MotoGP 2011 was instructive in so many ways. The lesson that came as the greatest surprise concerned Valentino Rossi.The progress of his season proved something his most fervent fans had long since preferred to forget. Valentino, the natural winner, the charmer, the luckiest man in racing and by now a demi-god at least – well, he was just human.
Watching how the great man’s face changed along with his comments through the year was fascinating. Being who he is, he emerged with credit. He kept smiling in spite of it all. In public, anyway.Rossi’s 2011 campaign was disastrous. By his standards there is no other word for it. Some riders might be proud to have gained a rostrum, and to have finished seventh overall. For Valentino, it was his worst championship position since he turned up as an androgynous teenaged 125cc rookie in 1996, and placed ninth.If this was a blow to his fans, you can only imagine how Valentino felt about it.The other remarkable thing, at least early on, was how he kept it hidden. His public face remained up beat and his mood optimistic. By year’s end, when chassis variation number four and engine number three had yielded no significant improvement, there were times when the enthusiasm was clearly wearing thin.
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