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GP Week : Issue 29
>>Moto GPInsight Perfect partners: Rossi and Burgess, left, are the current dream team in MototGP, but back in the mid- 1990s, it was Mick Doohan who benefited from 'JB,' above. improve the memory. Nor, to be fair, does splashing through the teeth of a hurricane on a 320kph motorcycle, faster than anybody else in the world dares. World champion elect Rossi, climbing victorious off his Yamaha at Indianapolis, said: “I can’t remember when I B won four races in a row.” We can help him there. It was only three years ago, in 2005, his last championship year. He went on to win the next one as well, to make it five. But that was not his most successful run. In 2002, when he was still on the Honda, he won seven in a row. Rossi won four in a row on a 250 as well, in 1998, and six in a row on a 125 the previous year. Clearly, serial wins are something of a habit. But as Valentino moves inexorably towards his sixth premier class title, adding up to eight in all with his two in EING one of the most successful motorbike racers of all time apparently doesn’t the smaller classes, two things are worth noting. The first is that he is actually lagging behind in this particular statistic. The second is that there is something about him that means it doesn’t matter. Rossi’s Indy win was his 69th in the premier class, surpassing Giacomo Agostini’s 500-class total. But he’s nowhere near Ago in terms of consecutive race wins, and never will be. Ago’s tally is no less than 20, over the 1968/69 seasons. And there are others: Mike Hailwood took 12 in a row (1963/4), and John Surtees 11 (1958-1960). There is a reason for this. All three were riding the factory MV Agusta, standing out alone against the most feeble of opposition. Sometimes Ago would lap the whole field. Any excitement came when they didn’t win. Rossi has never had it as easy as that. In modern racing, with three or more full factory teams, these are not realistic targets. There is one rider who achieved his run when there was real opposition, both from his own Honda team-mates and from the best that Yamaha and Suzuki could muster. Mighty Mick Doohan is the man, and his longest run of victories was no less than 10, all in 1997. In the past week, I spoke to Doohan, and to Surtees, among other great past champions, canvassing their opinion on the reason for Rossi’s success. Apart from the obvious matters of talent and determination, almost all of them pointed to one priceless asset – the team that Valentino has around him. By no coincidence, the head of that team is the same man who shepherded Doohan to his five consecutive championships (a figure Rossi has equalled, but is unlikely to surpass). Step forward Adelaide’s Jerry (short for Jeremy) Burgess, the crew chief extraordinaire who made the move from Honda to Yamaha along with Rossi, taking almost all his merry men with him. The important thing about Burgess, according to Doohan, is that he was himself a racer first. That meant he could understand better when the rider described nuances of feeling. Behind every racer, there stands a good crew chief. But we knew that. What is a little puzzling is why Rossi’s dominant performances have a quite different feeling to those that Doohan piled one on top of the other. Even he said, famously, “racing is as boring as sh*t right now”. If he felt like that, imagine how everyone else felt … his rivals, and the fans. It wasn’t Doohan’s fault, it was just the way it was. And the way he was. Rossi has another gift. Even on those days when he makes winning look easy, and there have been plenty of them, there’s a certain joie de vivre that comes from within. It’s fun for him, and that makes it fun for everyone watching. We’re as lucky to have him as a winner as he is to have Burgess in his pit. 31