The Racing Capital
of the World
April 19, 2012 | By Evan Williams - SPEED
Courtesy of Speed.com
It’s been simmering since it started, but Valentino Rossi finally boiled over at Qatar. The King of MotoGP unloaded on Ducati to the Italian press after the race, causing the expected result in Italy and beyond.
Rossi famously joined the Italian brand last year. The dismal season that followed was chalked up to the nature of the carbon fiber Ducati chassis that Rossi, teammate Nicky Hayden, and everyone else that had ridden it not named Casey Stoner could ever really figure out. None of the million different updates delivered to that bike really helped.
Rossi’s preseason testing and first race on a conventionally-framed Ducati haven’t been much better, if any. This year, Rossi was further back on the new bike at Qatar than he was last season.
After Qatar, Rossi said the team hasn't built a bike like he suggested or wanted, putting the onus entirely on the engineering and management at Ducati Corse.
If this happens after the first race, what is it going to be like after another half-season or so of additional beatdowns? Last year, the losing got to Rossi but for the most part he responded without adding to Ducati’s PR nightmare. It was clear he wished he’d never joined Ducati but Rossi kept his comments contained to private admittances to those close to him.
Not anymore. Rossi’s declared, “Basta!” Enough.
Rossi has a large amount of personal charisma and credibility with MotoGP fans, so it’s like being called out by the Moto Pope.
This will be unbearable for Ducati unless things improve dramatically. Even though Nick Hayden looked to be much scrappier in his battles and said he saw potential in the new machine, the spotlight will always be on Rossi. The updates Ducati has in the pipeline can’t get here soon enough. And this time they better work.
Let’s go back to 2010 and an interview conducted with Rossi crew chief Jeremy Burgess by Henny Abrams of Sport Rider magazine. Burgess said this back then before Rossi had even ridden the Ducati: “What I said to Yamaha when I came here, I said, ‘I can’t fix your bike. But if you listen to Valentino Rossi, we’ll go forward. Ignore him at your peril.’ And it’s the same deal here at Ducati. They spent the money to get him. If you don’t want to listen to him, well, why did you spend the money?”
It’s 2012 and, thanks to the way Rossi’s framed it, we’re all now asking the same question.
Greatness and ego go hand in hand, and there is a lot of previous success here to build the egos. Rossi has nine world championships. Ducati built their MotoGP program from nothing to the 2007 World Championship in a short amount of time. Obviously, everyone involved feels they can come up with the answers.
Rossi isn’t content to shrug off losing and now he’s telling his legion of fans that the problem isn’t him.
It’s never that simple, sure. Rossi’s older, has had some injuries, and lost close friend Marco Simoncelli last year. He’s also been behind Hayden lately, who has taken a more workman-like approach.
The flip side? Rossi is not at a point where he’ll hang it all out to get fifth or sixth. Why does it matter, he asks. He came to Ducati to win and he says the bike isn’t capable right now. So it all goes back to the folks in charge at Corse.
It is clear some mistakes have been made along the way.
As Rossi was coming to Ducati, they shut down the World Superbike group and ramped up a dual development engine program with “Screamer” and “Big Bang” options. Perhaps they should have commenced a dual chassis development program instead, especially with the complaints about front-end feel going back to the Stoner days having been immediately reiterated by Rossi at his first test.
There is a ton of technology in MotoGP. That’s one of the things that makes it cool. But MotoGP is still a rider driven sport and the man at the controls has to be comfortable to push at the very high level to compete.
If the rider ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.