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GP Week : Issue 184
>>> MOTOGP FEATUrE leg at Mugello sealed his fate. Lorenzo took a commanding title that year, and Rossi left the team in a huff. But that signal defeat on the Spaniard’s home turf left him still telling me two years later that his greatest racing regret was never having beaten Rossi in a straight fight. The same remains true today, largely thanks to Rossi’s absence from the front ranks in his two dark years at Ducati. In fact, the only other time the pair did engage in hand-to-hand combat was late in 2010, Rossi still limping, at Motegi. The older rider battered Jorge repeatedly and without mercy, before turfing him off the rostrum. He also cost him points, at a time when the title was still not yet mathematically certain. All very symbolic of the rivalry between the pair, with Rossi’s Yamaha divorce already announced, with Lorenzo named as co-respondent. Both battles are worth revisiting. I note my contemporary report from Catalunya in 2009 read that Rossi had “made Lorenzo look very much the schoolboy” . They’d changed places three times already on the final lap: Lorenzo taking the lead into Turn 1, Rossi regaining it only briefly on Turn 4. Lorenzo had made no mistake at the last known passing point, however, the end of the back straight. Desperation and opportunism showed Rossi “at his bravura best, seizing victory from the jaws of defeat” , as he invented a new one. That in Japan was even more protracted, and certainly more violent. This time they changed places six times on the last lap, and again it ended up in Rossi’s favour, this time by half-a -second as Lorenzo finally decided the title points were more important than his now badly battered pride. He complained to Yamaha boss Masao Furusawa, putting him in the embarrassing position of having to censure his oldest and strongest ally at Yamaha. Rossi described it as “great racing between two great rivals – and really funny for everybody” , and took the senior Yamaha director’s carpeting in his stride. “Yamaha have asked me to race with more attention. So if I am fighting again with Lorenzo, I will try to beat him again ... but with more attention.” Since that time, we all know what has happened. Rossi hit the doldrums at Ducati, in ways that are still haunting him. It must hurt to see that his replacement on the red bike, Dovizioso, is performing a great deal better than did Valentino and his legendary pit crew. Now he is back at Yamaha, but with the landscape completely different. Jorge is the senior incumbent, Rossi the guy relearning the ropes where he was once master of the ship. He’s lagging on results, and at every race so far has been at pains to point out that Lorenzo is riding the Yamaha better than him. At Mugello, he went into more detail, about not only Lorenzo but the other riders who are beating him. “For me it is not right to speak of another level. The younger riders are strong. It is like a car: the next model is always better. “Also the way to ride the bike has changed a lot. Now you have to do some trick on the bike that for an older rider like me is very difficult to learn. “Especially the tyres have changed a lot, from when they introduced the mono-tyre rule. From that moment the Bridgestones have less grip on the edge, so you have to use the traction area for acceleration more than in the past.” But in other ways, the circumstances next Sunday at Catalunya have powerful echoes, and offer high hopes for a decisive close battle between the Yamaha pair. And let it end how it may. “Yamaha have asked me to race with more attention. so if I am fighting again with Lorenzo, I will try to beat him again ... but with more attention.” 25 GPWEEK.com // 25 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: