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CN III IN THE PADDOCK P100 BY MICHAEL SCOTT DARK SIDE OF THE MOON V alentino Rossi's sun and moon, night-and-day helmet motifs are familiar enough. He showed the dark side when he sacked his crew chief Jerry Burgess. He had the grace to look shamefaced when confronted with the news, which had leaked from his inner circle before he'd even told the man who has steered him to seven World Championships, after having claimed five with Mick Doohan and one before that with Wayne Gardner. It was a sell-your-grandmother moment. That's how everybody took it, anyway. Burgess is a respected figure, the most established of the pit-lane establishment, and the most successful. An icon, if you like. And when someone practices iconoclasm, there are only two ways to look at it. Most chose the obvious one. That it was an act of desperate self-delusion, the thrashing of a drowning man. Can't blame the bike – look how Jorge Lorenzo makes it go. Can't blame the rider. If he had ever doubted himself, he wouldn't be Rossi. Must be the grandmother then. She'll have to go. All in the interest of a better lap time. Behind the ever-charming smile, the happy-go-lucky demeanor, Rossi proved he is as ruthless off the track as on it. "You often read," said Burgess, "of sportsmen changing their coach or their caddy towards the end of their careers." How often did it work, he was asked? Never, came the reply. Rossi has always been good at proving people wrong. He did it again this year. Sadly, it was the optimists, as he took a firm grip on fourth place. Rossi was definitely best of the rest in 2013, though he frequently had to fight for it. Usually it's the naysayers who get it in the face. The move from dominant Honda to win on the underdog Yamaha being a case in point. (For Burgess as well as Rossi.) But that was 10 years ago next year. Marc Marquez was 11 at the time. Having got over the overt treachery of Rossi's move, there is a covert element that elicits more sympathy. He's had a tough time, ever since he broke his leg at Mugello in 2010. That championship went instead to his teammate Lorenzo. The last straw. "Either he goes or I go," he told Yamaha. He went. Nobody could have predicted the Ducati disaster. Least of all Rossi and his henchman Burgess, who famously predicted it would only take a short time to sort out the setting problems bequeathed by crash-prone Stoner. That one certainly came back to savage his ankles. Hand in glove with the factory, the enterprise went backwards over two years. Nothing Burgess or Rossi did helped. The only comfort they might find is that progress at Ducati continued in the same negative way after they'd gone.