SPEEDWAY, IN, AUG 16 – Ducati Marlboro’s Valentino Rossi was always going to be the center of attention at the pre-race news conference for the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix. But a widely circulated “interview” with world champion Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) nearly stole the spotlight.
In an interview most widely seen on the website of England’s Motorcycle News, Stoner was harsh in his criticism of both Rossi and crew chief Jeremy Burgess, and their inability to make the Ducati a proven race winner. Stoner didn’t deny having made the comments, but he quickly pointed out that they weren’t made en masse, as presented.
When a journalist said to Rossi, “Valentino, Casey has said this week, described a humbling experience for you. Has this been humbling, this a disappointing time …” Stoner quickly interjected. “I want to clarify that,” he said. “That was a lot of context taken out. It was the whole last year and a half. I never did interview and never said anything like that last week. I still stand by what I said, but it’s been over the last year and a half that it was put together.”
Addressing the question, Rossi said, “I don’t know what’s been humbling? Oh, I cannot say no. I mean, you can use which word you prefer. I mean it was very, very difficult, is very difficult. It’s not true that we don’t try, we try the maximum. But we were never able to be — I was never able to be fast with the Ducati, and this is a great, great pity, a very bad thing, especially for me and for my team.”
Rossi also felt he was misquoted on his feelings about Ducati and Stoner from last year at Assen. A reporter quoted Rossi as saying that the “big problem of Ducati was Casey” and that “Casey was never able to work on the setup and development of the bike.”
“I never say this,” Rossi said. “I just say that for Ducati the problem — well, the positive problem was that Stoner was very fast with that bike and was also problem for us for to make the decision at the end of 2010. But, you know, the reality is that I was never fast with that bike from the first test to now. And unfortunately together with Ducati we were not able to improve the bike and to fix the problem that the bike have.”
What everyone wanted to know was how Rossi had come to ride for Yamaha as Jorge Lorenzo’s teammate. Rossi said had said he’d thought about his future during the break after the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and had come away disappointed in the way his tenure at Ducati had turned out.
“You know, this is a great pity for me and Ducati and for all of our fans, but especially for all the guys that work with me at this project because I want to try to be competitive,” he said. “Italian rider with Italian bike, but unfortunately, it doesn’t happen. These two seasons are very difficult, and we struggling very much. Unfortunately, we were not able to improve our speed, our performance, and to fight for the good position, for the front position.
“So I decide for this that it is enough and my choice is because I try to understand which is the best bike, the more competitive bike for the next two years that maybe at the end of my career or, you know, but anyway, the last part, and this is the choice. It’s a great pity. I’m very sad, also, because I in Ducati find a lot of good people. We had great times together. We try the maximum, but unfortunately we were not able to achieve the result. So this is what makes the difference.”
The remaining eight MotoGP races “are very important because unfortunately we have to speak about the next year very early in the season. But we still have eight races. And now is an important moment because first, this track for me, is always — I was able to win in 2008, but it is a difficult track for me. Last year was very bad. So we have to keep the concentration of me with my team and try to make the maximum.
“And after is an important period because Brno is a good track, and after Brno we will have some important tests in Misano, and we have to try to improve the bike to improve our pace for the rest of the races because, anyway, eight races is a long way.”
Addressing his choice of Yamaha over Ducati and Gresini Racing, from whom he didn’t have an offer, he said, “I had some different options, and I tried to choose the best bike for me for the next two seasons and just this for the rest — the rest of the contract is not a problem. I’m happy about the contract for the next two seasons. I know that I can be stronger with the M1 and especially can enjoy because, you know, the next two seasons for me will be hard, especially try to stay with Jorge, also to beat Jorge, because now he’s very, very fast. But I need a bike for enjoy. At this moment of my career I have to enjoy, I have to try to fight and to arrive happy at the racetrack.”
Most of his crew, led by crew chief Jeremy Burgess, will come with him, he believed. And after his two years with Yamaha he’d make a decision about staying in MotoGP or moving to World Superbike. He said “to have the opportunity for the future for Superbike, yeah, I always say. But it’s very early to say, because I hope to be faster, to be competitive, to enjoy and remain in MotoGP more than two season.”