couple of seasons, until Rossi retires and leaves, as he surely must one day. However, if the price that Dorna has to pay is to offer too many technical concessions to the factories that the satellite and CRT teams are left without a chance of being competitive, and the processional racing that has characterized the series under the rules drawn up by the MSMA continues, then they could end up saving the series in the short term, only to see it wither and die once Rossi leaves, with nothing to take his place.

Should He Stay or Should He Go?

Overall, Rossi's best hope may actually lie in staying with Ducati. Right now, he is clearly not competitive, and the bike obviously still needs a lot of work. But a large part of Rossi's claim to greatness is built on his reputation as someone who can develop a bike, helped in no small part by his legendary crew chief Jerry Burgess. If Rossi leaves without making the bike competitive, then his legacy will be tarnished, despite much of the blame being attached to Ducati. Failing to turn the Ducati around will leave a stain on his reputation and that of Burgess.

Some seeds of doubt are already being planted. Though the M1 campaigned by Alex Barros and Olivier Jacque did not win a single race, Barros had a significant input on the bike that Rossi inherited. Masao Furusawa had already built a completely new bike for Rossi's arrival, and the Italian's role was not so much development as correctly identifying the bike that Furusawa had expected to be best. While Rossi and Burgess have received much of the credit for developing the Yamaha M1 that Rossi would go on to win the championship on, that view underestimates the massive role that Furusawa played in understanding the weaknesses of the bike and improving it, before Burgess and Rossi got their hands on the bike to tweak it.

Now, at Ducati, after a total of five frames and two engines, the bike is still suffering, and the magic that everyone expected from Rossi and Burgess is failing to appear. Much of the problems seem to stem from a fundamental misunderstanding between the rider, his crew, and Ducati's engineers. Once that miscommunication is cleared up, then Rossi can try to prove that his reputation as a good bike developer is deserved, and not just down to being in the right place at the right time.

Two Sides To Every Story

But Ducati, too, need Rossi to do well. They could afford to ignore the input of the riders while Casey Stoner kept on winning on the bike. They could afford to send Marco Melandri to a psychologist, instead of listening to his complaints about the bike. Now, with Stoner gone, and the man who was supposed to be able to ride everything failing so spectacularly, it has become clear to everyone, including Ducati's engineers, that this situation cannot continue. If they do not produce a competitive bike, there is more at stake than just the reputation of Valentino Rossi, the continuation of Ducati's MotoGP program is at risk.

Ducati's MotoGP project has only been possible thanks to the willingness of Phillip Morris, who continue to fund the lion's share of the Bologna factory's budget - paddock rumor suggests that the amount is in the region of 25 million euros - to promote Marlboro. The tobacco giant has stayed faithful to Ducati, despite ever-tighter rules on tobacco sponsorship and advertising, with just the red-and-white color scheme remaining to tie the Marlboro brand identity to Ducati's MotoGP team. The question remains how much success Phillip Morris feels it needs from Ducati, but they will surely be demanding more than the team is currently providing. Having Rossi failing so badly on the bike is bad for everyone's image, including their tobacco sponsors.

With Ducati rumored to have already massively overrun their budget this year - perhaps by as much as 20% - the Borgo Panigale factory needs to start producing results. The GP12 suffers from two major problems: firstly, though the engine has been rolled back to reposition it, it is still a 90° V, and as I wrote in August of last year, such a wide angle between the cylinder banks makes mass centralization nearly impossible, and makes packaging the engine extremely difficult; and secondly, the power delivery is too aggressive - Valentino Rossi joked that the bike had "a lion under the fairing" at Qatar - making it more difficult to control.

A New Hope?

But there are reasons to believe that this situation could change relatively quickly. Much speculation has centered on the new parts that Ducati are expected to be introducing "after three or four races," widely expected to be some new chassis parts. While Rossi and Hayden are very likely to be given a new swingarm at either Jerez or Estoril, the big change could come at the tests after the Portuguese round of MotoGP. All the signs point to Ducati bringing a new engine to test there, and that could turn out to be radically different from the one they are currently using. The engine currently in use is basically the same as the original 2012 1000cc engine, designed to be a load-bearing part of the chassis. The rumored new engine will be much lighter, as it has been designed from the ground up to be used in the aluminium twin spar chassis, rather than the original carbon fiber monocoque subframe, and so is substantially less rigid than the current unit. There are also signs that the engine angle could finally be changed, with some sources hinting that the new engine will be a 75° V. Just how reliable these sources are is yet to be proven - guesses based on glimpses of engines may be the result of an optical illusion rather than the actual engine layout. But a new engine layout would radically transform the handling of the bike.

The other hope could come as a result of the proposed rule changes for 2013 and onwards. It now seems certain that a rev limit will be put in place for next year, with 15,000 rpm the most likely candidate. Such a limit would change the nature of the bikes, and probably impact Ducati hardest. However, given that the Ducati's problem is its excess of horsepower and the way it delivers that to the rear tire. A rev limit would force Ducati to work on mid-range torque rather than extracting maximum horsepower, and make the bike more rideable. That would answer one of Rossi's key complaints about the Ducati, and if a revised engine improved the handling as is expected, Ducati's fortunes could be turned around fairly quickly.

Whether that will be enough remains to be seen. No matter how good the bike is, Valentino Rossi faces two riders who grew up knowing that they had him to beat if they were ever to be champions themselves. He was the target they aimed for, and both Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner have hit, and arguably surpassed, that target. Even if Ducati do fix the GP12, then Lorenzo and Stoner are going to be hard to get wins against, and impossible to take the title from.

With the chances of a satellite ride very limited, and a factory Honda or Yamaha seat out of the question, Rossi's best hope of a competitive ride in MotoGP is to help Ducati turn the Desmosedici around, and create a bike which is easier to ride and offers better feel at the front end. His reputation - and the reputation of Jerry Burgess and the rest of his crew - depends on him fixing the Ducati, and it is the fastest track the nine-times World Champion has to success in MotoGP if he is to remain in racing.

Of course, Rossi's success depends to a major extent on the willingness of Ducati to make the changes he has asked for. That, for so many years, has been the sticking point, but the Bologna factory is now starting to reach breaking point. If Rossi does not start to score podiums and challenge for wins on the bike, their MotoGP project will be in danger. If they have any ambition of continuing in the series, they have to build a bike that a rider like Rossi can win on. Despite what his detractors say - and over the past 18 months, his detractors have become even more tiresome than his fans ever were - Valentino Rossi still has seven premier class titles to his name, as well holding the record for premier class wins. It is reasonable to expect Rossi to at least be fighting for podiums, and so to see him nearly a second a lap slower than his rivals is a signal that the bike is at least part of the problem. Given Rossi's renowned grasp of paddock politics and his media savvy, his outburst on Italian TV was almost certainly calculated to put maximum pressure on Ducati to make the changes that he wants.

They Can Work It Out

Like the children of two royal families pledged to be wed, Valentino Rossi and Ducati are condemned to one another. They can either try to make the marriage work and their empire a success, or they can fail and fall bickering to their doom. If Ducati does not build a competitive bike, and Rossi does not commit to riding it the way it needs to be ridden, then both are likely to disappear from the GP scene, both with serious stains on their reputations. Though the wedding between Rossi and Ducati was the high point of the MotoGP year, it has proven to be a marriage of inconvenience for both parties. They need to make it work, and quickly.

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Great article David!

Rossi and JB are The Untouchables and no matter what happens, it will be Ducati's fault.

One other option, probably fanciful but fun to mull over. The factory Suzuki team returns in 2013 with one K. Schwantz in charge and VR46 on board the no.1 bike. Admittedly this is a highly unlikely scenario but one full of evocative possibilities. Wouldn’t that be something to see?!

Just the sort of terrific analysis I have come to expect.

Complicated place, the MotoGP paddock. Machiavelli would have been right at home.

Bloody good article David, thank you.

I agree completely, this mess says a lot about both parties. The hubris that Rossi and JB showed is dwarfed by the Ducati's hubris over the length of their GP project, breaking many a great rider. I certainly have new respect for Nicky Hayden for being strong enough to deal with it. I hope his boat rises with the tide too.

I don't completely agree:
Looking at Hayden's improved performance and listening to his comments about the bike this year I get the strong impression that Ducati has worked their heart out to give their riders the best possible package.

Also that ducati uses an aluminium frame was a major concession from them as they were always proud to point out that they're fast because of their traditional values as well as new unique solutions.

Now it seems that they're about to try to recreate the M1 with a Honda engine. If they change the angle of the cylinder banks than only the desmodromic is left from their heritage.

I also disagree that a satellite Yamaha or Honda is an option for Rossi: first, I have the impression that there was a lot of broken glass when Rossi left both factories. When you read year 2007 comments from Rossi that he made about his bike and Yamaha one might even question themselves why Yamaha didn't quit the contract with Rossi earlier. My impression was that Yamaha accepted Rossi's bold demands because he was the only option to success. But in 2010 it was clear to them that he wasn't the only option anymore and they accepted the break up. Today they know they don't have to accept the flamboyant lifestyle of a celebrity racer within their ranks when they can have success with Lorenzo, Pedrosa or Stoner. Why would they want to swallow the special treatment and salary from Rossi when they don't need it to succeed?

And for Rossi - I don't see how he could motivate himself to take a satelite ride in order to get 4th (behind Lorenzo, Stoner and Pedrosa) or the occasional podium once one of the 3 younger aliens drops it. I still have the impression that Rossi believes he is the GOAT. For me this is dilusional but apparently not for him, so nothing else but the best bike on the grid has to be good enough for him, and nothing else but fighting for the world title.

For me Rossi put himself in this situation where he is now, he bullied his competitors and his employees and always got what he wanted, he could demand things that others couldn't even dream of because he had success
Now fortuna has parted from his side but it seems to me he still expects the world to spin around him.

The difficult situation Rossi's in could have been the trigger point for a catharsis, e.g. he could have come to the conclusion that he made some pretty bad comments about other racers, disrespected them and their teams and could offer an appology. Rossi could use this difficult time to become a refined personality, a true gentleman sportsman.

But I don't see this happening, I don't see him bettering his character, all I can see is this ending like a greek drama ...

Have to agree. I can see no signs that his ego has adjusted to match the Ducati's more modest capabilities. Karma is offering up a large helping of Humble Pie.... and it's never a good idea to decline her generous gifts. Until Rossi willingly partakes, 'The beatings will continue until morale improves.'

Writing that must have felt similar to calculating 100 factorial with nothing but a pencil & paper... Well done sir!

But I do take umbrage with the following: "Despite what his detractors say - and over the past 18 months, his detractors have become even more tiresome than his fans ever were - Valentino Rossi still has seven premier class titles to his name, as well holding the record for premier class wins." The current detractors are no match for fanatical Rossi fans at his height. This from someone who rooted against (@Honda), then for (@Yamaha), and now is simply a sort of neutral observer.

No one will ever be able to explain to me what marketing value Marlboro get for THAT much money. However, that's not important for us here.... Anyway, Rossi is in quite a pickle, I think he's just going to have to fix what he's got, or what's coming down the pipe in the near future. Will be fascinating to watch it unfold no matter what happens.

Excellent article, David, as always. I agree Rossi and Ducati staying together is a longshot for a happy ending, but it is still the best option for each!

One comment about the new engine. "The rumored new engine will be much lighter, as it has been designed from the ground up to be used in the aluminium twin spar chassis, rather than the original carbon fiber monocoque subframe, and so is substantially less rigid than the current unit." This is no doubt true but I would think not affect performance much unless they are over the minimum weight for the bike now. The engine is already pretty much in the center of the bike. It may give them more flexibility to move the weight front to rear.

The 75deg V gives different packaging options, but again it is not clear they are at the limit of any particular adjustment now; the swingarm attaches to the cases so the angle of the cylinders won't change the swingarm length.

What is the silver bullet? There seldom is one! I am sure that is the frustration. It would be easier if the bike was clearly bad at one thing - say, braking - and all the riders were slow. Typically, you have to spiral in on performance...improve braking and then traction is the biggest problem, improve that, and corner grip seems weak. You have to continuously improve everything to inch closer to the front. So does Ducati have the will to attack the problems? Probably. The money? Maybe. The time? Gulp. Are the others standing still? Nope.

Rossi and Ducati need to be their most trusting and constructive to move forward. They need to play to their advantages: they are a small company. The are based in Europe. They share a lot of culture and language. They should communicate well, have a tight feedback loop, and be able to act more quickly. They have lots of experience, collectively.

They just might be able to catch up.

The 90 degree angle may be a problem. It may be a very big problem. But I'd wager it's not their only problem. They're not gonna change one thing and have everything else fall into place. There are so many interdependent variables that it'll be a serious exercise in alchemy to find the right formula.

Commercial viability,Rossi gets a Yes. The NO. This bloke has singlehandedly shredded Ducati.
Give him anything other than an L-4 and he will still be club 30+. Interpret that as seconds on race day or years in terms of a calender.
Marlboro! What do you blokes smoke these days ?
The situation has become intolerable at Ducati. Rossi racing sports cars whilst Nick has to test components for Rossi to deem fit for a race weekend.
David. Thanks for the article. You know, I know,Dorna know,the honeymoon was over as early as Valencia testing 2010.
Rossi was a legend and Hero to many. The Anti-Hero's have eaten him up for breakfast and he knows it.
Equipped with the best kit over the years,he was no doubt IT.
All respect to George and Casey.
Witherto for Rossi ?
I suggest a visit to a 'shrink'. Clearly he can still race a bike. Clearly he's scared of it. Clearly Philip Morris and Ducati have to move fast. Has Audi bought Ducati out. Doubt it. The Rossi/Corse issue is no doubt a bone of contention.

My impression was Nicky was allowed the test time because he missed some tests over the winter. That is, allowed by FIM (or Dorna?) officials. I don't think Rossi can test even if he wanted to.

"The American is to make up for the time he lost over the winter, after injuring himself first at Valencia, and then riding indoor flat track at home in Kentucky. Those injuries limited Hayden's time working on the set up of his GP12 at the Sepang tests, and so the American is to spend the next two days concentrating on making up for lost time."

The only testing limit is the tire allocation for each factory, whether the official tester, his great aunt or the official riders are on the bike is not relevant anymore.
Rossi could very well be testing alongside Hayden if he and Ducati thought it could be useful.

Won't someone please think of Aprillia?

A long shot but, as I remember something which Rossi discussed years ago was a return to the marque which started his career!

Is it far fetched, or a real possibility that Aprillia could build a prototype which is capable of running at the front? It would certainly make a romantic dream exit to an historic racing career!

Of course than Rossi enjoy the sucess on Aprilia but now, the factory are more happy in SBK with the corsair, also Rossi and biaggi in GP didnt ended in a good friendship, so Alot of calls from the corsair to ruin his try in Aprilia if rossi wants to return.

Also Aprilia have their priorities like Updating the Arts, improve the RSV4, Focusing their resources to fight against Ducati in WSBK and also trying to maintain biaggi happy.

Biaggi would say something like this "¿!Rossi using Aprilia?! ¡Over my dead Body!"

...Mr. Burgess where he rates his "80/20" rule these days.  He opened it up to moderation a few years ago, but this must be painful.

At the end of 2003, before he knew that he would be going to Yamaha with Rossi, he was said to be excited about the prospect of working with Hayden.  It seems to me he has, in at least a few respects, an ideal scenario available to him.  But it also appears this has not come to fruition as it should.

Does Rossi inhibit Burgess from working with Hayden, or does someone within Ducati?  Or, conversely, is Hayden's apparent return to form evidence that JB is, indeed, making inroads?

From my remote location, it seems to me someone should be making the case that they (JB, VR, and NH) may all succeed the most when working - and negotiating contracts - as a group.

Hayden has his own crew chief, Juan Martinez, and that's all there is to it.

The only job Burgess has is delivering the fastest package to Vale.

"Brave men rejoice in adversity, just as brave soldiers triumph in war."
Lucius Annaeus Seneca

"Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it. "

"Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records. "
William Arthur Ward

"Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters."
Victor Hugo

"The bravest sight in the world is to see a great man struggling against adversity. "
Lucius Annaeus Seneca


I am a huge Rossi fan, having marveled over his genius for all these years. But he never really has faced adversity, the worst was breaking his leg, which by the way gave him a convenient excuse in a year when he was likely to be beaten straight up by Lorenzo.

As a Rossi fan, I would take great joy in seeing him suffer for a couple years and then win another championship. More joy, in fact, than had he just turned another Yamaha feat and started winning on the Duc from day 1.

Let's see what he is really made of...let's see him persevere through real adversity...let's see him come back from this and win again...or maybe he is not as great as we all thought. Hmmm.....

I am thoroughly enjoying this, especially when watching Stoner wheel a bike is so damned awesome and entertaining...and Rossi gets to watch and taste it every race (and I don't even like Stoner). Best reality tv show ever! :)

Go Vale!!

"let's see him come back from this and win again...or maybe he is not as great as we all thought. Hmmm....."

Oh Max! Stop trolling around pretending to be a Rossi fan. Go back to WSBK... shoo... go on.

'' "Despite what his detractors say - and over the past 18 months, his detractors have become even more tiresome than his fans ever were -"

I agree with krka 1073's comments in a post above about taking umbrage with that comment. There is nothing more tiresome than a yellow brigade fanatic stating that Rossi is just making the bike easier to ride for all riders and that is why it's taking time. Good God, give me a break.

Or last year yellow brigadeites stating that Rossi was/is fater than Stoner on the bike the previous year. What gall and what a clueless remark that was.

And then there's the comments after the pole positons have been decided and our yellow brigade leader ends up on the fith row or worse and they say he's 'sandbagging'.

Or now we hear how after the updates in ??? May? June? July? he will smoke 'em in the rest of the races.

I enjoyed the season last year and seems this years even going to be better. Ref the Ducati saga.

By the way yellow brigade........if Rossi rode for Ducati in 2007 he would have won zip races. None. Nadda. Have a good day.

I won't even mention how all the fans of " its the carbon frame that's the problem" got it all wrong. There was zip wrong using a carbon frame. None.

...was what I actually expected to see aproached, and focused on, with more depth in this article (speculations, possibilities and whatsoever).
This business with VAG (or FIAT?) could have a much bigger importance to the MotoGP project of Ducati than initially supposed.

According to some rumours, Ducati have already finished the budget. AFAIK, there can’t be an all new engine without breaking the budget.
This could also explain two things... one, the reported delay of new parts (to be expected after Estoril?) and, two, the possible expression of tension from Rossi (also tired of waiting?), seeing how the development of the bike is not going anywhere as optimal, as somewhat unexpected (as said, possibly due to financial/budget limitations?).

The Desmosedici is currently using an updated engine based on the same design of previous gen, itself made to work as part of the chassis (frameless design). Such bulkiness and strenght (and weight!) in engine cases/walls is no longer required, as they now have a "propper" chassis where they can locate/rotate the engine.
One can guess now how and why the weight limit noticing gone up abruptly at last minute (+7 KGs)!

So... the project for the 2012 prototype is somewhat incomplete.

The thing that causes me most confusion is how didn't Ducati planned this better??
And Rossi, for someone that said once that he would never join Ducati because they're far more rigid than Honda, how in heavens could he hope to see them going like Yamaha or Honda, and take back his past decision?
More to the point, not only the mentalities/cultures may differ, Ducati is far, far smaller than those two.

..."what a load of spagheti bolognese!!" HEH

As personal opinion, and results apart, I do not think the current gen of MotoGP bikes is any good for Rossi (and some other guys in that grid). The guy was great and transpired "fun" with his riding on the NSR 500cc, on the 990cc Honda RCV211v and Yamaha M1. Anyone (fan or not) could see Rossi was enjoying it and definitely having fun riding those, even when not winning.
From memory, I remember his confession that the "fun ride" days ended with the first 800cc tests (late 2006).
We know these new 1000cc MotoGP are, pretty much, updated and glorified 800cc MotoGP machines (same but with steroids, CRT bikes apart), the "schools" of riding are different, better fitted to Stoner, Lorenzo and Co, who never knew what is 200+HP without traction control and anti-wheelie, on a GP racebike.

I actually would prefer to see the guy going to WSBK (even if those are already dumbed with electronics as well). I do not think it would be a disrespect to the fans, much less a "loser atitude" from Rossi. It's recognizing the reality and having him looking somewhere else where he, almost surely, would find enjoyment in riding once again, with some more years of great racing. More so than MotoGP, IMHO.

PS: pardon for the big wall of text!

Traction control has been around since the NSR500 days so Valentino hasn't ridden a premier class bike without the aid of traction control either..I remember Doohan talking about testing it.

Given that most knowledgable fans of the sport understand that Casey runs far less TC than anyone else so he can steer the bike through spinning the rear I'm not sure your argument holds any water. When I consider that Ducati dropped the screamer engine, that Casey won the title on, to make the bike easier to ride for Hayden and that Casey runs minimal TC I'd suggest that if we removed all of the electronics Casey would still win. All the riders who've looked at his data talk about his amazing throttle control, which further strengthens that position.

Anyway .. as you were!

Sorry, I don't recall any traction control being introduced before the 4 strokes second season (Honda was the first to introduced it, in 2003 on the RCV211v). ...which means, that yes, Rossi not only raced with "no silly gadgets" GP bikes, he actually won on them.
Not saying it's impossible it happened with 500cc GP, but it seems really difficult to have it couple seasons earlier on the NSR 500cc and not on the early RCV211v that came after....
If I'm wrong, I would definitely like to see facts to back that, out of curiosity.

But then, even if I was, there was certainly no wheelie-control on the 500cc or the first years of 990cc.
Now, that rider-assistance gadget was widely used at the time Stoner and Pedrosa (2006), then Lorenzo (2008), got in the premier series.
It's the "pin it down" (as KRJr say) generation.
All the riders who've looked at the data of Stoner, Lorenzo & Co. can only do as you do - imagine and debate on the "what if's" and the "perhaps" of 500cc and early 990cc GP bikes, and wonder what they could do on those.
Nobody is racing those now, are they? :-)

Sure, we will never know. But I really wonder why some are so sure that Stoner, of all people, would not be competitive on a 500 stroker. Peaky, pesky engines, bucking and weaving old skool frames, no traction control, the need for the most subtle throttle hand... he would feel right at home.

But electronic engine management was introduced in the 1990s to flatten out the power delivery. Doohan had this to say on his return to the "screamer" nsr500 in 1994

“Well, why don’t we go back to what we had a few years ago, but now with the electronics we have – not that we had any traction control or anything like that – and the way that the engine had developed, maybe it would be a little bit more forgiving, and that’s exactly what it was."

The earlier 500ccs i think had a deserved reputation for being brutal beasts that threw their rider off at every opportunity. But they had been much tamed by the late 90s. Personally I think Stoner would do very well on one, his throttle control is by all accounts extremely precise which is exactly what's needed.

Way off topic and definitely into the camp of the subjective, but I'm game...

Google search "Eddie Lawson Cagiva" for videos. That's one of the rare video footage available (for now) that might show you a little about what is throtle control mastery. On a propper, raw and crude, "free of gizmos" GP bike.

While anyone agrees Stoner has phenomenal throttle control (for this day and age), the electronic rider-assistance devices have always been there to keep the highsides for him. Always. Be it in small or big ammounts, it doesn't matter. The fact is those have been always there for him, still are and it won't change anytime soon.

Wasn't it Doohan that said that J.P.Ruggia hung off the bike too much to maintain proper control of the motorcycle?
I see a very similar pattern of style from Stoner ever since the 250cc days, through the Ducati days and now with Honda. Pretty similar stuff can be said, to some extent, of Lorenzo or Pedrosa.
Nicky Hayden would have been interesting to see back then on 500cc GP, either on screamer or big-bang engines, 16.5'' or 17'' tyres.

It's all completely irrelevant of course, with the point being Stoner, Pedrosa & Co. have been building a career on modern GP machinery.
Rossi's achievements on such contrasting type of GP machinery are irrefutable, written in history, for anyone to see. Perhaps that's what makes the orange brigade tick to the wrong side?

"While anyone agrees Stoner has phenomenal throttle control (for this day and age), the electronic rider-assistance devices have always been there to keep the highsides for him. Always. Be it in small or big ammounts, it doesn't matter. The fact is those have been always there for him, still are and it won't change anytime soon."

Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa all raced and won on 125 and 250 GP bikes, and they don't have traction control. Ever seen a 250 highside? It's no less a disaster for the rider than a 500 highside.

And if you look at lap and racetimes for their wins, they are directly comparable - if not better - than the lap and race times achieved in those classes by Rossi and other pre-TC racers.

So postulating that the current generation of top shelf riders would not be able to ride 500cc two-stroke GP bikes at the same level that Rossi did is utter nonsense.

PM (marlboro 2 be exact) and audi are quite closely linked ... i.e. in russia they have quite a lot of share marketing activities and various co-brandings (like .

"There was zip wrong using a carbon frame. None."

Well, there was one big problem with the carbon frame: It stopped Stoner from winning any more titles on the Ducati...

The 2008 Ducati was not carbon fiber. There is no real evidence that the Ducati's problems have anything to do with carbon fiber. The new bike is aluminium and still the Ducati is slow.

I've also heard/read where Casey said there was no difference but then have Preziosi explain the switch was better from a design and construction point of view. Saying they had more control over material properties and consistency of construction from piece to piece. In the end it makes no difference as there was no objective difference in performance or results.

I knew that little commentary on the commentary surrounding Rossi would get a rise out of some. Why DO some have such a vested interest in Rossi's demise? I always wonder if it is just over protective fans of another rider or is it that peculiar antipathy some develop towards certain celebrities of status or some mix of both? Maybe that's worth an article in itself? As a GP fan I have much respect for even the back markers on the grid. It takes a whole lot of dedication, talent and history of winning to even be there. Naturally I may favor some racers more than others but why waste any attention or thought on those you don't favor?

My answer to why the Rossi detractors are more annoying than his dedicated fans is simple. Enthusiasm even if delusional is far more attractive than bitter negativity.

I'd really only waste attention on riders who are clearly directing their energies in the wrong direction, for example Lorenzo during his championship year. There was so much to like about him, and he ruined it all (for me) with his antics. He seems to have dialed it back now, and he's much more of a pleasure to watch (and perhaps root for). I agree with you that all the riders are superb.

because Rossi arguably was the MotoGP until a few years ago. So it makes sense he is at the center of the discussion of MotoGP fans.

Then Rossi has a persona that polarizes, some get inspired and some feel repelled. But only few ignore him.

And then a lot of MotoGP fans want him back in action with the other 3 aliens. Even if someone doesn't like him, Rossi still makes a perfect competitor. Just like Stoner said, it feels best to beat Rossi.

Last, it is a big saga, this Rossi + Ducati thing, fortunas own sunnyboy falls down, as I already wrote, just like a story out of a greek drama.

There are two comments I would make on your, quite frankly, fantastic article (as always).

Firstly, I wouldn't assume Rossi would necessarily play second fiddle to Jorge and Stoner on equal machinery. If Rossi were 38 years young perhaps his struggle would be inevitable, but older riders than himself (33) have decimated the competition before and will in the future. Second, I think a direct comparison to Dovi's Qatar performance from 2011 to 2012 is unfair and doesn't give a crystal clear indication of the Tech3 M1's performance. Dovi himself said "I have still not fully mastered the Yamaha..." and "...I learned a lot (in Qatar) that will make us stronger for the next race in Jerez." Whereas Cal is much more integrated into the Yamaha fold. I see Dovi clearing off from him later this season and perhaps even giving both factory Yamaha's a tough time in later rounds.

my 2 cents :) roll on 2012 MotoGP!

This would be too good to be true, but actually makes the most sense for everyone.

-Brings a manufacture back into the sport.
-Rossi and JB can surely make the GSVR competetive
-Dorna gets the best of both worlds
-Shwantz as GM is the only natural choice
-The Rossi yellow looks good with the Rizla blue


> -Rossi and JB can surely make the GSVR competetive

Didn't they say that about the Ducati as well?

Suzuki's plans, as I understand them, will see them returning in 2014. 2013 is too early, and the bike would not be ready by then.

The GSVR is a conventional (by GP standards) aluminum framed V4. It's widely known that it was overall a very good handling package that just needed that extra 5-10% to be really competitive. This "fine tuning" is what Rossi and JB are really good at. As Rossi himself said (paraphrasing here) he can point them in the right direction of what outcome is needed on the track, but he's no engineer. He can't tell them how to build a swingarm to give him the feeling he's looking for. But then again, that's not his job now is it?

There's no reason to believe the Suzuki 1000 motor is gonna make any less power than what the top guys are making (which is already too much to use). If they can get someone who is good at setting up a base chassis and electronics package that they can build upon (er-hem... Paging Dr. Rossi), then they would be right at the sharp end of MotoGP, racing for wins. If it was to win, I'm sure Rossi could convince the brass at Suzuki to set the their GP program's phazers from stun to kill.

On the other hand, Ducati's handling woes have been very apparent to everyone for a long time. It wasn't nicknamed the "career killer" for nothing. Rossi knew from the first time he rode that he was in deep, deep sh*t.

We'll see what happens though. I don't see Ducati giving up that easily. They will eventually cave in and build him what it takes to win, even if it means spending a boatload of coin.

Either way, the season's just started and it's already shaping up to be a great one...

It takes a lot more than a rider and crew chief to show up and just 'fine tune' a GP bike to be capable for the win. 1% off pole is roughly 1 sec back, which is what Rossi has been stuck at in his time at Ducati. So the Duc is at 99% and they still can't get that last .5 or 1% even with major redesigns and a new engine displacement.

>There's no reason to believe the Suzuki 1000 motor is gonna make any less power than what the top guys are making.

Yes, its not like Suzuki could not build a 800cc engine as good as the other guys......

>I don't see Ducati giving up that easily. They will eventually cave in and build him what it takes to win, even if it means spending a boatload of coin.

Yes, they've just been burning money and making themselves look bad by building radically different bikes that perform no better than the old ones for the hell of it. If this new bike is not the bike that Rossi needs to win then Rossi has to take at least half the blame. 18 months in this is his bike and his team. They usually get results. They are not.


Your comparison between percentage of pole time in relation to bike development is flawed. To say the Ducati is at 99% is an outright laugh. By constantly redesigning their bikes, it only proves that what Ducati did was rest on their laurels. They relied on interpreting performance by their lead rider's results, rather then by what their design was achieving on average with all riders. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that without Casey Stoner, the latest versions of the bike were never relatively competitive with the top guys. I fully believe that Stoner could have joined Suzuki, not Ducati, at the end of 2006 and would have still been very competitive (he was already scary fast on a sat-spec Honda!)

The last GSVR was never lacking in power either, even in 800cc form. Suzuki's trap speeds were right up there. Sure they weren't the outright fastest, but it wasn't power that the bikes lacked to be competitive, it was their inability to get the tires consistently operating properly. That was a chassis and electronics issue.

Ducati need to spend serious dough because they are trying to squeeze 3 years worth of development into one season. They have no choice but to make a really serious investment. Being fair though, Ducati's budget compared to the factories is almost sad. They are definately the underdog factory now that Suzzie has packed up and left...

Rossi and crew are doing the best they can to get back to a base package they understand. Having the aluminum framed bike act just like the old one in corner entry seems like a disaster, but it takes Ducati one step closer to figuring out what the real problem is. At least the bike reacts normally to changes now, so they start being able to actually measure the direction of their work.

Rossi's failure only further strengthens the argument that the Ducati is a one rider bike. Even the Bologna factory knows that this is no good...

"The last GSVR was never lacking in power either, even in 800cc form. Suzuki's trap speeds were right up there. Sure they weren't the outright fastest, but it wasn't power that the bikes lacked to be competitive, it was their inability to get the tires consistently operating properly. That was a chassis and electronics issue."

This is true, and the tyre problem was always most evident in the first half of a race - with a bit of wear and lighter fuel load the Suzuki generally came good around half race distance. Vermeulen was often the only guy matching Stoner's laptimes toward the end of races, although he was racing for non-podium positions while doing so.

>>Your comparison between percentage of pole time in relation to bike development is flawed. To say the Ducati is at 99% is an outright laugh.

Please explain. It seems like an average lap time across all tracks is about a 1:40. That's 100 seconds. I grade the winning/pole bike at 100% and work backwards from there. If you only go 99% as fast (1 sec off pole) as the winning bike you will never win. The fastest Ducatis are usually around 1 sec off pole. The slowest are 2 sec off pole so the Duc's overall performance is between 98-99% of the fastest bikes.

What level of development do you think the Duc is at and how do you justify it?

>>By constantly redesigning their bikes, it only proves that what Ducati did was rest on their laurels.

No, it proves that they do not know what to fix as if they did it would only take ONE bike redesign. Maybe the reason they ignored Stoner was because they were unsure how to address his issues and instead of entering uncharted waters they stuck with what was winning some of the time.

>>The last GSVR was never lacking in power either, even in 800cc form. Suzuki's trap speeds were right up there.

Yes but the Duc is right up there on the top speed charts too.

>>but it wasn't power that the bikes lacked to be competitive, it was their inability to get the tires consistently operating properly. That was a chassis and electronics issue.

Are we talking about suzuki or ducati? ;)

>>Ducati need to spend serious dough because they are trying to squeeze 3 years worth of development into one season.

That's putting a sugar coating on things. They are scrambling and burning cash because after the loss of their key rider they have shown an inability to keep developmental pace with the other major players or identify what seems to be the defining characteristic of all of their bike designs, carbon, Al, subframe or full chassis. Rossi commented that every chassis design had the same issue. If they changed so much and still have the same root problem it means they don't know what the root problem is. I think it is the lack of bike-specific tires due to the spec tire rule, not exactly a problem they can 'solve'. Ducati build bikes in a certain way and when they have tires to suit (990 and the 800 in 2007-8) it can be formidable. If not, it can be horrible. To try and change the base feel and philosophy of a company's designs is not an easy task, needed or not.

>>They have no choice but to make a really serious investment.

Where is it going? When Honda make a serious investment we see multiple chassis, swingarms, and engine designs at each test. With Ducati we have seen months to get a single change to the carbon subframe, more months to get a small aluminum subframe design fabricated, then more months to get one perimeter frame design, then an offseason to get a revised engine layout and another frame. Where exactly is all these tens of millions going besides Rossi's salary? They have no WSB or national efforts to worry about so all focus should be on making new parts for 2 riders. No revisions until Estoril? What gives? What is the factory actually doing?

>>Rossi's failure only further strengthens the argument that the Ducati is a one rider bike. Even the Bologna factory knows that this is no good...

They were happy enough to accept it when Stoner was winning and I think that if Rossi got on the bike and won and everyone else still couldn't ride it they would not have changed a thing. You only need one winning rider to win a championship and sometimes having more than one can actually hurt your chances.


Thanks David, as ever, a brilliant article.

For what its worth (not a lot I suspect). VR will stick this out. As has been written in previous articles, neither VR nor JB nor the crew are quitters. I'd be very surprised if he walks. If this bike doesn't work, then I cannot see him even wanting a satellite ride.

Yes, there's a certain amount of in the right place at the right time, but there's simply no way that's the entire reason for his massive success, and make no mistake, it is massive.

Over the past year or so, I've followed this whole affair rather intently (as a big VR fan), I had hoped as we all did I think for another Yamaha scenario. So much for that..

I remember thinking at the time that Sete and Marco to name a couple were riding the Desmocidici "what's happened to these guys", they are more brilliant riders!!! It's now become apparent.

The problem as I see it, is that Ducati now have the one name riding for them they always wanted, and it's not working, and VR's got the clout (like it or not) still to get what he wants. And Bologna have to listen, they cannot simply treat him in the same way they've done with the others.

I'd agree that his best option is to stay with Ducati, and try to work it out. I hope they do listen, because if they don't it's gonna cost all of them, VR, JB, and Ducati.

For me- the worst article Ive ever read on this site and with the same ridiculous underlying assumption-"Rossi is finished, past his best" as fashionably peddled by most other paddock journalists.

I think it amazing how popular it is at the moment to kick a man when he is down. People seem to conveniently forget how evenly matched Rossi and Lorenzo were in 2009 and how in 2010 Rossi rode from Qatar onwards with a shoulder that Dr Costa completely misdiagnosed and which needed significant surgery at the end of the season once the extent of the injury was finally fully understood. The tendon and socket damage to that shoulder robbed Rossi of his strength and as someone who has had similar re-construction surgery I can completely empathise with that helpless feeling of an inexplicable loss of feeling and power. Do people really think that the huge difference between 2009 and 2010 was just Lorenzo's ascending star?

Anyway back to Ducati. Stoner has a riding style that suited the Ducatis poor front end. Its as simple as that. The Ducati has none of the qualities that Rossi needs to be fast. Stoner rides the Honda in EXACTLY the same way as he did the Ducati- deliberately oversteering it into corners. If Stoner was now riding the Honda in a radically different way (say more Lorenzo-esque) then I would be more impressed. That would demonstrate that he counter-intuitively found a way to ride the Duc fast. Thats not the case though
Put Rossi and Stoner on the Ducati together and clearly Stoner would beat Rossi every time. Rossi's speed comes from the front end: having a faster entry and mid corner speed. Thta speed is completely neutered on the Duc.
Put Rossi and Stoner on the same Honda or Yamaha and they would be evenly matched. In fact I think that Rossi's gentleness with the bike and throttle and his superior ability to pull off overtakes on the brakes together with his racecraft would result in wins going 55/50 in his favour.
How unfashionable is that? "Rossi is past his best, the young aliens have moved things on a level etc etc." I say- **llocks. Rossi has been beasting Qatars 2nd place man on almost every single occasion since 2006. Do people really think that at 33 he has SUDDENLY lost it. If they do they have very very short memories!

Rossi has been very stupid though- I'll happily admit that. How he ever thought Ducati would compete with the might of the Japanese I will never know. Why did he ignore the travails of Melandri and all the others? How could he have been so arrogant as to think that he could make that big a difference? Did he not appreciate that Ducatis development rate over a season would be at best glacial. Did he not appreciate that MotoGP had become a 3 manafacturer race series and that falling out with Yamaha as he did with Honda would leave him nowhere to go if Ducati didn't work out. For someone so media savvy how could he have been so stupid? Idiot yes, but still very capable of winning a further world championship if given a chance.

I'm not sure you read the article. It looks like you simply invented a paraphrase (which you quoted) that would allow you to vent your frustration towards Rossi's poor results.

Throughout a majority of the article, David lays the blame at Ducati's feet, which demonstrates a sub-conscious belief (imo) that Rossi is entitled to win, and when he doesn't win, some outside force is acting on him. Essentially, the underlying assumption of this article is the exact opposite of what you have claimed. The underlying assumption is a logical impossibility, seemingly endorsed by Stoner's insistence that the bike be changed (no bearing on the results he actually achieved).

The bike Rossi rode at Valencia testing was the same bike that Stoner used to win 3 races in 2010. The Ducati isn't the independent variable. To alleviate confusion, Rossi has even said that he cannot and will not attempt to ride the Ducati like Casey Stoner. Somehow this uncontroversial information is excluded from the public domain b/c it doesn't further people's cognitive biases.

Ducati should change the bike for Valentino Rossi. The remark seems to be justified in two ways by the fan base. Some fans say that Ducati and Rossi have a great deal to benefit from one another and success is the only way out of the current nadir (David's conclusion). Other fans imagine that Ducati and the blogosphere have conspired to bring Rossi's career to a premature, unjust end; therefore, the moral solution is to give Rossi exactly what he wants b/c he is the GOAT.

You have chosen the indefensible argument.

You are entitled to your opinion Oswaldo, but in 2009 a much less experienced Lorenzo was already regularly beating a fully fit Rossi regularly on Rossi's own bike. And Stoner won more races on the 800 Ducati than Rossi won on the 800 Yamaha. This was the Yamaha that Rainey and Lawson called the best GP bike ever built.

There is no evidence that Rossi is currently suffering any ongoing effects from his injuries, and in any case, Rossi is not the only one who has been affected by injury. Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa have all had injuries that have affected their performances.

No doubt Rossi on a Yamaha or Honda would give a good account of himself, but to imagine that he would decimate an opposition that includes Stoner and Lorenzo is delusional. Rossi won the 2009 WC by 45 points after Lorenzo had a couple of DNFs, hardly decimation. David's analysis is likely accurate: Stoner and Lorenzo would be too strong for Rossi over a season.

As for Stoner's riding style, he rides the bike in the way that is fastest. Why would he copy Lorenzo when his way is faster? Bridgestone have specifically stated that Stoner's style gives him a significant speed advantage over the other riders. And no, Stoner doesn't ride the Honda in exactly the same way he rode the Ducati. The Honda is a more balanced bike, with more consistent performance in a range of conditions, which gives Stoner riding options he never had with the Ducati. We also know from his team mates that Stoner's throttle control is exceptionally precise, and he was also the guy braking the latest most of the time last year. Stoner's racecraft was close to flawless in 2011. So the advantages that Rossi had over guys like Biaggi, Gibernau, Capirossi and Melandri early in his career just don't exist anymore. Stoner and Lorenzo have raised the bar, something Rossi himself has acknowledged on several occasions, and he would surely know that better than anyone.

but in 2009 you are also entitled to the facts which don't support your narrative. Rossi beat Lorenzo 12-5 if you consider it a head up competition meaning Rossi finished ahead of Lorenzo. Also that year Rossi beat Stoner 8-6 (throwing out three races #27 was out ill) or if you want to count it at absolute race wins Rossi won 6 races that year to Stoners' 4. Not trying to be pedantic here or prove any point other than this revisionist decline doesn't go that far back. As for subjective speculation it was possible for Stoner to have given a good run or taken the championship that year if he hadn't gotten ill. "If" doesn't work in racing when looking at the past.

I agree Stoners' form in 2011 was flawless and we actually got to see some racecraft from him as he could ride the Honda in more ways than the single "pin it or bin it" manner he was forced to ride the Duc.

It is exactly accurate to say that Lorenzo in just his second year in MotoGP was regularly beating a much more experienced Rossi. No other team mate of Rossi had ever done that. There is every reason to expect that the trend would have continued in 2010, to the point where Lorenzo was beating Rossi more often than not. Lorenzo was superb in 2010.

I also said that Stoner on the Ducati won more races than Rossi on the Yamaha. A simple statement of a remarkable fact, given what we now know about the recalcitrant "unrideable" Ducati. I have no idea how you get "revisionist decline" from my comments. I was simply pointing out that the facts support the idea that an older Rossi would very likely find Stoner and Lorenzo too strong for him now, even on equal equipment. Older competitors losing out to younger ones is just the way life works, however much some one-eyed fans might wish otherwise.

My bad about your Stoner reference. I stand corrected in my reply. I didn't know you were making two different comparisons and read that you were speaking of 2009. Getting much too accustomed to these selective brackets of stat comparisons going on around here. One eyed fans indeed. If we pull back and look at the whole picture in a way to not favor one rider or another there are no stats that would suggest Rossi was not in it for the win or championship pre broken leg. Sorry. At that time he was still one of the four on any given weekend. No one was clearly dominant. Yes the new kids were getting very hot under Rossi's collar by 2009 and by 2010 were well seasoned. Rossi's era of singular domination was well over but only a revisionist eye would see that he was any less competitive than the new breed... at that time. I hate to speak of "if's" and eventualities in racing because there are none. "If" is only useful when considering events to be. The way I see it there's no way to objectively judge Rossi's decline. By the time he was back to fitness he was already on the Ducati and we well know he can't/won't ride it as it is at the necessary pace. Facts as it stands, yes Rossi is in a state of serious decline. How much is him and how much is what he has to work with is ever debatable. The new kids are on the best bikes and in the form of their lives. He may have well bitten off more than he can chew or ever hope to digest. I'd like to see him with some better cutlery though to make a stab at it.

In fact I have witnessed a superior ride "suddenly" lose it. My favorite ride of all time Freddie Spencer. 1985 250 AND 500 world champ in the same year!!! Then pffft. It can happen. I tend to think that the tires were designed away from the way his brain worked but???? It seems possible that something like this has happened. an engineering combination that just doesn't fit Rossi's brain.

And time marches on

Freddie finished himself by winning the 250 and 500 championship in the same year. His throttle wrist went. It wasn't tires, or anything else. He simply wore himself out. Stoner's aggressive riding style, and apparent arm pump issues may cause the same short career. Who knows?

Everything written was great and well articulated, however.......

Money speaks louder than all of your(Mr. Emmett's) suggestions, revelations and opinions. Did someone forget that money runs this world and this machine?

To think that Yamaha or Honda would refuse to have Rossi back for fear of Stoner's and Lorenzo's feelings is ludicrus and quite hilarious. If given the opportunity to have Rossi back, Yamaha and Honda would quickly lay out the red carpet, give him a blank check, drop their panties, get the point. Because they know that it's about sponsorship, money and selling power! No one's better...

Yamaha and Honda would much rather have Rossi, even as a teamate to Stoner or Lorenzo, than ensure they'd will the title with either. They'd still make more money and be more profitable with Rossi, regardless of their championship standings, and they know that. BTW, has Yamaha found a sponsor since Rossi's departure? Anyway...

MONEY SUPERCEDES EVERYTHING (including a well educated opinion)! ....especially during a money crunch which is what MotoGP is in currently.

Marlboro, Repsol, Fiat, etc. have a lot to say when signing riders too, and what is it they have a lot of? Oh yeah, money!

Dorna knows what I'm talking about.

I was just going to make a similar post, so thanks for saving me the energy for typing it up. No way anyone refuses Rossi if he chooses to ride for them. I think the odds are best he ends up back at Yamaha if Ducati can't get their bike right side up by the end of the year.

... that's why Yamaha offered him a pay cut to give Lorenzo a raise, Fiat sponsorship be damned.


At the end of 2006, Yamaha turned down Stoner because of Rossi's objections (according to Stoner). At the end of 2007, Rossi raised the same objections to Lorenzo, but Yamaha learned from their mistake the previous year & chose Lorenzo. When Rossi finally said in 2010, "Lorenzo goes or I go," Yamaha said, "OK, good bye."

Big buckets of sponsorship money are attractive, but Honda and Yamaha both want above all to win the world championship. They both know their best chance of doing that is with their current main men.

Rossi asked for a bunch of money right in the middle of the worst recession since whenever. The bike market was in the toilet. I'm sure Rossi wouldn't be demanding nearly the same salary and he'd get a ride no problem.

Yamaha have already stated that they are not interested in Rossi. At Jerez, I shall make a few enquiries, see what Jarvis and Nakamoto-san from HRC have to say. But Repsol are already happy, they have the world champion and Marquez on the way, and Yamaha know all too well what signing Rossi would entail.

..., it would be nice to here what Yamaha and Honda has to say about getting Rossi back but I don't believe you will get the truth from them. The are not that stupid.

What a great, great, article ! Its like reading all the scenarios and thoughts that whizz around in your brain in one place, all neatly organised ! It was a cracking read David and really nice to see a balanced article with sensible commentary that is also worth reading and not full of mindless anti-rider babble.

We've had the dreams, now we live in hope, not just for Rossi, but for the future of the series, if only Fenati was a few years older and a few more season in..... !

Of course Yamaha says "not interested"....right now.

1. We're only one race into the season. And they are competing for a title THIS YEAR. It's the "politically correct" thing to say.

2. They currently have riders under contract. They certainly aren't going to say the truth(they are interested in Rossi) out of fear of Lorenzo taking stock in's a contract year for him too, hello.

3. And what has Yamaha accomplished since Rossi's departure? Lost major sponsorship and a 2nd place, they still got their @sses handed to them. I'm sure they realize that now. They'll take him back regardless of what they tell you right now. I'm surprised you'd take any stock and believe in anything they'd say right now.

Honda and Yamaha would not only take him back, they'd love to have him back.

there are quite a few reasons why they wouldn't want him back ...

1) 46 on a R1 or CBR doesn't boost bike sales by that much in short term and all other factory merchandise sold with the #46 is still much lower than actual VR46 merchandise

2) with rossi struggling at ducati they bost established that the bikes are good

3) as nicely mentioned by david in the article rossi is still (in the mindset of average VR fans) linked to yamaha (just like fiat still is, not changing the also livery helps with that)

4) as was also nicely put in respect to motogp future it is the same with the factories ... they have to start building on new celeb-like personas which will not be gone in a few years ... sure there will be a long long time (if ever even) before there will be a star this big but thinking longterm that is the right way to go

not sure if i wrote how i wanted to say it, not a native english speaker and it's quite late.

"they still got their @sses handed to them"...
Vlad Drca, Lorenzo ran second to the rider who is statistically the best rider of the 800 era (by quite a large amount). That is hardly having one's derriere handed to him.

And one might speculate how many championships Vali might have won if Stoner had been on a Honda or Yamaha instead of a Ducati........

If you are going to play the fantasyland speculation game then you would also have to then speculate how many championships Rossi would have won if he would never left HRC and the Repsol team.

... simply because it would be a been there done that situation in which winning would not be new and losing would mean betting on the wrong rider and facing the most bitter defeat possible. What could be greater for Honda or Yamaha than beating Rossi and everyone else AGAIN with their bike and their rider?

They better crack AUDI's piggy bank open, give Rossi the engineers and bike he wants and save face.

Why not hire Pedrosa plus his crew chief? The info they could bring to Ducati must be huge and Dani certainly doesn't want to sit quiet and wait to be replaced by Marquez. Unless he can suddenly become the 2012 champion.

By the way, fantastic writing David.

Yamaha gave Rossi the terms on which he could continue on the team, Rossi chose to go to Ducati. Yamaha are not idiots, they had to know that Fiat would walk once Rossi left. They might accept him back on their terms, at their price but I can't see them lifting one little finger to make that happen.

Who was the MotoGP team manager for Ducati from 2003 to 2006? My understanding is that he would not listen to any of Troy Bayliss' complaints/suggestions about the 990 in 2004. In 2003, Ducati made an impressive MotoGP debut but in '04 the project went off the rails. When Ducati asked Bayliss to sub for Gibernau at Valencia at the end of 2006, Bayliss agreed - on condition that his Superbike team look after the set-up of the GP bike. As we all know, Bayliss led the final 990cc MotoGP race from start to finish. I would argue that what the carbon-fibre bike needed was better set-up - something Stoner arrived at late in 2010. His Aragon race record still stands. Rossi - still with an injured shoulder, dismissed the carbon-fibre bike too quickly, a point Burgess alluded to many months ago. Anyway, who was the Ducati MotoGP team manager from 2003-2006?

Livio Suppo was the Team Manager for those years. He was also the reason Casey agent to HRC. This is an article on his move.

Also if Ducati was smart I think they should call back Davide Tardozzi Back and get the MotoGp team to run right. I think his experance would be a great help at getting the right recourses to work together. And I don't think anyone knows how Ducati works better than him.

For sure Rossi acknowledged he could not ride the GP10/11 the way Stoner did and it was not compatible with his style, even after massive redesigns and new chassis designs. As stated in the opinion piece Rossi vastly underestimated the talent of Stoner to ride this beast and what it takes to podium half races of the season with the red bike. Not much to blame, he failed just like the other "non-Stoner-Ducati-riders" failed, he's only human.

Then lots of people (mostly yellow-clothed though) laid the blame over Preziosi who was of course guilty of thinking outside the box by using a carbon frame. Conventional aluminum frame would be the easy solution.
Well, Preziosi listened, caved in under massive pressure and developed a GP11.x then a GP12 with aluminum frame.
Problem is, according to Rossi (and as painfully demonstrated by his results), in spite of the conventional frame the same problems remain, which means that it had nothing to do with frame technology itself.

Logically, engine configuration is the new culprit, being the essential 10% complementing the "90% new GP12". However this is one of the few things on which Burgess and Preziosi actually agree, the greatness of the engine and the fact that engine configuration has nothing to do with their current problems. Burgess is crystal clear: “The 90-degree is a very good engine although perhaps a little more difficult in the packaging but not something that I would be afraid of. If you spoke to most of the engineers in the world their choice of engine would be a 90-degree V. The packaging issues are not impossible to overcome and it has won races in the past, so no one can say that is holding us back.” (see

With the massive efforts (in terms of human and financial resources) undertaken at Ducati ever since Rossi came onboard, I feel that it is really unfair to accuse them, against all evidence, to not be listening to Rossi.
For all we've seen they've been constantly listening to the master, feeding him relentlessly (and much much more than they've ever done during their MotoGP history) with new parts and exploring new avenues suggested by him and his team (i.e. switching carbon with aluminum in an effort to copy and overtake the Japanese factories in spite of them having a 20 years head start with the technology).

Indeed THIS could be a very costly mistake for both Ducati and Rossi, and one for which they share the huge responsibility.

Everybody needs Ducati AND Rossi to be competitive so good luck to them, but let's not shut our eyes and accuse Preziosi of being supremely evil while absolving Rossi from any responsibility in the current turmoil. Signing with Ducati may not be the only mistake on his part.

re: "it has won races in the past"

not just races... but entire CHAMPIONSHIPS...!!!

re: "Burgess is crystal clear"

shockingly, even clearer than burgess is HISTORY. if checa were to win again this year (@+6) that'd make a cool 30. 17 different riders (many with multiple titles) pronounce the 90 degree V fit for service.

But I'll just limit the discussion to MotoGP bikes.

And my guess is that you have to be really good at your job when the first MotoGP bike you design takes podium at its very first race and wins its sixth race.
When your riders end up 4th and 6th in the world championship and you end up second in the constructors ranking at the first try, you're doing a reasonably fine job, aren't you?

A feat we're not likely to see repeated by any manufacturer any time soon in MotoGP.

Good points Frenchie. But I must add that Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Aprilia were all in the same boat in 2003 - none of them had built a four-stroke GP bike for a very long time, if ever.

Ducati were also at their four-stroke racing peak - well, until the 1198 arrived. I remember being pleased to see them do well in their first year, but not especially surprised.

Lastly, they had two of the very best ever motorcycle racers on the bikes, which goes a long way. It's significant that those two guys were the only two other than Stoner to be able to win on the Ducati in the 8 championships it has contested - both were up at the very top level as far as talent and adaptability goes.

Personally I think that Stoner was a significant contributor to the 'genius engineer' tag that usually prefaces 'Filippo Preziosi'. Or used to, at least - it appears the 'genius' bit went to Honda at the end of 2010.

But what made it all the more impressive is that it was the first time Ducati developed a 4 cylinder bike while the other players had been selling and racing 4 cylinders 4 strokes for decades (superbikes for 20 years but also GPs until mid 70s).

My memory of the reporting of Ducati's initial MotoGP development was that Ferrari played a big part in the engine development. Google results are too full of clutter for me to easily find anything, either way, though.

Who was the MotoGP team manager for Ducati from 2003 to 2006? My understanding is that he would not listen to any of Troy Bayliss' complaints/suggestions about the 990 in 2004. In 2003, Ducati made an impressive MotoGP debut but in '04 the project went off the rails. When Ducati asked Bayliss to sub for Gibernau at Valencia at the end of 2006, Bayliss agreed - on condition that his Superbike team look after the set-up of the GP bike. As we all know, Bayliss led the final 990cc MotoGP race from start to finish. I would argue that what the carbon-fibre bike needed was better set-up - something Stoner arrived at late in 2010. His Aragon race record still stands. Rossi - still with an injured shoulder, dismissed the carbon-fibre bike too quickly, a point Burgess alluded to many months ago. Anyway, who was the Ducati MotoGP team manager from 2003-2006?

...I'm not David, but can answer:

EDIT: I misread your question, thinking it was the head of development (Filippo Preziosi, then and now).
The team manager was Livio Suppo (from 2003 untill 2009, I think).

Unfortunately, all those complaints from every single MotoGP rider that had the misfortune to sign a contract (and also a heavy NDA for sure) for a Ducati D16 ride, won't be known in detail anytime soon.
....maybe in a decade or so, like we see some today from former riders of the 70's, 80's and 90's. :-)

What's strange is that such a racebike (D16) is considered so malign in all of its exhistence, when the WSBK Ducatis have always, since very long ago untill today, been praised and appreciated by most riders.

Thanks David. Your articles always do much to collect the known, unknown, & rumored into a fair assessment of a topic at hand. If the Moto journalism thing doesn't work out they could sure use a guy like you in political journalism. It's a mess out there! Then again probably not as fun as racing.

It would be interesting and quite a scoop if you could get a word from both Nakamoto & Jarvis that addresses the possibility of Rossi ever going out on track again on one of their machines.
The possibilities?

I've read it differently at different times. In just the last couple years when it looked like Rossi and Yamaha might be heading for an impasse I recall things being said and passed around that Honda would never accept him back. Nakamoto answered that in an interview saying that there wasn't an absolutely closed door. If a situation came up they would take his call but at that moment they weren't entertaining such things. This was before they had Stoner or an ascendent Marquez to say nothing of Pedrosa. HRC still has an embarrassment of riches in riders. The mention of a San Carlo Gresini factory Honda does get the imagination going though. They were going to put Sic on a full factory RC213V in Gresini colors this year. It stands that they could do the same for Rossi and would only decline for political reasons within HRC. I could understand not upsetting the apple cart in the Repsol team with Stoner their best bet in the next couple years but Stoner would be acting a poor sportsman indeed to protest if it wasn't in the same team. I think the last noise from Nakamoto on the question was that they weren't interested.

This was Rossi's card to lose. Furusawa & Jarvis made it clear they very much wanted to retain Rossi for the duration of his career. Up to the last minute he was also mouthing that desire but his friction with Lorenzo saw that out. Yamaha seemed like they couldn't have won there. Lorenzo made a great showing and deservedly expected a raise at contract time. Bad move on Yamaha's part to cry poor and ask Rossi for a pay cut while handing out a raise in the other side of the garage especially after just taking two championships in a row. In retrospect not the smart move for Rossi to walk out but a man's pride is worth something. They should have reached deep and paid both to keep them. That's the alternate history I would have loved to see most. Rossi detractors like to say he was already beaten but I don't think it's that clear and neither does Lorenzo as he really wanted to continue racing Rossi on equal machinery to see if he could definitively beat him. Rookie and injuries had Rossi up on the first two seasons together and only a couple races into the third before Rossi was effectively taken out by injuries. I would love to see Rossi on a factory Yamaha to finish that story but that seems the most unlikely of all imagined scenarios.

Suzuki/Aprilia/et all
No reason for Rossi to jump to another developmentally lagged, underfunded race effort.

My money is he continues to stick it out and sticks it to Ducati as hard as he can to get what he needs. They are both in a desperate, desperate situation (nods to you Nick Harris!). The Ducati may now be showing that it is in Suzuki territory in competitiveness and if Rossi leaves without a fair showing they will be hard pressed to attract top talent and will only get the leavings of Yamaha and Honda in the rider buffet forevermore.

Firstly, great article David. Covered lots of angles.

As to would Yamaha or Honda have him back, and firstly in response to Vlad Drac's piece, Yamaha essentially releagted Rossi to support act when they wanted to cut his pay, in order to give it to Jorge.
It's that simple, Yamaha obviously (by virtue of their actions) decided the future lay with riders other than Rossi, and were not prepared to retain him on his terms, and if that meant he walked, c'est la vie.

Still on Yamaha, for several years they've been grooming riders, (successfully and unsuccessfully) to ensure they have a ready supply of talent. Spies, Toseland and Crutchlow from WSBK, Dovi from Honda
Rossi's record stands. But on the evidence, Yamaha believes the future lies elsewhere.

At Honda, while waiting for David to report on Nakamoto-san from HRC's response, they spent years grooming Dani, then bought a championship with Casey, who like Jorge still has a few good years ahead of him.

As written above, Marquez is in the wings, along with Bradl. Succession plan on display.

So if either Yamaha or Honda were to embrace Rossi, which rider would you remove to make way for him???

That's without considering David's expounding of the dangers of Rossi taking points and perhaps the championship from a team mate.

Great article David, a great read.

Paul Denning has already suggested Suzuki will be back in 2014.

Rossi is completely aware that in 2013 he won't command the money he did a few years ago. The guys is a multiple champion and wants to win. I think his reputation is far more important at this point in his career than money.

Can you imagine the revenue/media exposure Rossi would get if there was a team in 2013 headed by Schwantz and Suzuki with Rossi as the (only?) rider? It would be HUGE exposure for Suzuki. Of course if it failed it could be disaster. But I think most would agree, he'd do better than he has on the Ducati. From day one I always said to my better half that relationship would turn sour and I still think it will. That's the pessimist in me (I am from the North after all). The great thing about being a pessimist is you are rarely disappointed but often surprised!

Honda or Yamaha? Perhaps, but equal support as offered to Stoner/Lorenzo? Absolutely not. The conspiratorial might even suggest both Yamaha or Honda would use it as a means to "get their own back", but unlikely.

I think he will stick it out with Ducati. He's already suggested they have hit rock bottom. From here on it can only go forward. Those calling that Hayden, Barbera etc are out performing him? Yes they are, for now. Rossi and Ducati will regroup and progress. I'm sure of that for now (I hope).

@ Rabid_Canine.

I did mentioned on my piece that Yamaha accomplished 2nd. According to Yamaha, I'm not sure it means much, it was a distant 2nd. The only chance that Yamaha ever had at 1st would've been if Stoner got another tummy ache mid-season and took the remainder of the season off. They (Lorenzo and Yamaha) addmitted they were not even close and it was unacceptable......but hey, congratulations to them for 2nd! You are right!

There's also the Dani injuries. What if Sic didn't take out Pedrosa? I don't think it's safe to say that Yamaha would've even gotten 2nd (with a bike clearly not as good as the Honda).... maybe, maybe not, we'll never know. So yes, I'm serious...

But nice try anyway....

@ Rod.

Sure they let Rossi walk and preferred to keep Lorenzo...... then. You can't blame them, it was the right thing to do. They couldn't afford to let Lorenzo go to another team; he's young, talented and had just won the World Championship! Rossi however, was coming off the worst injury of his career and there were too many unknowns about his age, ability to recover, bounce back and be competitive. Also, Yamaha(and everyone else) never anticipated Honda to come out with a "take no prisoner" approach/bike obliterating everything and everyone. But that was then....

Now, with no sponsor, no number 1 plate and the fear that Stoner/Honda combination has yet to reach it's full potential, I'm sure Yamaha now realizes they should've kept them both for many reasons. If Stoner and Honda get that bike sorted and fix the chatter, he will destroy everyone again this season. So if Yamaha has to settle for 2nd, I sure think they'd prefer to do it with Rossi on their least they'd have a sponsor.

To say that Yamaha would prefer to settle for 2nd with Rossi on the team is a supposition that Yamaha have already disproven by its action in 2010. To imagine that they took that action in ignorance of the possibility of FIAT pulling its sponsorship is simply naive. If we are to assume that Jarvis's comments about Spies is a statement of fact (and expectation) and Spies does not meet the standard laid out, certainly there might be an opening for Rossi - but on terms laid down by Yamaha (again), and those terms are entirely likely to be considerably influenced by what Lorenzo would want. Rossi's bargaining power at Yamaha has been at the very least diminished.

As far as Honda are concerned, if they'd seriously wanted Rossi back then - given the rift already discernible in '09 - they'd have been keeping a door open to him. They did not, instead aggressively hunting Stoner who is the current 'go to' man for a major team wanting to secure a WC.

As for the 'Stoner tummy-ache' comment - the facts are well documented.

And lived to tell.

No comments from Nostro on an article that shows negative aspects to Rossi? He must be on a desert island with no internet access.

>>Of course, Rossi's success depends to a major extent on the willingness of Ducati to make the changes he has asked for.

C'mon, stop pulling our leg. Why did Ducati build 2 aluminum beam frame bikes if not at Rossi's direction? They have done more revisions in one year for Rossi than they did in 4 years for Stoner. I think it is a case of Rossi not actually knowing what the issue is and just trying to pressure Ducati into building a bike closer to what he is used to in the hope that the familiar feel of an aluminum beam frame will let his considerable experience become relevant and let him and JB work their usual magic.

>>But a large part of Rossi's claim to greatness is built on his reputation as someone who can develop a bike, helped in no small part by his legendary crew chief Jerry Burgess.

I beg to differ. Rossi's claim to greatness is entirely due to his 79 premier class wins and 7 titles. What we are now seeing revealed is the truth of KRJr's words that Rossi's talent for landing in the right team is as large as his riding talent. There's nothing wrong with that but it does not mean that he can 'develop' a bike. I don't know if any rider has that capability. We are also seeing equals to JB step onto the stage. JB's reputation is being able to cut through all the bullshit and eek the last umptheenth percent out of a given bike. However people like Ramon Forcada and Cristian Gabbarini are showing that they can do just as good, or sometimes better, job of it. Lorenzo/Forcada was the first teammate that did better setup work than Rossi/JB on the same equipment, even if only some of the time.

>>Some seeds of doubt are already being planted.

More like 'some of the reality of the past situation is becoming apparent.'

>>The engine currently in use is basically the same as the original 2012 1000cc engine, designed to be a load-bearing part of the chassis.

More BS from Corse. The original 2102 1000cc engine was mounted in a carbon subframe chassis and had the old style cylinder positioning. The current engine Rossi is riding was designed with rotated cylinders specifically to fit into the revised 2nd gen aluminum beam frame chassis. There are many articles with pictures showing different positions of several key engine components between gen 1 and 2 that verify the changes. Rotating cylinders=new crankcases so if they designed new crankcases to correspond to an obsolete frame design that is no longer in use they need more help in the engineering dept than I thought. Or it is more lies from Prezosi, which he told us to expect.


@ thecosman:

Noone knows for sure how much the engine changed from the 1st Sepang pre-season testing (if at all?).
On those pre-season testing sessions, the engine on the factory bikes sure seemed to be a straight adaption of the "original" 1000cc engine, with a change to the oil sump only.
Could have been a "mule", even at that late stage point of pre-season testing, but who's able to confirm it's not what's in their bikes now?

I don't keep trace of all the hundreds of articles I read, on paper and on the vast internet, but it seems a given that the "original" 1000cc engine was basically an 800cc engine (of "frameless" chassis design) with internal bore fixed and few details changed to suit the stroke they wanted.
There's also the aspect of the current overall bike weight (being high) hinting that the current engine is still as "fat and bulky" as the old one of "frameless" design was. The pictures of the stripped bikes don't help either (although they prove nothing).
Remember, Ducati seems to struggle the most among the three manufacturers with bike weight (mentioned as the reason for weight being raised at last minute in the rules), obviously with new "deltabox" alu chassis -being heavyer than the "frameless"- not helping them.

EDIT - did found one of the articles:

Now, I'm no expert on engine and chassis design/construction, but I've followed GP racing (and Ducati) for decades and sometimes I'm confused on how much they seem to be continuously improvising with their MotoGP project. Nothing more. Very clumsy at that too.
It doesn't work - start anew (or so I thought).
It does not seem like a total developped package, i.e, all from "scratch", at same time and, most of all, comprehended.
Not like usually seen from the japanese manufacturers, and definitely not like expected after all the noise in pre-season, especially after the huge fiasco of the previous season(s).

And this, to me, is where the debate can get interesting, if we have the technically inclined experts among you placing some comments.
(not the anti-brigade VS the fanboy-brigade stuff).

I think Rossi was never the guy for that bike, but I see plenty reasons for him to start losing patience, getting more and more demotivated, disappointed with the bike's development and where things are going.

I think Ducati are playing the "damage control" act.
They went on a bet on the "deltabox chassis" adaptation design, when they've got zero experience on it. Just like they didn't have with the frameless design - another bet lost.
A lot of money is spend on what seems experimentation, when time is running out. The rumour says the planned budget is as well.
And in this last case, if that's true, we better hope the deal with VW/Audi has been consumed (money injection into the MotoGP?). :-/

Excellent analysis and summarization, David, and Chris's response to some of the nonsense is equally excellent.

I would add a +1 to the idea that a rider can't develop a bike by themselves, especially in this day and age. It is so far beyond simply building a motor and sticking it into a frame; we've been in the TC era for more than a decade. I think Chris' theory as to why VR demanded an aluminum frame is the best I've read to date.

I'd also suggest that many fans of this sport over-romanticize the motivation of the riders and factories. They are professionals and motivated by money and profit margins. Simply put, it's clear that you don't HAVE to have VR on your squad to win a world title anymore. It's been two years since VR took a title. That's a lifetime in this sport.

So why would Honda or Yamaha hire him? They're in with a real shot at the title without him. And what if the team that hires him doesn't win the title with the GOAT on board? Who will take the blame, VR or the factory?

For Honda or Yamaha, hiring Rossi comes with a pretty huge risk, not to even get into Stoner or Lorenzo - proven World Champions - attempting to strangle VR while he slept if he suddenly became their teammate. And the satellite option is even worse for Rossi; no factory wants their satellite team to beat the factory bikes. And so far, I'd say, the factories have done a damned good job of making sure the satellite bikes are always a step behind the factory machines.

The current arrangement benefits everyone. Ducati has Rossi; Rossi has someone to blame and 15 million euros a year; the Japanese factories get to brag that their bike/rider is beating the best of all time. It is of much greater PR benefit to Honda and Yamaha to have Rossi behind them on the Ducati than to have Rossi on one of their bikes at the front. And all Ducati has to do is luck into a win. (Why do you think Rossi was riding like an idiot last year in the rain? Because he knew it was his only shot at a win).

If I were forced to point a finger at the Ducati's woes, based on radical chassis revisions in 18 months that haven't helped much, I'd say it's electronics.

Really: When's the last time you heard a MotoGP rider complain about power delivery characteristics? Doesn't that just seem really, really odd to anyone else? And why doesn't Ducati have an electronics dude who can just dial that out?

Electronics work is sophisticated, painstaking stuff that's expensive and requires a lot of resources. I think that may be where the Japanese factories have their edge over the Duc squad, at least on the MotoGP stage.

"Really: When's the last time you heard a MotoGP rider complain about power delivery characteristics? Doesn't that just seem really, really odd to anyone else?"

In 2010, when Pedrosa was complaining about the aggressive power delivery of the Honda.

Which made me laugh when Stoner went to Honda and commented on how smoothly the Honda made power... of course he could have simply been psyching Pedrosa out, but I somehow doubt that Pedrosa would enjoy racing the Desmosedici : )

by better informed and more eloquent commentators such as yourself Chris, and Oscar amongst others.

Although I wear "Despite what his detractors say - and over the past 18 months, his detractors have become even more tiresome than his fans ever were " as a badge of honour from Rossi's Nr.1 fan.

Although I prefer the term 'realist' over 'detractor'.

... if you can't get over your issues with MM content, perhaps another GP website would suit you better? I am sure that there is one out there where your own thoughts and desires will be reflected exactly in the content... hey, there's a novel thought, why not start your own GP website? has a nice ring to it.

You miss the point Chris - the gentleman in question has been a valuable contributor in the past (I've been here longer than both of you so I have a pretty good idea) however lately his contributions are all of much the same colour. It gets a little tiresome.

Speaking of long-term contributors - am I the only one who thinks PITBULL has been enjoying a bit more than the writing before he posts up? : )

As am I would you believe. I admire, respect and remain in awe of the skills displayed by all competitors on track at world level. But the mere fact you chose to insert 'that' comment within your article betrays (along with many other words of yours over the couple of years I have been frequenting your site) your ultimate partisan loyalties. In this respect you're no different to many fawning journo's glossing over, or completely ignoring the less savoury aspects of Rossi's personality / career history and embellishing actual events beyond the point of credulity.

You're just a better wordsmith than most with the most comprehensive coverage that I know of in the English speaking world - and for that sir I most certainly salute you.

I can't see you ever being happy. Anything other than character assassination will be regarded as fawning. So be it.

I've noted balance appearing in your articles of late. The fact you're now acknowledging some culpabilty on the part of Rossi and the unlikeliness of his beating CS & JL over a season I see as a positive pragmatic development. A big turn around from 12 months ago and the dogmatic assertion of Rossi being a multiple title winner if on a RCV and all blame being laid at Ducati's feet.

Nostro - and since you have favoured me with a nice comment, please take this on board as constructive and not combative - this site has consistently had some of the most balanced editorial comment re Rossi, Stoner and all riders of any on the 'net. Go back through the forum and read David's Race Reports from '07 onwards, until his workload became too great to be able to do them, and you'll find a degree of balance and reporting second to none. As an obvious Stoner supporter, I have consistently found this site to display a level of fairness in its commentary that simply isn't there for too many other sites.

FWIW, the ONLY contributor I have ever seen banned from the forum commentary was a rabid Rossi supporter whose comments breached the limits of reason and acceptability. We have extremely robust debates amongst monocular fans of both riders (in particular) and neither side is favoured by the site moderators - the only thing that is out-of-bounds is degeneration into personal abuse of the MCN/Crash-type.

You are holding a campaign against David here and on MCN - yet until last year, Birt on MCN was (along with Adams at Soup and Moody in Autosport) amongst the absolute worst for both Rossi 'fawning' and Stoner-bashing. How come those aren't your primary targets?

One of the really great things that David has managed to achieve through keeping the site as well balanced and respected as it is has been lengthy and truly informative interviews with some of the serious players in the paddock - interviews that appear to have been granted because the interviewee respects the site and David, rather than because the site represents a 'power' in the media. If David's commentary doesn't please you at times, perhaps you could consider whether the value to you of your strident objection is worth more than the access that David brings to us all to those closest to the action in the paddock.

I fail to see how I'm the strident one when Mr Emmett writes things like 'Rossi WOULD win TITLES if on a RCV' and 'Rossi is bigger than MotoGP'.

I'm not holding a campaign against David. Merely stating what I believe to be true. My line has been very consistent since early 2010. And that is simply that I believe the riding skills of CS, JL & DP have exceeded those of Rossi. Rossi is not old or stale - there's just better riders out there now. Why does this opinion rile so many? I was unaware this is a pseudo gathering of the Jehovah Witnesses where we are all supposed to sing from the same hymn sheet.

As for the MCN tabloid site Oscar well that's an entirely different type of forum and comments are more for laughs and wind-ups than anything else. I've never visited Crash.

C'mon dude, you know it's not about your opinion on Rossi vs. his competitors. Plenty of readers here would agree with you on these points.
I don't think I've ever read David saying 'Rossi would win titles if on an RCV'. Not even between the lines. And Rossi being bigger than MotoGP sounds like a valid claim and says nothing about idolizing the man. Here in Holland more people know the name Valentino Rossi than the name MotoGP.
But it is not just about these examples, either. Somehow you find David is contributing to the Rossi legend. I (and I dare to say, many readers) just don't see it.

glad to see david finally lay aside some of the Rossi gong play and deliver a piece that am sure will be an eye-opener for the yellow-clad army. thanks nostro...i'm sure your views have contributed to that...even if temporary!

"completely ignoring the less savoury aspects of Rossi's personality / career history and embellishing actual events beyond the point of credulity"

So you must spend far more time talking to the riders and everyone around MotoGP paddock than David then? Gaining insight that us mere mortals (and regular journalists) are oblivious too? Clearly you must be on first name terms as a confident with just about everyone in the sport from them top of Dorna to the marshals at each track? Did you know Rossi when he was a child? Have you bugged his garage and are privy to every conversation he has?

Next time you're in the paddock at anyone of the majority of rounds you attend, you should stop and exchange pointers with David and tell him what he's missing with his numerous interviews with the riders. I'm sure it would benefit the site greatly and pass on your insider knowledge to the rest of us "mere" fans.

Or is it that you don't like Rossi and love Stoner? And you're sat in an armchair somewhere gloating that the person that you've had some weird hatred/fascination for as long as you can remember is finally not doing very well?

I wonder...

You often post valid points and I actually pretty often agree with you. But your determination to label David a Rossi adept is rediculous and hurting your credibility. What's going on?

It is nagging my mind that perhaps Valentino will make it through this year and have lined up a contract with something with 4 wheels. That adventuresome free spirit of his might want a 2nd go at racing altogether doing something entirely different?

Cheers to the 2012 season being underway!

Another curveball (lifeline?) might also be if Stoner and Lorenzo end up on the same bike...It happened with Gardner and Lawson...

Rossi's major years were 2001 to 2005 when he dominated. Then he had a marginally poorer year in 2008 when we might argue that Ducati handed the title to Yamaha by virtue of a bike which we now know was very difficult to ride. Up around the 9 to 11 wins per season in that period.
Vali had 6 wins in 2009 and then 2 wins in 2010 - generally not enough to win a championship (Nicky's 2006 notwithstanding).
Vali's career arc has been on the decline since well before he went to Ducati. Something that seems to be lost in most of the commentary, but David hinted at above.

Perhaps we just need to realise that, as in most sport, the old lion must give way as the young, hungry ones - fitter and more ruthless - take over.
There's no shame in that - your body gets older and it gets harder to do the really difficult stuff.

... but what about every other rider who has been on the Ducati since 2007? Many of them were young and promissing while others were proven winners and competitors. Melandri took a Kawasaki to the podium AFTER leaving Ducati...

What a relief it is to find good Moto GP journalism backed by considered views. This isn't available anywhere else as far as I know.

Well done David Emmett, very good article. We shall see...

Simply a great piece of motorcycling journalism David. Thank you

"At Qatar in 2011, one of Rossi's mechanics expressed the commonly-held opinion that this was the key problem at Ducati, that Stoner did not have the skills to develop a bike that was easier to ride."

The 'commonly-held opinion' reeks of a mind-set imbued with the desire to diminish Stoner's abilities as a rider. Nakamoto surely has provided a different (and highly-informed) view with his comment - paraphrased - that Stoner is extremely focused on improving the bike, and that even though this cost Honda much work, 'every time we made the changes, the bike went faster'.

Whether that made it easier to ride may be another issue - but if the purpose of a rider is to make the damn thing a winner, then that is what he should be concentrating on. Stoner delivered a WC to Honda when nobody else had been able to do so on that machinery. That is what he was hired to do.

Since Rossi had previously decided for himself that the Ducati ethos was (then) unacceptably - to him - bike-oriented rather than rider-oriented, to 'blame' Stoner for a lack of development of the things suggests target-fixation of a high order. Perhaps the belief that the fault lay with Stoner, rather than Ducati, was a classic case of assuming that 'my enemy's enemy is my friend'? By now so publicly blaming Ducati for the situation, Rossi has - unwittingly - rather invalidated the idea that Stoner was the problem.

Why should a race bike be "easy" to ride. What it should be is fast. Is a F1 car easy to drive? No, it is an assault on the body and the senses.

No.1 priority for changes to a racing vehicle should be SPEED.

By now so publicly blaming Ducati for the situation, Rossi has - unwittingly - rather invalidated the idea that Stoner was the problem.

Rossi has achieved even more, by failing to be competitive on a bike he considered the reason why he lost the title in 2007, he essentially made the racing world aware what Stoner achieved during his time at Ducati. It is remarkable how the opinion about Stoners talent has changed amoung journalists and racing fans over 2011.

>>by failing to be competitive on a bike he considered the reason why he lost the title in 2007<<

Ah, I guess that's some sort of newsflash: Rossi was riding the 2007 Desmosedici... in 2011.


I guess the conditions and situations in the championship are the same as well.

What is remarkable is how the opinion about Rossi's talent has changed especially among racing fans over 2011.

Really, it must be the trend in everything MotoGP in the internet these days. Taking a slice of Rossi's unfortunate moment, rejoy with it and use it to bias other "favorite rider", to get on forums and make some pretty damn confused comments - now also in Motomatters. (yes, already awaiting the 1 star rating)

Ah, I guess that's some sort of newsflash: Rossi was riding the 2007 Desmosedici... in 2011.

Seems you are the only one who didn't grok I was referring to "the superior" Ducati in general and not the GP07. BTW, the GP11 was a much refined machine compared to the GP07.

Taking a slice of Rossi's unfortunate moment, rejoy...

Please enlighten me what was unfortunate about Rossi's 15Mil. Euro deal and having Ducati bowing down and reading his lips.

Brilliant article David. Needed to pack a cut lunch to read it all, but that's what I love about this place!

My apologies for not reading all the prior comments. My feeling is the bike we saw at Qatar was only half of the new solution. One part of the solution being the frame. The other part being a new motor. Each part designed to work with the other. And so the new frame not really working with the old motor seems to make sense.

"Rossi had felt he had the measure of the Australian, beating Stoner more often than not and taking the 2008 and 2009 titles. Once he realized that throughout that period, Stoner had been bringing a knife to a gunfight and still regularly beating him - even after the introduction of the spec tire"

I was saying that all through that period but the yellow brigade were convinced that if anything Ducati was the better bike!

The fact that there are complaints from both Rossi's and Stoner's fans shows the article has enough balance, but I'm glad David had the courage to write that passage. It's not fandome to make those points, merely stating the truth.

I've also read some comments from people annoyed that David has written Rossi off as 'past it'. But I don't believe David ever wrote those words.. He's saying Stoner and Lorenzo are better, not that Rossi has gotten worse..

i knew this quote was going to get a response: "and over the past 18 months, his detractors have become even more tiresome than his fans ever were" but man is that ever true.

i disagree that Rossi's input has produced no results. Qatar, unlike any race last year, had no Ducatis crashing out in the middle of a corner and injuring their riders. In fact, there were no crashes to note in practice among the ducati riders. Ben Spies on the Yamaha was the only widely reported wreck. Unfortunately, rossi's demanded changes have made the bike easier for others to ride--he just hasn't made it any faster compared to his competition.

The guy didn't get his record by pure luck. I will note that in an extensive interview i read, Rossi gives Stoner a huge amount of credit for riding the ducati, but also points out that his(stoner's) riding style is unlike anyone elses's, and that style he had to develop at ducati turns out to work really well on the honda. Rossi has been clear forever that he canot ride like stoner. Whether that is beacuse of his size, his age, or what have you is not clear. I do know that Sic could not ride like Pedrosa, but that didn't make him better or worse.

Regarding the widely held belief the ducati issues were stoner and not the bike, i would imagine has to do with the fact that mechanics and crew socialize and most likely gossip. Stoner is a notorious loner, and his "tell it like it is" attitude doesn't win many friends.
Thanks david for another well written, well thought out article.

"I will note that in an extensive interview i read, Rossi gives Stoner a huge amount of credit for riding the ducati, but also points out that his(stoner's) riding style is unlike anyone elses's, and that style he had to develop at ducati turns out to work really well on the honda"

I don't get that. Both Stoner and Rossi started racing at age 4, and spent their whole lives with racing as their primary focus.

There are only so many ways to steer a racing vehicle (two or four wheels) around a track, and Rossi surely has explored 99.9% of those ways in his 29 years of racing - we could expect no less from the GOAT.

So why would Rossi think that Stoner worked up a particular way of riding a motorcycle in the few scant hours of testing he had on the GP7, that was good enough for him to win the very first race he contested on it?

Stoner just did what he'd been doing since he was 4 - getting on a motorcycle and wringing its neck. Which seems to be a particularly Australian trait.

Yep, IMO that statement by Rossi was at best a backhanded compliment, a way of explaining away why Stoner was quick on a hard to handle machine, and a number of VR46 fans have latched onto it.

I'm guessing if you asked Stoner he'd say he adapted his style to ride around the problem/s.

A little bit of hearsay, a friend was speaking to CS's uncle recently and he said that CS "hated riding the Ducati, the Honda is so much easier to ride...."

That doesn't sound like a comment from someone who's riding style was moulded by the bike and doesn't know any better.

[edit]BTW DE, a great article, well stated and balanced.
As someone else said, it must be, you have fans from both sides claiming bias :D

Clearly, Hailwood, Sheene, Surtees, Duke, Saarenin, Agostini, Roberts, Swantz, Spencer, Lawson, and God knows how many non-gp riders out there like Gary Nixon, George Romero, Foggy and endless more non-Aussies never knew how to wring everything from a bike.

I know there seems to be a group that loves to talk about how Rossi had no competition during his many championship years, yet many of those riders were the same ones that Doohan beat --except no one who criticizes Rossi for having zero competition also criticizes the mighty australian for the same competition.

There is a number of ways, small and large, to ride a racing bike fast. Rossi does it one way, and Stoner another. Perhaps Stoner is more adaptable, and perhaps Rossi at the end of his career doesn't need to prove anything by a "Bin it or win it" riding style. I don't engage in the fantasy football mentality of who is the greatest ever, as it is a useless waste of time and energy. The Ducati has proven over the years that no matter who is riding it, it crashes out and injures its rider at a rate more than any of the other machines. Qatar is the first race in i cannot remember when where a Ducati did not DNF due to the bike's front end letting go in a corner.

As an Aussie I don't buy V4Racers comments about wringing a bike's neck being a peculiarly Aussie trait, but I guess we get other stereotypes and generalisations lumped on Casey's bluntness being a typical Aussie trait (which I've read on this site before but never bothered to challenge).
So I won't take issue with the first paragraph.

In the second paragraph, though, you invent an argument so you can justify the rest of your comment. indesq, no reasoning person thinks you can do any more than beat the best riders that you are up against.
But then you seek to imply that Doohan didn't beat anyone of note.
I bet all the good riders Mick beat are happy to be described as being no competition, because that is exactly what your statement seems to imply.

If you are going to go into bat for Vali, at least do it with a properly argued case, rather than chucking mud at a former champ to try to justify your own impoverished argument.

BTW, if we are comparing Mick and Vali, I suggest you look at winning percentage - 46.1% cf 39.7%.
Or average of 19.5 points per race cf 18.3.
Or maybe poles 49.6% cf 24.6%.
Or even fastest laps 39.3% cf 33.2%.

If Rossi is at 39.7 percent while racing Biaggi, Stoner, Pedrosa, and Lorenzo, who was Doohan racing against? Criville? Duluca? It seems the more dominant you are in every category, then logically the weaker your competition should be.
I picked Doohan because he's Australian, and that's it.
But like I said before, it's apples and oranges, woulda coulda, and all the rest of that speculation. It just seems to me that Rossi gets more than his share of criticism that we could say about any dominant rider.
Was Ago that good, or was he always on the best bikes? Was Hailwood the best ever, and did he always have the best equipment his dad could buy? Yes to both.
The most exciting racing was when anyone could buy a grand prix bike, and they were the same machine the factory had.

If the motorcycle racing world can't let go of their God Rossi - as the continuous stream of articles about his and Ducati's failed relationship still illustrate, from the start of the 2011 season to this day - how is Rossi ever to let go of Motorcycle Racing, as he surely must ?

Rossi's picture now appears in the wiki to accentuate the phrase 'the cult of personality'. Dammit. Imagine if Rossi had kept his Ego in check during 2010, and was now riding a 2012 M1 ?? What a spectacle we could have had in MotoGP. What a great end to a Stellar Career we could have witnessed - at least, he would have been fighting with all the young pups, and showing them he still has a killer bite.

I just find this all really sad.

Another Great Write-up David and all previous comments. With Rossi being an ambassador/PR/Tester for Bridgestone, why haven't Ducati designed the bike to work with the Bridgestone tires? The Japanese Factories designed their chassis to work with the tires, not the other way around. This is why CS is bothered so much of the last minute weight increase for the RCV. It changed the chassis balance with the tires. Isn't this the area where the Ducati engineers are failing most regardless of the engine configuration debate? Any of you engineers (David too) out there can enlighten us on why this 'front-tire feel' issue Rossi is having is so complicated to correct!!!

Dave, brilliant article and very thought provoking.
It seems to me the problem revolves around the engineering culture at Ducati. Years of success in World Superbike racing where Ducati has enjoyed an engine advantage have shaped both the chassis and engine design philosophy.
Both the mechanical and tire technologies in MotoGP have become more distant from production-based superbike methodology.
I think the purchase of Ducati by Audi (if it happens) could possibly reshape the technical culture at Ducati and rescue the MotoGP program. This is based on the incredible successes of Audi in every field of competition they have entered. Yes, Audi have not produced MotoGP racers or even motorcycles but we are focusing on engineering process not past practice. I also think Audi would be highly motivated to stick it to BMW by capturing a MotoGP title before BMW does!

Great piece but...
I don't think Casey would resist Rossi as a team mate at all. As a matter of fact I think he'd love to have Rossi on the same HRC bike, fight for it even. That would be his chance to put it all to rest. "He beat me because he's better" or "I beat him because I'm better, he's had his day but I'm it now"
Unless of course he comes down with another bout of lactose intolerance which looks an awful lot like, I just got my ass kicked.
Otherwise this will go down as "What a shame Rossi had to finish up on the Ducati.
Jorge on the other hand might not be so eager to roll the dice. Butter or not.
Rossi beating Sete at Philip Island was fantastic, as was beating Biaggi at Welkom and Casey at Laguna Seca. In each case Rossi was on the less powerful bike but the bike with the best feeling front end.
Ducati, are you listening? Power is crap. That trick worked once. It's over. You're starting to look like Suzuki. Great street bikes, weak MotoGP bikes. Maybe Dorna should give you special rules like WSBK. If you keep you 90 degree V you get to run a 1100cc engine or 1198cc.
Rossi is totally screwed when they get to tracks like Laguna were top speed means nothing.
Everybody wants Rossi and Ducati up front, particularly Casey. He just wants him on the second step not 15 seconds back.

...I just don't see what is in it for Stoner. You say "What a shame Rossi had to finish up on the Ducati" - surely there is some thoughts in Stoner's head of how many races he had to wrestle the damn thing around behind an M1 and how its about time someone else fought the thing.

Stoner knows exactly what Rossi has in the Ducati and how far that bike is behind the Hondas and Yamahas - why would Stoner want to "fight for it even" when in his mind he has already taken on and beaten Rossi while riding an inferior bike?

Stoner appreciates how it is better for the sport for Rossi to be competitive but to say that he would love to have Rossi on a Honda out of some sense of giving a bitter rival a good bike to make it a fair fight is plain silly. Have you not noticed the massive chip on Stoner's shoulder regarding Rossi and JB's comments on Stoner not trying/easily correctable problems?

Well balanced, and very informative. Just what I keep coming back to the site to read. Thanks David.

"Masao Furusawa had already built a completely new bike for Rossi's arrival, and the Italian's role was not so much development as correctly identifying the bike that Furusawa had expected to be best. While Rossi and Burgess have received much of the credit for developing the Yamaha M1 that Rossi would go on to win the championship on, that view underestimates the massive role that Furusawa played in understanding the weaknesses of the bike and improving it, before Burgess and Rossi got their hands on the bike to tweak it."

When Masao was interviewed right before he retired he was asked about all of this. He said by far the most important part was Valentino and his feedback. When Burgess was asked about the same thing, his response was similar. When going to Ducati Burgess even said "ignore him at your peril."
I think your view underestimates the massive role that Valentino played in understanding the weaknesses of the bike and improving it. The bike wasn't fully built prior to Valentino's arrival because he had to decide between 3 or 4 different engines and make a decision on which one to go with.

That M1 was also not nearly as powerful as the RC211V. Vale and his crew got it to handle well but it just never had the power of the Honda. He left Honda for a myriad of reasons, one of those being to prove he could jump on a lesser bike and win. Current problems shouldn't dismiss a rider of is accomplishments.

I respect Masao an awful lot so go back and find the lengthy interview he gave at the end of the 2010 season. What he said and what your article says don't match up.

Amidst this sea of bashing I was reminded of this article.

"But strangely enough, the Spaniard actually misses the Italian in some ways:  "The races against Valentino, battling for the win on the same bike, were all great; even if I never won any of them.  He is super strong on the brakes, and I'd like it if, sometime in the future, we had the chance to race again with equal machinery. Those races were certainly more fun to watch than the ones from this season, where one rider always seems to break away.  My fondest memory is of Barcelona 2009."

Lorenzo says that he has never beat Valentino head to head. And keep in mind that was said last year after Rossi's detractors say his team mate beat him. He was injured with both a shoulder that needed surgery all season and titanium holding his leg together. In that year he missed a few rounds due to the leg and still placed higher in the championship than Ducati and Stoner. As soon as Rossi tested the Ducati in 2010 he said the handling must be changed and is still hasn't.

Back to your regularly scheduled bash fest ;)

What David says about about Rossi and Yamaha is correct if you read Furasawa's interview in full. Furasawa championed and developed the crossplane crankshaft (utilising 'big bang' technology) which was tested at Christmas time in 2003, while Rossi was still a contracted Honda rider. Rossi first rode the new Yamaha at Sepang in 2004. In other words the concept, production and initial testing of the new engine had nothing to do with Rossi.

The myth of 2004 is that Rossi turned a losing bike bike into a winner. The truth is rather more complex. Rossi never raced the losing 2003 spec Yamaha. Clearly Rossi's input and riding skills were essential to Yamaha's success in 2004, but Rossi needed the right tools for the job, and that is what Furasawa and his engineering team provided. It was a team effort, and unfortunately Furasawa's input is often overshadowed in the haste to praise Rossi's achievements that year. Furasawa himself is very understated in the typical Japanese way in describing his own achievements.

What we are seeing dramatically demonstrated at Ducati is just how important it is that the engineering team provides a rider with the tools he needs. What Rossi's Ducati experience also shows is that the importance of a rider's development skills is often greatly exaggerated. After all, Rossi also developed the 2006 and 2007 title losing Yamahas. It is apparently true that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, even if you are Valentino Rossi.

Regarding Lorenzo, he beat Rossi fair and square several times. He pushed Rossi all the way in the 2009 championship, in just his second year in MotoGP. Rossi was vastly more experienced, having been in the premier class since 2000. Lorenzo rode so well in 2010 that he very likely would have beaten Rossi to the championship even if Rossi had been fully fit. It is understandable that Lorenzo himself feels he has some unfinished business with Rossi, due to Rossi's injuries in 2010, but that should not diminish our recognition of Lorenzo's achievements.

I'm a bit of a contrarian, plus I'll be the first to admit zero knowledge of racer contract negotiations or the egos involved.

Racers, race managers, team owners must be eternal optimists ( why else spend $$$ for a 1/XX chance to win). They should see 2013 as the biggest oppurunity to come along for a long time.

I agree with duffyg above.

I believe Casey Stoner should and would welcome Valentino as a team mate. The person you want to beat most on the track is your team mate since they are on "equal" machinery. This would create tons of press and interest from fans, haters and anyone else. Just imagine the season escalating if they swapped race wins, Stoner wins one, then Vale, then Stoner. This would lead to an awesome season finale, just the opposite of 2011. Stoner has 2 championships that bookend the 800cc era. Vale has 2 championships that fall in between. Even though they weren't on "equal" machines, this would give them the chance to forever one up the other and quit before the nuetered bikes are mandated by DORNA.

I think the same would rationale would apply for Lorenzo as well. Lorenzo should welcome him as a team mate. Lorenzo and Vale were on "equal" machines for three years, with Vale winning 2 championships and Lorenzo 1. This would give Lorenzo the chance to equalize and take on Vale head on again.

HRC should also welcome him back. It would almost gaurantee them a championship. At the very least they would be in the press even more either because of drama or results, and we all know all press is good press. They would be able to sign more sponsors ro demand higher rates.

DORNA should also push for a multi champion team, for the reasons stated above. The team's sponsors would love it because of all the press. DORNA sells TV rights and video passes, if they can sell more TV time or video passes because the Aussi or Italian are fighting on the track or off it.

At least a fan can dream. I'd certainly push for Vale to team up with Casey or Lorenzo.

Love motomatters! This article was soo good it brought me out of lurker to poster. Keep up the good work.

Would it be Stoner / Lorenzo who objects, or Rossi himself?

I'm not convinced Rossi would want to be on either premiere team. IMO, Stoner would mop the floor with Valentino, and Lorenzo would comfortably outscore him. The potential damage to Rossi's 'legacy' is incalculable, and I suspect he well knows it. If #46 winds up on a Japanese factory bike, it will be at a satellite team; either Gresini/T3 or the yet-to-be-organized 'Team Tavullia.'

When he was still at Ducati Stoner said that he would be happy to have Rossi as his team mate. But this would be a huge risk for Rossi, because there is every chance Stoner would be far too strong for him. Rossi's best option is for Ducati or someone else to give him a bike to match or beat the Honda and Yamaha. Maybe Audi, with their long and proud history of innovation in motorsport, can give him the tools he needs at Ducati.

George came to Qatar 2010 with a bust hand, Stoner crashed. Valentino could not express his surprise and good fortune enough to claim the win. His biggest surprise was Lorenzo alongside him on the podium. That was 'writing on the wall'. Mugello was incidental 2010.
Anyway,we can go around the block as much as we like.
The game at the moment in terms of the marriage made in hell is clearly results driven.
Jerez looming. That event should be closer. Qatar is huge. Jerez should close things up a fair margin. CRT's may well get involved with GP prototypes at the next round. Look forward to it.

"Writing on the wall" and "Mugello was incidental" excuse me if these comments make me chuckle. You can go on Youtube and find the day of champions interview in 2009 with Moody. Vale says that the Barcelona weekend (2009), they had finally got weight distribution right and he could ride the bike the way he wanted. In 2010 they had a similar issue, they hadn't nailed base setup yet then the crash. You can repeatedly say the same things, doesn't make them true. The truth is we don't know what would have happened in 2010 had the crash not occurred. You comments are more wishful thinking than fact.

After the crash he rode an admirable season, 7 additional podiums and 1 win with multiple injuries. But yeah, Lorenzo kicked his butt LOL.

and great comments from both sides (+ middle side :) ), as usual....

but I still don't understand, in these days of crisis, in these days where motogp races cannot been seen without paying or going in a "foreign country 4 images per second daaaamn streaming sh.. " ... why a factory like Yamaha would refuse to lease an M1 bike to the ONLY rider known all over the world.

I mean, how many comments on this article ? How many comments all over the world, since 1 year and a half, are made about Rossi/Ducati ? Even after a good race like Qatar, nobody really cares about the winner, all eyes are on Rossi/Ducati...

We all know, even the anti-Rossi, that nr46 would do better on a Yamaha, we all know that at a week end like Qatar, he would have finished at least 4th ... how can it be wrong for a factory, without any extra financial effort, to appear with a coming back superstar ...

All articles on Rossi/Yamaha, a lot of "coming home baby sh.." with a lot of "Requiem for a dream/Lord of the rings music videos" ... how can it be bad for a motorcycle factory to have such a mediatical audience?

And Im not sure at all that Lorenzo is opposed to that, the guy seems changed, more mature, more confident and direclty or undireclty always showed a lot of respect towards Rossi ...

I don't speak about Honda because I agree, it is not an option for many reasons:
- they have Stoner, they will have Marquez
- Stoner hates Rossi, for good or bad reasons, that's it
- satellite Honda are less performant than satellite Yamaha
- Rossi knows perfectly well the Yamaha, Honda is far

Time will tell but ...

One thing is for sure, Rossi WILL have to show better, will have to be at least the best Ducati rider, will have to show more motivation and more humility ... just like did Schumacher with Mercedes ... let's hope Ducati will find a solution, just like Mercedes seems to have

Hope why ? Because the guy deserves a come back, with all good dog fights he provided these last fifteen years ... fifteen !!! He's the last pilot I can remember able to win (and win a championship) being a lot slower on one lap (2004, 2008, 2009)*

It's so easy to forget the past ....


* and Stoner is the only pilot I can remember winning on a lot inferior bike ... except maybe Schwantz ?

I found this in "The Grand Prix Motorcycle - The Official Technical History" written by Kevin Cameron.

Discussing Wayne Rainey and Yamaha:

"Rainey's special problem was that he was unable to lead design from the saddle, as had Surtees and Roberts before him. His particular skill was his amazing ability to improvise changes to his style, enabling him to win races on whatever Yamaha could provide him. In this way, Yamaha engineers now say, they lost direction."

Sounds like history repeating itself in Bologna.

" "Rainey's special problem was that he was unable to lead design from the saddle, ".........

Utter horse puckey............... Rainey was as able as any to give feedback, probably better than most................but he couldn't effect miracles if people don't listen to the information provided and have an open mind on the changes needed.

" But we've ' always done it / never done it ', that way before " doesn't cut it at the top.

" In this way, Yamaha engineers now say, they lost direction."

Buck passing....... not an unknown trait.

I'm interested to know exactly what directives Valentino has given to the team, that are intended to turn this bus into something more usable for the Italian.
IF... these instructions are as precise as many believe he can deliver with his supernatural prowess, I cannot fathom how a team with this experience cannot deliver!
I'm much more inclined nowadays, to believe that they get little more than..,
"I cannot turn this bike, please fix it!"
It's not a tongue in cheek comment, but concise feedback and instructions WILL always give results! The team are not backyard hacks, so you have to be realistic with where the problem lies.
btw, to say he 'proved' himself on the Yamaha, is an outright opinion, it is NOT fact. Lorenzo proved that in '10 when he negotiated equal factory assistance, something that Valentino has NEVER had to deal with before. We all saw the outcome of that.

David, we hear/see comments about rider feedback, but I haven't seen many examples except general comments along the lines of pushing on corner exit, chatter, or instability under braking. Can you give us some examples of real rider feedback to their teams? What do they actually say? Better yet, how about an article on the whole bike setup process during practice and qualifying? Maybe follow a team one weekend and document the fettling that goes on over a weekend? In your spare time, of course...

BB, I think you're leaving out one very important factor. No rider is going to give feedback like 'it needs 2% more lateral flex in the frame between the swingarm and rear engine mount while at a lean angle of 58-62 degrees.' The riders give feedback on the behaviour of the bike, then it's up to the designers and engineers to figure out a way to improve it. Sure, the feedback may be quite precise, or it may be quite general - we don't know, hence my request to David. Ultimately though, Rossi's right, he's a rider not an engineer or designer. The bikes are too complex now for the rider to be able to offer much in the way of solutions. Like any specialist field, it's much better to get feedback on the problem itself rather than be told what the end user believes will fix the problem. "Doctor, I have these symptoms" works a lot better than "Doctor, I have this disease."