Cycle News

Cycle News Issue 46 November 20

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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Page 107 of 107

VOL. 55 ISSUE 46 NOVEMBER 20, 2018 P107 frustrated almost to the tipping point. For more than a year he's battered his head against the barrier of Yamaha's unwilling- ness or inability to respond to the same old complaints. Once again at Phillip Island, a most favorite circuit, he'd slipped back out of contention to a down-beat sixth (probably eighth had Zarco and Marquez not collided). He had the rhythm, but the usual grip and wheelspin problems meant he wasn't able to use it. Worse still, his teammate—al- ways the first person you have to beat—had won the race in dominant style. It was another bitter taste for the rider the fans love to love, and his rivals love to defeat. Valentino had followed Vina- les at the start of this season, with an early signing of a new two-year contract for 2019 and 2020. Now came the rumors that if Yamaha didn't produce a proper Honda-beater (and Duca- ti, and now also Suzuki) over the winter, he'd turn his back on the whole show. It's not as though he wouldn't have plenty else to do. And not just presiding over the VR46 brand that, with the help of a few unlikely seeming childhood friends, he has grown into a financial giant. Perhaps his greatest enter- prise is his ranch outside Ta- vullia, where he trains with an ever-larger VR46 Academy, with an ever more illustrious roll call of graduates. At that same week- end, while one of them—Marco Bezzecchi—narrowly missed the Moto3 title, Pecco Bagnaia won a resounding Moto2 Champion- ship, while VR46 teammate Luca Marini (Valentino's half-brother) took his first race win. Entry lists in both smaller classes, until recently dominated by Spanish stars, are now full of VR46 proteges, with a good collection of silverware in their cabinets. More reasons to add plausibil- ity to the Sepang rumors of a career rethink. Then the green lights went on, and off he went, in the lead, riding with all the strength and vigour that make him such a giant. Again, he again rendered the rumors irrelevant. But then he fell off. Under re- lentless pressure from his hated usurper, Marquez. This had the feeling of a semi- nal moment. Crestfallen, he re- mounted. Later he spoke of how he didn't understand why he'd crashed. "I felt comfortable," he said. Not understanding is the most undermining feeling of all. To a lesser rider, this might be a major setback. It's axiomatic that—the obvious motor skills, vi- sion, perception and anticipation taken for granted—the essential ingredient for racing success is mental. It's all in the mind. This has been used to explain Johann Zarco's conspicuous midseason slump, after the Mon- ster Yamaha crashed out of his home GP. After a blazing 2017 rookie season and two second places in the first four races, he'd started from pole position at Le Mans. The pressure was huge, and he succumbed. How different is Rossi? Looking back over his 23 years of GP racing, very differ- ent. Not just from Zarco, but from pretty much everyone. The other difference, of course, is that 23 years. It would be under- standable if, given all his other roles, his patience with Yamaha is wearing thin. The margins in modern Mo- toGP are very small. Yamaha is not actually that far behind the others, and should therefore be able to recover. But if they can't, will The Doctor have just had enough? I've predicted Rossi's depar- ture before. More than once, ac- tually. Called him a bed-blocker, standing in the way of younger talent. Each time he's emphati- cally proved me seriously wrong. Which, to be honest, has been a pleasure for me. There remained one more race this year for him to do it again. By the time you read this, we will know the outcome. Here's hoping I'll be proved wrong again. CN

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