Down, But Not Out: Can The Doctor Still Make A Comeback?
by staff
Monday, August 26, 2013

Assen was a very long time ago it seems. Rossi is struggling to will another win.
image by Marco Guidetti

The gale-force wind from Valentino Rossi fans exhaling after the The Doctor ended a 44-race winless streak in June at Assen touched all corners of the globe.

Many yellow-clad, flag-waving Rossi fans thought this could be the start of something special. This was the motorcycling Lazarus striding from the tomb wearing blue-and-white Yamaha leathers. This is what we waited for, damn it, and it's only the beginning.

But looking at Rossi's results since that day in Holland, one thing is clear: The Resurrection is on hold.

Rossi has finished third and fourth twice each in four starts since TT Assen. But let's face it: He could have done better. He maybe should have done better. Both Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa have been slowed by injuries of varying degrees since late June, with the increasingly imperious Marc Marquez as the only obstacle to the top of the box.

So the question remains: Will Assen be Rossi's only victory in 2013? Will it be the blip on a radar of unfulfilled expectations?

Lorenzo raced at Assen just 36 hours after surgery to drive eight titanium screws and plate into his collarbone. The cool conditions that prevailed all weekend in The Netherlands don't flatter the Honda RC213V of Marquez and Pedrosa.

Plus Assen isn't the most physical racetrack in the World Championship, which plays into the 34-year-old Rossi's hands, arms, legs and feet. Indianapolis, by contrast, is a very arduous circuit, with riders constantly jockeying in the saddle to flick the bike through the Brickyard's tight corners and chicanes and also jamming on the brakes hard entering the end of Indy's two long straights.

Like a former porcelain teen idol with crow's feet around his eyes at age 40, Rossi showed his age at Indy. He complained even before the first practice that he didn't like the IMS circuit, and that mental block and the aftereffect of his inexorably less-supple ligaments and tendons carried through all weekend. Rossi qualified a disappointing ninth Saturday, nearly 1.4 seconds off Marquez's pace. The Doctor showed strong racecraft and a sliver of his old killer instinct by passing Cal Crutchlow and Alvaro Bautista on the final lap for a solid fourth place. But Rossi still finished 19.8 seconds behind Marquez, whom he beat by 2.170 seconds just seven weeks ago at Assen.

Brno helped Rossi but he was still ten seconds back at the end. Brno required point-to-point precision to link corners and a light touch on the brake level rather than the ride-the-mechanical-bull brutality or a slide-the-lightning-bolt style needed to flourish at Indy.

If Yamaha's version of the seamless transmission is developed to the point where the Japanese will allow their top riders to use it, then that can only help Rossi. But both the Doctor and Jorge Lorenzo are saying that they need more from the Yamaha in all areas, during the race. Honda currently has the engineering edge in MotoGP and trying to topple them from that spot is going to be difficult.

The chance of standing atop the podium will only reach a now-or-never state for Rossi in November at Valencia. But any realistic idea of him winning a dry race without significant attrition seems to be slipping away.


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