Between the day of Valentino’s first win, 18 August 1996 in Brno in 125, and his most recent, today in Assen, 20 years and 313 days have passed. A taste of eternity in the frenetic Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing World Championship of which, whether you like it or not, Rossi is once again the centre.
For lovers of statistics, the Doctor went into double digits in Holland with his 10th win, as he had already done last year in Barcelona. As if that were not enough, he relaunched his championship and he is now just 7 points behind Dovizioso.
“This is an important win for many reasons – he explains – but the most important is getting back to winning. I discovered over the years that the past does not count for much. I race and work for that sensation that you feel when you cross the line first and it lasts for five or six hours. It’s a pity to lose one and a half of those for interviews” he laughs.
How do you feel?
“Proud of having achieved my 10th win at Assen, like I already did in Barcelona. These two tracks, along with Mugello, are among my favourites. Also, after a year without winning, by now even the people at the bar were telling me that it was about time (he laughs). I won’t say that I feel pressure, but succeeding after a long time makes it even nicer. It isn’t the records or the numbers that are important, but the sensations.”
It was a long wait…
“I think I had a bit of a debt to pay with hard luck for the wins. In Le Mans I crashed while I was battling and last year things went badly a few times too.”
When did you realize that you could win?
“Truthfully, when I got my head settled and I had begun to be optimistic and had the situation under control, it started to rain. Danilo caught up with me and even overtook me and at that moment I realized that he also needed to be very careful. In the last two laps I simply imagined that it had stopped raining (he laughs).”
Four riders within 11 points of one another. What does it mean?
“I don’t remember such an open MotoGP season, not only 4 riders but also 3 different bikes. We should be content, but not too much, because from one week to the next it is easy to go from being big heroes to being big zeros.”
But this race gave you some certainties on the frame …
“Yes, but we cannot even think race to race anymore, but session to session. Next week will be Sachsenring where Marquez has won for something like 30 years (he laughs). All joking aside, it will be an important GP to see whether the new frame works well on tracks that are difficult for us too. I wouldn’t want it to be like at Le Mans, where we thought we had solved everything, but instead…”
Today it was Viñales’ turn to make a mistake.
“It is difficult for everyone, even for those who have talent that is off the chain like Maverick. He is incredibly fast, but everything is different in the race. Fortunately, he also has weak points.”
Lorenzo was even lapped by you…
“I was sorry to overtake him, but he was the only one who looked over his shoulder and gave me room to pass.”
What happened instead with Zarco?
“Today I realized that he is not a mean guy, he simply doesn’t know how to judge distances. Like in Austin when he attempted an impossible pass. I had not gone wide, that was my line. I have his rubber on my leathers. If it doesn’t wash out I’ll have to send him the bill (he laughs). It’s all good as long as nothing happens. As Marquez says, in MotoGP everyone needs to be aggressive.”
You will not have much time to enjoy the win. Next Sunday you will already be on the Sachsenring.
“I don’t know what will make the difference in this championship. It will be important to try to win or get on the podium during the good times and limit damage in bad times. Things change too quickly.”