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GP Week : Issue 190
22 GPWEEK.com // 22 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Misano’s GP was a landmark for one of the track’s local residents. Or more appropriately a low-water mark. In front of family and friends. Valentino Rossi last year managed to force the Ducati to a landmark second place, his best result on the downbeat Desmosedici, equalling and bike’s best result in two years. Last weekend, he could do no better than fourth. Riding the same Yamaha M1 (now with added seamless gearshift) as the runaway winner Jorge Lorenzo. If he was disappointed ... well, of course he was disappointed, especially after qualifying on the front row for only the second time this year, he did his best not to show it. In his usual post-race debrief, he showed his usual smile, and praised what must surely have been a humiliatingly forceful overtake by Marquez (not the first this year) as “a good move,” adding with a wry smile, “Especially for him” . At the same time, he turned a new page in the book of excuses, suggesting that he suffered a disadvantage compared with his rivals because he is taller and heavier. This might seem irrelevant on an overpowered MotoGP bike, but there is some merit in it nonetheless. His extra size imposes extra fuel consumption, he explained. And in the modern MotoGP economy run, this means his ultimate power has to be cut by comparison with others, to make sure he can get to the chequered flag on the miserly allocation of 21 litres for almost 120 km. Even so, at a twisty track like Misano, all riders spoke of cutting back the power to improve control, and in any case full throttle is used only once or twice, and briefly, on the whole lap. Rossi’s popularity has not suffered along with his results. Nor crucially his earning power – he is still streets ahead of the rest, as confirmed by a recent Forbes Magazine listing that put him right up among the top F1 drivers. Nor his sporting credentials. There may have been times he has crowed a bit long and loud in victory, but then he freely admits that behind his façade of charm he remains a ruthless killer. But he also manages to be mainly gracious in defeat. Even in the darkest days at Ducati he seldom dropped his guard to let the bleak thoughts show. At Misano a slightly fatuous straw poll of top riders sought judgement over whether Agostini or Hailwood was the greatest figure in racing history. Given that we were in Italy, that Ago was present to launch a new picture-book, and that most of today’s top racers are Latin and weren’t even born when the two giants of the past were racing, it was not surprising that Ago got the vote. Ago was a much better rider than his string of seven mainly unopposed 500cc titles on the MV Agusta suggest: he had to fight hard in the 350 class for seven more; then switched to Yamaha to defeat MV for the first two-stroke 500 title. But it was Hailwood who won three GPs at the same event, and Hailwood who returned after more than ten years away racing cars to win two more Isle of Man TTs. Doesn’t look like Rossi’s going to do anything like that, but his good cheer and sporting approach is more like Mike the Bike’s than anyone else’s. But I hope he doesn’t test it too far. He said at the start of this year that after the end of his current two-year contract he hopes to return for 2015 and 2016 as well. With the rostrum proving continually elusive, he might be better off thinking again, rather than smudge his magnificence even more. THE LION IN WINTER OPINION OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor