Pingley’s Thoughts

| August 11, 2010

In all forms of sport it has always been a considered fact, not a rule or regulation, but the simple straight forward fact that no individual is bigger than the sport itself. Many sports have their legends, Pele in soccer, Tiger Woods in golf, Lance Armstrong in cycling and the great Olympians; Mark Spitz winning seven gold medals in one Games and Sir Steve Redgrave winning gold in five successive Olympic Games.In the motorsport world we have Sebastien Loeb in World Rally, totally dominant and setting records unlikely to be ever equalled, Fangio, Senna and seven times World Champion Schumacher from Formula One and John Surtees the only man to have won world titles on four and two wheels in Formula One and Motorcycle Grands Prix. In the Formula One world, following the recent team orders scandal, the Ferrari top management have stated repeatedly that no driver is bigger than the team – never mind the sport.The motorcycle road race world is not short of legends with Duke, McIntyre, Hailwood, fifteen times World Champion Giacomo Agostini, and Kenny Leroy Roberts, the small and noisy Californian who came to Europe in 1978 to take on double champion Barry Sheene and led three World Championships, (250cc, 500cc and Formula 750) before focusing exclusively on and winning his first of three successive 500cc titles. Kenny went on to form his own very successful teams initially with Yamaha machines but later developing into a full on constructor, designing and building his own two-stroke and four-stroke engines in house. He then became the first motorcycle team equivalent of a Formula One constructor by leasing engines from Honda and building his own chassis, a formula that I believe could be the savior of the MotoGP class covered in my post Laguna Seca article on engines. Roberts is a true legend.Back to the future and we have the return of MotoGP this weekend at Brno in the Czech Republic after a short, but most welcome summer break. The worldwide interest this week is not focussed on the racing or the potential race winners, but on the post-event press conference when we will be informed of Valentino Rossi’s plans for the future. It is highly unlikely that any part of the event will overshadow the long awaited announcement that will affect not only MotoGP but also World Superbike, not only Yamaha but also Ducati and not only Valentino Rossi but also Jorge Lorenzo, Ben Spies, Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow, to name but a few. Whatever the announcement is, the effects will travel far and wide.The universal belief is that Rossi will sign for Ducati and take his long term crew headed by Jeremy Burgess along with him to create the Italian dream team and the undisputed status of greatest of all time when they win the 10th world title with a third manufacturer. If this happens, and I don’t believe 100% that it will, then Ducati could pull out of World Superbike after a disastrous season and a not very promising future. Ducati will be able to sell any machine with Rossi as an integral part of the marketing plan, making Superbike racing and Colin Edwards’ plans redundant.The other scenario, considered by few, but certainly possible, is that Valentino finally persuades Yamaha to retain him and Spies on the factory team, leaving arch rival Jorge Lorenzo out in the cold without a contract for 2011. The only seat left would be Ducati and Lorenzo with questionable machine development skills in Rossi’s mind, would be left to compete on a machine Casey Stoner is walking away from and Ducati have stated will not be changed dramatically prior to the new regulations for 2012.Lorenzo wants the big time money but Rossi is interested in more race and championship victories with his 2010 earnings reported to be $35 million. Staying with Yamaha is a safer bet in this respect and also may explain why he has not invited Burgess to transfer to Ducati yet; simply because we are not going anywhere, Jeremy!At this moment in time Valentino Rossi has the motorcycle world hanging on his every word waiting for the big news, he has in his hands the future of two factories, two championships and a significant number of riders and he is the only man that I know that can telephone Luca di Montezemolo and arrange for another test in a Formula One car just like that.Just for now Valentino is bigger than the sport.

Peter Ingley