The secrets of Rossi’s ranch revealed
The champions factory is now in full swing. Step inside...
Peter Pan act and the motley crew of Lost Boys he’s surrounded himself with in the form of an elevenstrong group of young, hungry and passionate racers.
“It is very important that I have the Academy. To train every day when you’re alone is very hard, and so I started with one person alone ten years ago, and it was more of a challenge and more fun. Now there are ten or fifteen of us every day so you can imagine how much fun it is. “Sometimes they make me feel old, sometimes they make me feel very young. But the level of training that we have together is unbelievably different and every time we jump on a bike the challenge is so high. I can always ride with professional riders. “If I had the Ranch and didn’t have the Academy riders, I could do the same fast time every lap but I’d never improve. Now, you start riding and you’re first, then Franco goes faster and Balda beats him to set the fastest time and you think ‘f**k!’ You get to the end of the day at 7pm and you’re shattered. It’s great to still improve every day.”
And while he might be old enough to be the father of many of the young guys he now works, trains and lives with every day, that doesn’t make much of a difference when they get on track. Still fast and still aggressive, Morbidelli says that he’s not surprised by how fast Rossi remains on track.
“It’s pure passion, and passion lasts for a long time. He has more passion for racing than anyone else I know and that’ll keep him fast. But he knows how to have fun as well; that’s the first thing you learn from him. It’s important and it helps keep him fast too.”
And while Rossi might be approaching middle age, there’s no sign of him retiring any time soon. Still in contract for another two seasons at least, there’s even been hints of late that if he’s still fast in 2020, then there’s no reason why that couldn’t be extended.
Rossi’s first win of 2018
While it might have been a dry 2018 MotoGP season for Rossi, he did manage to take his first victory of the year alongside fellow MotoGP rider Franco Morbidelli in the annual, season-ending 100km Dei Campioni race at the Ranch. The two-hour long endurance battle around his track featuring two-man teams, saw the pair win a thrilling last-minute scrap against Lorenzo Baldassarri and Mattia Pasini. Getting heated at times as all four pulled some dangerous moves, Pasini looked to have the race in the bag in the closing laps until a small crash with only two laps to go let Rossi take the advantage... and hold it to the chequered flag to win by only 1.514s after an hour and 45 minutes of neck-and-neck action. Rossi added: “It was a great victory, because we thought we had already lost the race and that makes the emotion even better. Franco and I haven’t won a lot this year so one victory has changed the season. It was very close, and we always have great battles, but this one was like a sprint race run over 100km.”
Rossi’s expanding empire
While the Academy and the Sky Race Team might be the centre points of Rossi’s ever-expanding empire, they are not the only thing that keeps the Italian businessman and racer busy. Now employing over 80 staff in and around Tavullia, he’s got fingers in many pies in the small Italian town. While it all started with the local pizzeria and a merchandising shop in the centre of town, Rossi’s business empire has expanded to the vast VR46 complex. The base for not only the Academy project and the Team Sky Moto2 and Moto3 teams, it’s also the hub of Rossi’s merchandising empire. In charge of design and logistics for his own and his riders clothing and accessories, he’s also working with many of his rivals to produce their merchandise too. From Cal Crutchlow and Maverick Viñales to Jonas Folger, Scott Redding and Danny Kent, it all passes through the Tavullia warehouse before being sold at races all over the world. So while the end of his career may be in sight, it seems certain he will carry on being heavily involved in all aspects of MotoGP. There are also rumours that he may end up running a team in MotoGP.
‘To train when you’re alone is very hard , so I started with one person’
Skills honed at the Ranch helped Bezzecchi in Moto3
The Ranch is centred on the original farmhouse
It’s a Le Mans style start for the final race of 2018