ROSSI RELISHING A FRESH START
With Lorenzo no longer his team-mate, Valentino can’t stop smiling
‘When I first heard that Lorenzo was going I thought ahhhh, good’
Valentino Rossi is getting ready to risk everything in 2017 in a bid to win a tenth world title and he’s glad to be losing Jorge Lorenzo as a team-mate. But the hugely successful and wonderfully wily 37-year-old already admits that as one terrifically talented title threat leaves the Yamaha garage, another one walks in. Maverick Viñales is just 21 but has already won in Motogp.
In an exclusive interview with MCN, the GOAT admitted: “When I understood for the first time that Lorenzo was going, I thought ‘ahhhh, good!’ It’s very difficult to have a team-mate as fast as Lorenzo, and I thought it would be better with someone else. But now it seems that with Maverick it’ll be the same!
“Pedrosa would have been an easier team-mate! He is a little older, but he would still be a hard team-mate. Anyway, I don’t have any rights in my contract to decide my team-mate – Yamaha decide that without me.”
And with a twinkle in his eye, Rossi shrugs off further questions about whether he expects a frosty atmosphere to develop in the Yamaha garage.
Their relationship at Yamaha endured many acrimonious moments, none worse than at the end of 2015 when Lorenzo became involved in Rossi’s appeal against his penalty for the now-infamous Sepang incident with Marc Marquez.
Nothing would injure Rossi’s pride more than his former team-mate turning the Ducati he so famously failed on in 2011-12 into a Motogp title contender, but there’s also a sense that Lorenzo will need at a season to master the vastly different GP17. Rossi knows he has window of opportunity, when Marquez will once again be his main concern.
Rossi also feels that his rivalry with Lorenzo has reached some degree of closure. After the Spaniard’s dominant victory in the final race of the year at Valencia – a day before he departed for Ducati – the two shared a moment that Rossi believes will make life easier in the future, especially now that they’re not forced to spend so much time in each other’s pockets.
“It was a good moment. After the end of 2015 especially, our relationship wasn’t a good one, but we’ve been together for a long time. He came to me and said good words about our relationship and it was a nice moment, and I’m happy with how it ended.”
‘We can improve together’
Rossi is now focusing on making the M1 a force to be reckoned with in all areas. He was very vocal about how disappointed he was with his Yamaha after the end-of-season Valencia test. But at a second (private) test at Sepang Rossi was pleased with the progress and happy with Viñales – for now.
“It was an important test and I’m more optimistic now, especially about the chassis. In Malaysia we were able to get more kilometres done, and see that there is some potential there.
“Maverick is very fast, and very good to work with. We agree a lot on how to improve the bike and hopefully we can work on the bike together.”
‘I might do the Dakar’
Valentino Rossi may have signed a two-year deal that will keep him in Motogp until 2018, but he’s already looking to the future.
In reflective mood while competing at his traditional end-of-year blowout – The Monza rally – alongside friends Uccio Salucci and Davide Brivio, Rossi conceded after taking his fifth win at the car race that his future after Motogp most likely lies in four-wheeled racing.
“Maybe in the future I’ll do the Dakar Rally, when I’ve stopped with motorbikes. It’s a great challenge. It’s very hard and very tough – maybe it’s better if I do the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the track instead!
“I love working with my car team at Monza – but it’s better if we win! It’s great to finish the season like this.”
For now Rossi wants to keep winning in Motogp and he is only eight wins away from Giacomo Agostini’s 122 GP wins record. If Rossi can match his last two years, he’ll add another six wins by the end of 2018 (he had four in 2015 and two in 2016). And while he refuses to talk publicly about beating Ago’s record… would he really retire at the end of 2018 if he’s a win or two away from becoming the most successful GP racer ever?