It has been almost a year and a half since 'The Doctor' won his last premier class race — the 2010 Malaysian GP — and he has taken to the podium on just two occasions since his move to Ducati. Despite that, the Italian is still undoubtedly the biggest draw in motorsport. Go to any race, whatever the location, take a look around the grandstands and see how many fans are decked out in Rossi merchandise. Log on to any MotoGP forum and look at the avatars of the posters. There is still plenty of passion for Rossi and it isn't going away any time soon.
So, with his announcement of his intention to continue riding for at least another two years combining with Casey Stoner's retirement and negotiation time for manager Davide Brivio with the various factories, perhaps the best thing for MotoGP as a whole would be to ensure that Rossi gets whatever he wants, at whatever price necessary.
The Ducati-Rossi combination isn't going to get any closer to being a racewinner in the dry before the opening enquiries are made about rides for 2013, but the real doubt is to where the nine-times world champion can go in the likely event that he leaves the all-Italian project behind. Eager to have a legend on their bike they may be, but the big two factories appear to have little room to open their doors for No.46.
Out of Honda and Yamaha, it was the partnership with the latter that ended in the most amicable fashion. It is also they who have the most problems economically in terms of sponsorship. A race-winning team in the lead of the World Championship, the official Yamaha team have not had a main sponsor since Rossi moved on and Fiat lost interest as a result. Current rider Ben Spies came so much cheaper that, even with a post-title raise for Lorenzo, the difference in salary demands between he and Rossi was enough to make running the team with no title sponsor a viable option for two seasons.
They also have satellite team riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow waiting in the wings if either Lorenzo or Spies move on, through their own volition or otherwise. Dovi even buys his own brakes.
Honda have to decide on what to do with Dani Pedrosa, lay the foundations for a move up to MotoGP for Marc Marquez and keep sponsor Repsol sweet, plus there were a few things said by both parties to iron out before there could be a full reconciliation. Where money and rules are concerned, however, is where Dorna should step in.
Money is handed out to CRT outfits and, previously, to satellite teams all the time in order to keep them on the grid. If Rossi doesn't want to lower his salary demands and Honda/Yamaha can't find the funds to accommodate him, then don't think that the rights holders don't know the value of having the blue chip rider on a winning machine. This isn't just about the racing line — it's also about the bottom line.
Ditto the rules. Need a Spanish rider in Repsol Honda, but also want to keep Marquez waiting in the wings? Carmelo Ezpeleta says that the rookie rule will not be relaxed when journalists ask — and maybe it wouldn't for Marquez. It likely would for Valentino Rossi's benefit.
More and more, the conclusion can be drawn that mountains can be moved for a man who has made many people very rich. A helping hand has shone through in the past - you can take your pick from a multitude of examples. Switch to Bridgestone at your behest in the 'tyre wars' days? You've got it. Need a little more testing? We can work around it. Watch the 2006 title decider at Valencia: in whose garage was Mr. Ezpeleta waiting when Nicky Hayden was coming in from his victory lap?
And you know what? I don't think anyone bar the staunchest fans of pure motorsport would care if the odds were stacked more in Rossi's favour. The majority just want to see him winning again. Time to open the chequebook, head over to Honda HQ, make some adjustments, package it as a homecoming for the factory who brought him to the premier class and watch the popular victories in new territories roll in. Make a feel-good story out of it and smooth over the transition to CRT-only in a two-year short-term solution.
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