First, I would like to say a few words about the Sepang Qualifying. In MotoGP, Dani Pedrosa has led the charge of Repsol Honda; with Stoner and Dovizioso qualifying on the front row. Rossi will start from a lowly ninth position on the grid, with the highest qualifying Ducati of Nicky Hayden in sixth place.
Rossi had another front-end crash in the qualifying, and another disappointing session. Jorge Lorenzo had a successful surgery on his left hand, and will hopefully be fit to race in the session finale; Valencia. Ben Spies however, has withdrawn his participation in the Malaysian GP, as his physical condition did not allow him to race 20 laps of the physically demanding Sepang circuit.
So, with no Factory Yamaha, and the Factory Ducati’s struggling to keep up to the likes of Hondas, this race will be therefore, a win for Honda anyway. There is an outside chance of Rossi securing a top-five finish.
The Hot Debate:
I have heard people talking about ending the Rossi-Ducati Marriage, as both are struggling. They are of the opinion that the sooner they part-ways, the better it would be for both of them. I might agree with them, as I am frustrated too, to see him struggling like this. A circuit like Sepang, where he has got six wins, and won the last year’s race from 11th on the grid; he would certainly be not happy with himself either. Also, I’m sure that he didn’t want this season to go down like this. I can see him trying; crashing and then getting back up, crashing again and still ready to race and fight the battle the next moment. It is so disappointing that it could very well be the first season of his career without a single win to his name. Valentino Rossi is hurt, and so am I. So, where is the problem; is it Rossi – who might have lost his ability to ride a MotoGP bike somehow, or is it the Ducati bike? Read on!
Where is the problem then – Rossi or the bike?
Most of you would agree with me when I say that Rossi never lost his ability to ride a MotoGP bike. He was so good at Yamaha, and before that, on Honda. He won seven MotoGP titles; four with Yamaha and three with Honda, defended his titles numerous times, and the only man on the grid to do so successfully. So, where does the problem lie? So, it’s the Ducati – the beastly bike.
Now, some would say that Casey Stoner won a title on it, and left a winning bike. Can anyone tell me, who else won a championship on the Ducati? Can anyone tell me one race – one race that was won by a Ducati rider other than Casey in the 800cc era? I tell you that there is none! Zero wins for Nicky, and zero for everybody else. So, claiming that a bike can be ridden and won by only one rider is no good a bike in my opinion. So what if Casey mastered it and is the only rider to date to have had mastered this bike and win on it – I don’t care, however, I don’t take any credit away from Casey.
Yes, Casey left a winning bike as he quoted it, but Nicky; a World Champion, cannot compete for even a podium on a regular basis having been 3 years on it. Only Nicky can answer that better, I guess.
So, we establish that the problem is in the Ducati bike, and it must be sorted out. Until now, Ducati men have tried everything; aluminum frames, different chassis, gearbox and god know what else. On some occasions, modification like ‘changing the rider position’ has worked for Rossi. In others, it did not go well. There had been difficulties during this season, and I have seen Rossi fast in the wet only – even a challenger for a win. He wasn’t bad in the dry, in my opinion, considering the circumstances. Qualifying sessions have been questionable though.
In my opinion, the front-end (no-feel) issue of the bike has caused problems for a rider such as Rossi, who is so good under braking and pushes the front of the bike a lot. In the latest Sepang QP crash, as soon as he picked up the bike coming out of the corner and opened the throttle, he lost the front. Some would say that he doesn’t know how to go around and ride with the problem, so in their opinion, the bike he is riding doesn’t have a problem at all. What the heck is he riding then? He’s trying his best to ride with the problematic front-end issue of the bike, and doing the best he could do yet. Ducati engineers have to come up with something that would make this go away, not Rossi.
For those who believe, Rossi is not a development rider, or that he has always been on a sorted bike, I have expressed my opinions in the Development Skills: Rossi vs. Stoner article, and made a comparison.