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This was going to be easy to write. All about Rossi: ‘The Doctor and his patience’. Now worn so thin that rumours of premature retirement were entirely believable. Valentino signed up in March to race on until the end of 2020, aged 41. That was before the start of this season… in which Yamaha set a new record of 24 races without a win. The Doctor has also been racking up poor personal records. One that (2011 and 2012 with Ducati aside) is his first year without a win since his 125 rookie year of 1996. Serious disillusionment is understandable and was reinforced when Yamaha’s duck was finally broken in Australia by Viñales, while Valentino slumped to sixth. Everybody knows the first person you have to beat is your team-mate. So when the suggestion came that, unless Yamaha produced a fabulous Honda- , Ducati- and Suzuki-smasher next year, Rossi wouldn’t complete his contract, it was entirely believable.
Then the green lights went on
‘How much more humiliation does he want to take?’
in Sepang and off he went, in the lead, riding with all the strength and vigour that makes him such a giant. He had once again rendered irrelevant everything I thought. Then he fell off, cracking under the relentless pressure of ‘Merciless Marc’ and those thoughts resurfaced. Really… how much more humiliation does he want to take? Consider Rossi’s position: Vale is not just mega-rich and successful, he’s become the Godfather of Italian racing. Pretty much single-handed, but for a few unlikely seeming old pals from Tavullia, he’s founded a massive empire which has achieved much more than making a fortune. It’s not too much to say that he alone has revived Italian racing to the extent the Spanish domination is now running out of steam. All the top guys are his personal protégés. He’s tutored them all the way, racing them at his ranch; while his organisation shapes every aspect of their careers, from learning English to negotiating contracts. Pecco Bagnaia’s Moto2 world championship, on a VR46 bike, is just the first of what looks set to be serial success. A great pyramid of talent, with Valentino at its apex.
Why carry on racing? Time will tell. I’ve written Valentino off in the past; called him a bed-blocker. And it’s been a pleasure to have been proved wrong.
But I think it’s time to do it again.
Will Vale really carry on until 41?