BROOKLYN, NY, OCT 19 – The very potent team of Valentino Rossi and Jeremy Burgess will take their championship winning act to Ducati for the next two years.The rumors of Rossi to Ducati that began early this season were quickly followed by similar rumors about Burgess joining him. For his part, Burgess had been coy about his future, neither confirming nor denying, but simply listing the pros and cons of leaving Yamaha for Ducati. That all changed when Burgess broke his silence at this past weekend’s Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island. It was there that the serial championship winner confirmed to www.cyclenews.com that he would, indeed, be moving from Yamaha’s shop near Monza to Ducati’s headquarters close to Bologna. By making the move, Burgess can add to his legendary status by winning a world title with yet another manufacturer. The 57-year-old from Adelaide won his first world championship as a mechanic on the Erv Kanemoto-led crew that prepared the Hondas of Freddie Spencer in 1985. Following Spencer’s double world championships in 2005, Burgess was given his first job when legendary Honda Racing Corporation boss Yoichi Oguma assigned him to Wayne Gardner in 1986. The Australian pair were a near instant success, winning the 1987 500cc World Championship for Rothmans Honda. Then, in 1989, Burgess was teamed with another Australian, Mick Doohan. The pair would go on to win five consecutive 500cc crowns, from 1994-98, before Doohan’s career was ended by horrific crash at Jerez early in the 1999 season. In 2000, Burgess and Rossi joined forces and they’ve been together ever since.The main reason Burgess gave for making the move to Ducati was Rossi, “and us working together as long as we have, it’s gone well. We were very happy to stay where we are, of course, but he elected to choose another direction.”Yamaha wanted Burgess to stay and work with Ben Spies, but they knew he would likely move with Rossi. “It’s going to be a great challenge and after 31 years with Japanese companies it’s going to be really good to have the opportunity and to do it together with Valentino will be very special and we’ll only have to wait and see how we’ll go,” Burgess added.The rumors of Rossi going to Ducati have been rampant all year and Burgess knew the truth of it. He’s always been one of the keenest observers in the paddock and this year he had more motivation to keep an eye on the Ducati. What he, and everyone else had seen, is that the Ducati made a quantum leap when Casey Stoner changed the balance of the Desmosedici at the Aragon Grand Prix. And even before that, Burgess saw that Nicky Hayden was just off the lead group. “We’ve got something very, very good to start with. I think a lot better perhaps than when we arrived (at Yamaha) in 2004.”What Stoner and Hayden have most complained about is a skittish front end. Both have had more crashes this year than they can remember. Stoner has tried three different sets of forks, from 2009, 2010, and 2011 and settled on the 2010’s, which have served him well. Since adjusting the weight bias on the Ducati, Stoner won in Aragon, with Hayden third. Then Stoner won again in Japan, crashed out of Malaysia, and ran away with his home grand prix in Australia.Burgess believes the front end is the first thing to go when a rider’s pushing. “If you don’t have the feeling that you’re losing the front, you have no opportunity to recover it,” Burgess said. “So, without Valentino riding the bike and setting it the way he likes, where he may gain more feel, or if we do come across some sort of issue in this area, then clearly it has to be resolved. And that’s by having the engineering group on standby being prepared to react immediately to whatever is our biggest problem.”One of the reasons Stoner left Ducati was the lack of updates. Stoner and Hayden have both said that what they start the season with is pretty much what they end it with. There aren’t a lot of major updates, which isn’t surprising for a small company. Many believe that one of the major reasons Ducati closed down their World Superbike program was to devote those resources to MotoGP. Burgess thinks that Rossi will have a close relationship with Ducati engineering whiz Filippo Preziosi and that “Valentino will be picking the phone up fairly regularly, if not every night, and I’m sure that’s what Filippo would like to hear.”And you’re dealing with Valentino Rossi. You’re not dealing with somebody you’re not sure of. What I said to Yamaha when I came here, I said, ‘I can’t fix your bike, but if you listen to Valentino Rossi, we’ll go forward. Ignore him at your peril.’ And it’s the same deal here at Ducati. They spent the money to get him. If you don’t want to listen to him, well why did you spend the money?”
Burgess and Rossi, Together at Ducati
Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor
Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.