MotoGP Superstar Rossi Makes Long-Awaited Debut In Ducati Red

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

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World Champions Valentino Rossi, left, and Nicky Hayden will team this season for Ducati, including at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Aug. 26-28 at IMS.

The dream of millions of MotoGP fans worldwide became reality this week: Rossi in red.

Seven-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi made his first official appearance as a Ducati Team rider Jan. 11 at the annual “VROOM” preseason media event in the Italian Alps. Italian superstar Rossi moved to the iconic Italian team after the 2010 season and will pair with American MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden. Rossi spent the last seven seasons with Yamaha, winning four world titles.

“It will be an emotional challenge; it will be difficult, but I’m happy because there’s a lot of extra motivation,” Rossi said. “They’re very excited at Ducati. They believe in me, and we’ll do our best.”

Rossi, known as “The Doctor,” will race on a Ducati at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the fourth annual Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Aug. 26-28. He won the inaugural event in 2008.

The 2011 MotoGP season starts March 20 with a night race in Qatar, but Rossi has plenty of work to do to regain his fitness after offseason shoulder surgery. He injured the shoulder during motocross training early last season, and it hampered his ability to keep pace with former Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who won the 2010 World Championship.

“Honestly, I had hoped to be a little better by this time,” Rossi said. “But instead it’s going to be quite a race to have decent fitness in time for the first test (Feb. 1-3 in Malaysia). My recovery is exactly on schedule, but it’s long. We’re working hard to at least recover mobility in my shoulder, which I’ll need to ride the bike well and to be able to fit behind the windscreen.

“I won’t be able to be in top form for the first test in Malaysia, because it will be impossible to regain full strength, but I hope to be able to have a good seating position. The doctors assured me that the shoulder will return to 100 percent in a few months.”

Ducati also unveiled its GP11 motorcycle that Rossi and Hayden will ride in the 2011 season. Engineers tweaked the engine to obtain a flatter power curve, and new aerodynamics were created for the bodywork to create less lift, more top speed and less fuel consumption.

The bike also features a reworked rear swingarm, fork and electronics.

Hayden, from Owensboro, Ky., enters his third consecutive season with Ducati. This year is a reunion of sorts for “The Kentucky Kid,” as Hayden and Rossi were teammates at the Repsol Honda Team in 2003, Hayden’s rookie season.

Improvement has been a recurring theme with 2006 MotoGP World Champion Hayden during his tenure with Ducati. His first season, in 2009, was disappointing as he finished 13th in the standings. But he rebounded last year to finish seventh as he became more accustomed to the unique culture and working style of Ducati.

“The start was a little bit difficult, but it’s gotten better and better since I’ve been on this team and on this bike,” Hayden said. “We’ve grown a lot, the bike has improved, and my relationship with the team has improved. We made a big step from the first year to the second, and I’d like to do the same this year.

“We know we have a good bike. We’ve made a couple of little tweaks for next year by adding some staff and a few engineers to help me. I have a strong team around me. I know being teammates with Rossi won’t be easy, but I really don’t get too caught up in that. I focus on my job, and that’s why I think it'll work with us.

“I’m looking forward to having Valentino's information and feedback. He's been around a long time and has a lot of experience. I think it’ll be fun.”

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2011 tickets: 2011 Red Bull Indianapolis GP tickets are on sale now.

To buy tickets, visit www.imstix.com, call the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area or visit the ticket office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street. Ticket office and phone hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.

The 2011 Red Bull Indianapolis GP is scheduled for Aug. 26-28 at IMS.

Race Day general admission tickets cost $40, with Friday general admission $10 and Saturday general admission $20. A three-day general admission ticket is $60. A Friday-Saturday general admission ticket is $25.

Children ages 12 and under will be admitted free any of the three days of the event when accompanied by an adult with a general admission ticket.

Race Day reserved seat prices will start at $70.