CN III IN THE PADDOCK
BY MICHAEL SCOTT
ince his return to
Yamaha after two
wilderness years at
Ducati, Valentino Rossi has
been through so many seminal career moments that he
must be just about drowning
in the stuff.
In the space of just five
races, the great star of
yesteryear has scaled the
heights and descaled the
depths – the latter more
The latest of these was at
home in Italy. Fast on day
one, back to the third row
in Saturday's qualifying, and
in the gravel after only three
corners in the race.
The crash was Alvaro Bautista's fault, if you believe Rossi.
Or Rossi's fault, if you believe the
Spaniard. In the eyes of the authorities in their ivory control tower, it was a no-blame collision,
what is euphemistically called "a
In the eyes of a portion of the
crowd, it rendered the remaining
23 laps of the race of the year at
Mugello insignificant, even invalid. They didn't leave the track in
ones or twos. A colleague arriving late saw a whole busload on
the exit road.
Most of the fans stayed, and
took part in the usual track invasion for the rostrum ceremony,
where Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow stood
showering sweat and champagne. The sea of yellow hats and
shirts beneath chanted the usual
mantra: "Rossi. Rossi. Rossi," in
the hope that he might appear,
as he had last year in response to
the same shouting, even though
he had finished only fifth.
They were to be disappointed.
There is still time this year for
Rossi to put everything to rights,
but it is looking increasingly difficult. The fast young guys are just
too... well, fast and young. The
difficulty for 33-year-old Rossi
has nothing to do with talent or
dedication to racing, and everything to do with age.
The new bikes, and more particularly the new control tires, require different riding techniques,
he explained on race eve. "The
way to ride the bike has changed
a lot. Now you have to do some
tricks on the bike that for an older
rider like me are very difficult to
New tricks, old dog.
It's kind of sad to watch, to
those for whom the Rossi era
has been almost unadulterated
joy. Which has to be most of us,
I imagine. Must be pretty hard for
him too. But it has manifestly not
taken away his enjoyment of racing. He is in no way ready to quit.
Whether he is ready to carry
on battling with the lesser lights
while the likes of 20-year-old
Marc Marquez take control of the
big numbers is another matter.
It leaves only one option. To
follow the lead of his hated former rival Max Biaggi into World
Superbikes. Where it is impossible to imagine he would not re-