Can Rins be a con­tender?

On cur­rent form Suzuki ace could be a force in 2019


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?

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