The departure of Valentino Rossi from Ducati to Yamaha at the end of this year means the 9 times champion is sure of at least one thing – Ducati won’t win another MotoGP race until 2014.
No-one is sadder than Ducati News Today to see the spectacle of abject failure that is the experience of the two seasons of Valentino Rossi at Ducati. When we posted about Vale signing for Ducati we subtitled the story as ‘Ducati Snag the Greatest of all time’. Like almost everyone else we expected great things from the man and team that had turned the Yamaha from a nail to a multiple championship winner.
In fact we listed the move of Rossi to Ducati as the 6th most significant moment in modern Ducati racing history right after, ahem, Casey Stoner winning the 2007 MotoGP championship for Ducati in the first ever championship of the now defunct 800cc era.
As the guys who predicted Rossi would move to Ducati (see ‘Why Valentino Rossi will Finish his Career on a Ducati’) in 2009 his impending return to Yamaha for 2013 is tough to take. It must have been a very tough call to make too.
Just before making his decision, Rossi pointed out that he had to take a risk with incomplete information since the Yamaha offer was there and Ducati could not yet say what impact Audi ownership, expertise and investment could do to provide him with what he wanted – a race winning MotoGP motorcycle.
“It is a big risk also because I can’t wait to make the decision. If not (Andrea) Dovizioso becomes very angry (laughs). But at the same time the problem is to wait for Audi and Ducati. It is very early to understand who will come to help Ducati, so I have to make a bet without seeing the situation very clear.”
In the end Rossi took the difficult decision to leave and join Yamaha with all that means for his short-term and potentially long term reputation. If Rossi had stayed at Ducati he would have earned a larger salary and been able to continue to explain away mid-pack results because of the recalcitrant Bologna bullet. At Yamaha he will make less (hardly a hardship for him) and critically be publicly measured against Jorge Lorenzo on equal machinery.
Has Rossi still got it? We will all get a first part of the answer the day after the final race of the season when he (presumably) gets to ride a Yamaha once again for the first time in 2 years. On his first ride on the Ducati he was only able to post the 15th fastest time. What is clearly implied by his decision though is that Valentino must have decided that even with Audi involvement there is no chance of Ducati being able to build a race winning bike next season.
When we argued 3 years ago the case for Rossi to move to Ducati we spoke about his ambition to surpass his hero and fellow Italian Giacomo Agostini. We wrote:
Vale now stands at 103 career GP wins, almost double that of Mick Doohan and 19 short of Ago’s 122. With Rossi’s winning percentage this gap could be closed in as little as 2 or 3 more seasons. Now that his car racing aspirations seem to have waned it looks increasingly likely that the GOAT will want to become the undisputed GOAT. Key question. On what machinery?
Rossi today has 105 wins, 17 short of Ago. We still don’t know if he will ever surpass Ago’s record or take a 10th title. We do know however what machinery he will do it on. Like his hero before him, Vale now seems destined to finish his career on a Yamaha.
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