The throaty roar of an inline-four, the swish of a chequered flag, the camaraderie of riding together, and the legends and their greatest hits.

Bye-Bye Red

Who says motorsports vacations are quiet, restful and uneventful? I was getting ready for my first race-free weekend, mulling over an interesting beginning to my WSBK race review, and wondering of ways to fill my time. I moseyed on over to the MotoGP website and bang! I got an eyeful of a press release that has probably left many people screaming joyously.

Screengrab of MotoGP.com announcing Vale’s return to Yamaha

Yes, it is official. Yamaha and Ducati put an end to all those rumours. Our very own Vale is going home to the team with whom he won four championships. The news also brings to an end the much-touted Italian dream team of Ducati and Rossi that came together in 2011.

I called up a friend, struggling to come to terms with this deal, asking myself if I was happy or sad. I got a, “It was bound to happen”.

Me: But, but, this was a dream team! Rossi was going to win (I admit, I did I sound a little half-hearted)

Enthusiastic friend: Dream team. What dream team? Ducati and Vale! Don’t forget Hayden.

Me: What about Audi?

Enthusiastic friend: What about Audi? Do you know how long it takes to develop an engine? Tell me, how many more years will Rossi race? Two? Three, maybe? He is 33 years old. The Ducati is a difficult machine, but it is amazing what he has managed to do with her so far.

Frankly there’s too much work to be done, and Rossi needs to win. He is a world champion. Do you think it’s easy to start from the back, when you have been right up in the front for so many years?  How do you think he feels? Do you think it’s easy to run a machine that you know isn’t up to the mark, again and again?

Me: (Sputtering) But… it’s the ultimate dream team. And, there is Jorge Lorenzo there. Do you remember how much trouble Vale had, with Lorenzo back in 2010? Wasn’t that one of the main reasons why he left? He didn’t want to play second fiddle.

Enthusiastic friend: Sure. I agree. But Jorge’s last win was the championship in 2010. He now needs someone to up the competition. Yamaha needs to win. It’s obvious that they will bring together two really strong riders – it will increase the competition and push Jorge. Besides, the M1 is Vale’s baby. It will be interesting to see how quickly he adapts to her again. He knows it through and through, though there have been updates. Vale and Jorge will make a phenomenal team. 2013 is going to be interesting!

Jorge Lorenzo and Vale at the French GP, 2010. Teammates again. Image courtesy Alex Simonini at Wikimedia Commons; Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

I made it pretty clear in a previous post that I wanted Vale to stay on at Ducati. Leaving seemed too much like giving up. But my friend slowly and precisely negated every argument I made. I knew I was being sentimental. But then, I remembered the crashes, the way Vale complained about the front end of his Ducati. I remembered his outburst – disheartened and sad, even. Then, I thought of how amazing Vale looked on the M1, riding it like he was finally home.

It was the final sentence that convinced me.

“A champion like Vale would want to retire with wins, on a winning bike. Unfortunately, Ducati isn’t that bike. At least not right now,” my friend said.

I remember the shared frustration, of watching Vale struggle with a recalcitrant Ducati at so many races – crashing, battling, and falling back. It isn’t easy. It never is. I remembered the doubters convinced, saying Vale had finally lost his touch. But he hadn’t. The machine notwithstanding, he still fought with the best at Le Mans and later at rose through the ranks at Sachsenring and Mugello to end the race at 5th and 6th positions. Then there was Cal Crutchlow’s tribute to Vale after Mugello.

Vale celebrates his 100th career victory at Assen in 2009. Image courtesy Giulio Bernardi at Wikimedia Commons; Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

With the announcement though, the rumour mill is at an all-time high: Vale has taken a massive pay cut; Vale has cut a deal to move to WSBK after two years; Who will join Ducati now? Meanwhile, all we have to go on is a Yamaha press release announcing Vale’s return on MotoGP.com. Lin Jarvis, Yamaha Motor Racing’s managing director said, “We have run this ‘super team’ together in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and during that time we achieve the ‘triple crown’ titles with Rider, Manufacturer and Team World Championship victors for three consecutive years. The target for the future is obvious and we will do our utmost to achieve our goals. I have no doubt that with the experience, knowledge, skills, and speed of these two great champion riders we will be able challenge for many race wins and for the 2013 and 2014 World Championship victories for three consecutive years.”

Yes, perhaps it is time to go home to Yamaha.

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6 Responses

  1. Interesting article.Has to see what he does with Yamaha.

  2. I agree, I so wanted Rossi to succeed at Ducati and complete the ‘dream’ of winning on the three main manufacturers, I came to terms with the idea that it wouldn’t happen by reminding myself that MotoGP is more fun, more exciting and a greater spectacle when Rossi is on top, and despite the cash, Audi can guarantee nothing.
    I feel it might also push Rossi to “continue with the bikes” as he says (always makes me smile, as does when any of them say “to the maximum” :) ) the original rumour that I mentioned in my last Rossi post was that Yamaha want him to develop the WSBK after his next stint in MotoGP, I’d love to watch that from a live event viewers perspective, much nicer than catching him fly past in a rally car in wet and windy Wales, I’d have to settle for t.v. supporting only!
    I get your friends point on the news feeling a little flat, it had been buzzing around for so long it’s as if it became fact because everybody wished hard enough!

  3. Valentino Rossi and the Yamaha Factory team are the perfect couple. The Yamaha YZR-M1 bike is the best bike on the grid, it just doesn’t have the top speed. It has been great to see Rossi and his upgraded M1 bike being reunited in Valencia at the first test of 2012. It won’t be surprising if ‘The Doctor’ returns to winning ways in 2013, would it?

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