An Italian man stood in the media center at Laguna Seca last July with a pained look on his face. His eyebrows pinched, he shook his head and muttered.
"I just can't understand this. It is a nightmare. A national disgrace. It's ... I can't understand it."
The melancholy Italian gentleman looked off into the distance, continuing to shake his head back and forth in a disgusted manner. He was venting, commiserating, about the current status of the Valentino Rossi period at Ducati's MotoGP effort.
"I mean, come on," he continued. "They have Preziosi, they have Jeremy Burgess and many of Valentino's crew from Yamaha. It is Ducati, with one phone call they can have the best engineers from F1 on the phone. This is not a team without resources. And they have Valentino! Valentino Rossi! But from the first lap it has been like a curse."
"And maybe you notice too but when they have tried to improve the bike, every time ... they make it worse," he said, his voice almost shouting. "Worse, not better! I mean, come on, how can this be?"
"How this can be" will be one for the ages. It may be a vexing question that Valentino Rossi will still being trying to answer in twenty years when he is lapping at historic events. There are a million answers and a million experts and yet there are no answers.
With just Valencia left on his contract an amazing thing, something once thought nearly unthinkable, is on the cusp. Rossi may very well be winless in two seasons on the Ducati. The situation has degraded to the point now that Rossi is being asked by the press which of the "new" Ducati MotoGP riders may be able to deliver what he could not--Iannone, Dovi', Hayden or Spies. The humbling nature of answering this question can't be lost on Rossi, a nine-time world champion and a man once considered the greatest rider in the history of the sport.
|"I mean, come on," he continued. "They have Preziosi, they have Jeremy Burgess and many of Valentino's crew from Yamaha. It is Ducati, with one phone call they can have the best engineers from F1 on the phone. This is not a team without resources. And they have Valentino! Valentino Rossi! From the first lap it has been like a curse."|
There is one shot left for Rossi before he returns to his old chair at Yamaha, but frankly it would take a miracle for him to win next weekend at Valencia. His record at Valencia is not great--he actually hasn't won a race at there since 2004--but Ducati last won there with Stoner, in 2008. However, those were very different times for Ducati's MotoGP team. At Phillip Island, Rossi again looked like some pedestrian in Rossi replica leathers. After a crash he saw a part of his bike laying in the Australian grass and gave it a great, frustration-spewing kick.
Only Valencia remains for Rossi and Ducati. Longshot? The odds are stacked so high against them in terms of a win that oddsmakers may not dare set a line.
He has one more shot, needs one more weekend of that old Rossi magic to return. Valencia. It is a dark place for Ducati, but also the scene of a near miracle. Remember Bayliss? What was once thought to be impossible became possible.