With Lorenzo no longer his team-mate, Valentino can’t stop smil­ing

Motorcycle News (UK) - - THIS WEEK - By Si­mon Patterson MO­TOGP RE­PORTER

‘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.

Ac­ri­mo­nious mo­ments

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.

Happy end­ing?

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?

Rossi beat his team-mate in ti­tle table in 2016 Rossi and Lorenzo parted on good terms (ish)

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