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Rossi & Ducati: Frying Pan. Fire.
by dean adams
Monday, April 09, 2012

The honeymoon appears to be over. Rossi's comments after the race at Qatar seemed centered on how Ducati is unable to build a bike to suit him. What's next?
image by wolf jay

In 2005 Valentino Rossi published an autobiography titled "What if I'd Never Tried It?".

It detailed his switch from Honda to Yamaha and the incredible feat of winning the world championship on two different motorcycles, something that only a handful of riders have been able to accomplish.

Seven years later, if Rossi had to pen a book right now, it might be titled "I Wish I'd Never Tried This".

Ducati rider Rossi, a nine-time world champion, finished tenth at Qatar yesterday and gave some barbed comments to the Italian press afterward.

Rossi told them that he considered pulling in at one point in the race and further confessed that he ran out of hope last season. But perhaps the most telling accusation from Rossi was that Ducati didn't follow his direction in building the GP12 MotoGP bike.

Rossi stated that the bike was unridable, and it has most of the same problems that it did last season, at least for him. He refused to see Nick Hayden's sixth place as a glimmer of hope, suggesting the gap to the podium was vast even for Hayden.

It seems clear that the relationship between Rossi and Ducati Corse is drifting into the region where it may never be repaired. There were no comments from Rossi in the Marlboro Ducati post race press release about all the hard work done at the factory, and that this may just be the starting point for 2012.

His quote reads:

"Unfortunately, I lost a lot of time in the beginning because when I had new tyres with good grip, the rear pushed a lot, making it very difficult under braking. Then Barbera pushed me off the track and I lost five or six seconds. Otherwise, I could have stayed with that group. As the tyre became used and began to slide, I started to ride a bit better and to do better times, to the point that I matched my best time on the last lap. By that point though, it didn't count for much."

For Ducati this is a massive public relations disaster, a bad situation to begin with but one exacerbated by the fact that Rossi is a near deity in Italy, if not globally. This saga will be played out Ferarri F1 style on the front pages of Italian news sites, on Italian TV and in Italian newspapers and tabloids. Investindustrial, which owns Ducati, is said to be on the verge of selling the iconic motorcycle brand to VW/Audi. Will this impact the sale? Probably not, but it certainly doesn't add to the allure of owning the brand.

In defense of Ducati, singled out as the greatest rider of his generation, if not of all time, there's probably a lot more going on with Valentino Rossi than just a bike he has no interest in rolling into his bedroom and sleeping alongside (as he did the Yamaha M1). The tragic death of Marco Simoncelli cannot be overstated as it pertains to Rossi's current mental state.

Rossi looks over Colin Edwards' Honda Superbike at Misano in 2000. Is WSBK in his future?
image by dean adams

If this tale were a bestselling work of fiction, Rossi would probably opt out of MotoGP for a half season and return to racing's roots in some way, maybe race a Ducati Superbike in WSBK as an avenue to "find himself", win races, smile on the podium again, plan a post-race prank or two.

A known WSBK fan, there have been near constant rumors of Rossi racing an odd WSBK round since he showed up at Misano to sit on Colin Edwards' Honda in 2000 and it's known he or his friends have talked with the Flammini brothers about racing WSBK at different points. Those rumors remain in 2012.

Regardless, these continue to be startling times for seasoned Ducati watchers. Ducati was the Grand Prix upstart who made it all look a lot more simple than others could comprehend when they began racing MotoGP in 2003. Essentially racing a big tellis-framed Superbike, Ducati finished on the podium in their first Grand Prix, and incredibly, won the sixth race they entered that maiden season. They won the MotoGP title in 2007.

Those were storied days of a small band of outsiders who saw through the complexity of GP racing with deft cuts from their own scalpel. Of Ducati WSBK men Ciabatti and Tardozzi—with a lot of help from Troy Bayliss—who went to Valencia one time and smashed pie in the face of every sneering GP apologist.

Looking at the calendar, or just the Ducati MotoGP bike mid-season 2011, one fact is clear: that was a long time ago.

ENDS

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