On Leave: Il Dottore

When Valentino Rossi broke his leg at Mugello in early June, I was stuck by a strange emotion. When I picked via twitter the extent of Vale’s injuries, I was gutted and quite frankly upset by it. I hadn’t felt like this before, riders and drivers have crashes all the time, we’re used to seeing it, but not with Valentino. The guy doesn’t get hurt, he always seemed bulletproof. Up to this point in his career, 230 races, he had never missed one through injury. Not one.

I’m not one to normally invest emotionally in sporting personalities. I wouldn’t say I’m a particular fan of any certain driver or rider in a given series. I have favourites, of course, but it’s rare that I’ll really root for a particular person to do well (unless a certain winner will close up the title fight for instance). I like to maintain a bit of distance and watch all the characters duff each other up, just putting on a show.

I don’t feel this way with Valentino Rossi. Ever since seeing him at Donington Park in 2001 on the famous yellow Nastro Azurro Honda he has been my favourite. When he overtook Max Biaggi at the Old Hairpin, it could have been a Brit on that Honda, the place went absolutely spare.

The quickest guys are always popular (Valentino, Schumacher and Loeb all have legions of fans). This may be down partly to the age old attraction of glory hunting, if you’re going to back anyone, why not back a winner eh? However Valentino is the only one I’ve ever really wanted to do well, even though he already won at everything he did.  I’ve had conversations with people who lump Vale and Schumi in the same boat. I won’t bash Schumi, but people have said to me that Valentino winning in MotoGP is ‘dull, boring and tedious’, like Schumacher was at the height of his success in F1. I disagree with the comparison because of the way that Valentino won those races and titles; he made plenty of mistakes.

While undoubtedly a genius, these errors proved that he’s human time and time again. Such indiscretions included ballsing up his starts, putting in a truly horrid qualifying effort on the Saturday or simply falling off in the race. At one point in the mid -2000s a 14th place qualifying position wasn’t uncommon for the Doctor, yet he still managed to pull the results out of the bag.

I’ll admit, in the 990cc period while at Honda, Vale had the best bike and he was rampant on it. Rivals came and went, only Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau ran him close in terms of ability. Unfortunately for them, Rossi was always two moves ahead in the mind games, which proved to be thier downfall.Valentino’s move to Yamaha mirrored Schumacher’s move to Ferrari and proved his class (and his crew’s class) beyond question. His charisma and the post race celebrations are also a key reason how he keeps the fans entertained, not many sportsmen, particularly successful ones have the sense of humour to pull such stunts off.

I think these two videos sum up Valentino well, the first one from early in his career and the second from about this time last year.

  • 2001,Yellow Honda 500, Suzuka. Rossi is dangerously wronged by arch rival and tosser, Max Biaggi. Valentino get’s his own back in supreme style.
  • 2009, Blue & White Yamaha 800cc, Catalunya. Rossi and Lorenzo fight in one of the greatest last laps of all time. (Foreign language vid to add to the excitement and, cos, well, I couldn’t find an English one).

So, get well soon Valentino, lets hope you are indeed back for Brno. The world seems a bit empty without you.

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2 Responses to “On Leave: Il Dottore”

  1. Dank Says:

    Never tire of seeing that last lap battle at Catalunya – made infinitely better by foreign commentary. MAMMA MIA!

    I’m not a bike man, but I do appreciate the following Rossi commands. Even though he wasn’t participating at Silverstone the other week, his supporters easily outnumbered the rest combined – and some of them are nothing short of being mental!

    Was a pretty sombre affair though, and you do have to wonder how MotoGP will cope when he decides that he’s had enough.

    • flatin6th Says:

      I was at Silverstone for the MotoGP too. The queue at the Rossi merchandise stand must have been 15 deep! The series as a whole is in dire need of some rejuvenation, Rossi’s absence has starkly underlined this. Moto2 is by far the most interesting of the Grand Prix bike series at the moment to my mind anyway.

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