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GP Week : Issue 195
21 GPWEEK.com // 21 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: It was BBC commentator and ex-racer steve Parrish who said it: that Valentino Rossi would sell his own grandmother if he thought it would improve his lap time. The comment reflected the shock felt through the paddock, when news broke that the multi-champion had decided to sack Jeremy Burgess, his crew chief for all 14 years of his premier class career, for all seven World Championships and 80 wins, through thick as he switched from Honda to Yamaha to thin with the fateful move to Ducati. His right-hand man. It just seemed all wrong. Whatever it was that has shackled Valentino to fourth place this year, it is more likely to have been his right hand. Rossi had decided only in the break since the last race, he said, but word had leaked from his inner circle to surface in the Italian press before he’d had a chance even to tell Burgess. There was plenty of time, he said, to choose a successor. But when compatriot Silvano Galbusera took over the day after the race, it took on an altogether more conspiratorial aspect. Even the leak to the press began to feel a little bogus. Burgess is a popular and respected paddock figure whose CV goes back far beyond Rossi, to Gardner and multi-champion Doohan. To see him kicked in the teeth like this was hard to stomach. But it was no eye-opener to those who know the Rossi behind the sporting good humour and charm-laden sound-bite. Those who understand racing have never lost sight of the fact that the elfin smile adorns the face of a ruthless killer. His victims in the past, however, have always been on the track. He has enjoyed humiliating the likes of Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau, among others. And he didn’t take kindly to it when Lorenzo joined the Yamaha team, and started to beat him. His response seemed at the time like a fine adventure, but two years at Ducati meant now it was Rossi who was feeling the humiliation. But he kept faith with himself and his team, and there was joy and anticipation when he moved back to rejoin Yamaha, and ride a bike that he knew could win races. So it could again in 2013. Just not when he was riding it. Apart from an exceptional Saturday afternoon at Assen, when Lorenzo was hurt, and Marquez also. The old Rossi was back: dominant, adorable and adored. For one last time? Killers are killers and riders are riders. It’s a bad mistake to start thinking of them as cuddly, no matter how tempting. Viewed like this, it all clicks into place more easily. If Rossi was to lose faith in himself, then he probably wouldn’t be able to make the start line. He certainly wouldn’t have become who he is. There remained just one target. Burgess had to take the bullet. It is hard to imagine that things will change for the better in his absence – although Rossi has always been good at springing surprises. To the dispassionate observer, however, it smacks of one thing. Desperation. Which is never a comfortable pillion passenger, on a single-seater grand prix bike. GRANDMA FOR SALE OPINION OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor