Cycle News

Cycle News 2020 Issue 18 May 5

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 109

VOLUME 57 ISSUE 18 MAY 5, 2020 P107 13 races to declare a champion- ship. Whatever does finally happen, it doesn't look like 2020 will offer the veteran multi-champion any period of grace for his crucial decision. So, in an official Dorna interview in the last weekend in April, he announced that—like the racing and the rest of normal life—his decision would also be deferred. Now he will assess his prospects during the first races of 2021. He will, by the way, be 42 years old by then. Well, of course, it is good news. The spectre of racing without Rossi—Dorna's great fear—has been hanging around for many years now, to the grow- ing dismay of all concerned. He admitted, in the same interview, that he had seriously considered quitting back in 2012, after the two-year Ducati disaster, until just one outing on his old-friend Yamaha restored his shattered confidence. The ghost has become a mon- ster, to be fought off with sticks. Walking sticks, in this case. Or eventually Zimmer frames. But if Captain Tom, the now world-renowned British ex-soldier who raised millions of dollars to support the British National Health Service, can do more than 100 laps of his garden at 99, then what might not be possible for the longest-serving GOAT in any sport apart from golf? I first felt dismay at the news— where would this leave Yamaha, which has promised Valentino a full factory bike come May? All the more, how about Fabio Quartararo, blocked for another year. But, of course, this is not so. If Rossi does race on, it will be on a guaranteed full factory bike, and (given a dearth of other options) with Petronas. Regardless of the fact that Ra- zlan Razali, the Malaysian team principal, revealed to the Italian website GPOne that he hadn't had so much as an SMS mes- sage from Rossi about this plan, for he added that, given Rossi's marketing value, all options remained open. And so much for the Petronas team's supposed role in train- ing young riders. After just one season, it's morphed into a sort of Yamaha pension scheme. Something perhaps for Quar- tararo to look forward to. Twenty years down the line. Intriguingly, that means he might even have Lorenzo back as a teamate–Jorge "retired" precipitately at the end of last year, after his own confidence- and body-bashing Honda year. But as soon as he got back on a Yamaha M1 in his role as test rider, he started to make noises about changing his mind. But never mind. Quartararo is just the youngest of a small handful of young riders who should have been disputing the championship in 2020, whose ambitions have been put on hold, at a crucial moment in the development of their careers. But as always, Rossi's the important one, for all the right and quite a few of the wrong reasons. Win or lose, he still matters more to more people than any other rider. He's always professed him- self not particularly interested in records, but here are a few he might still think about. The oldest premier-class champion was the first, British ex-bomber pilot Les Graham in 1949—a relative stripling, at 37 years and 340 days. A youngster compared with Valentino. But Vale will have to go on a couple more years to challenge the oldest race winner in the class, another Briton. Fergus An- derson, winner at Montjuic Park in Barcelona on his Moto Guzzi in 1953, aged an impressive 44 plus 237 days. And a lot longer to match the oldest ever GP win- ner Arthur Wheeler, at who took 250 honors in Argentina in 1962, aged 46 and 70 days. Looks like Vale shouldn't even be thinking about retirement until 2026 at the earliest. Let's hope that suits Yamaha, Petronas and the rest. Because it will suit most of the fans down to the ground. CN

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