MUGELLO, ITALY, JUNE 29 - Ducati Marlboro's Valentino Rossi will be without the services of his longtime crew chief Jeremy Burgess at the Italian Grand Prix after the Australian flew back to his home in Adelaide, Australia for a family emergency.The crew chief who's been with Rossi since he joined the 500cc class in 2000 flew home to be with his wife, Claudine, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and their two daughters. Burgess is responsible for Rossi's seven premier class titles, as well as the Mick Doohan's five 500cc titles, and Wayne Gardner's 1987 500cc World Championship. He was also on the Erv Kanemoto-led crew that took Freddie Spencer to his three World Championships.

Claudine Burgess, who met Jeremy when both worked for the Rothmans Honda team, has to undergo a series of medical exams and a possible urgent surgical procedure. Burgess is expected to reunited with the team for the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring in three weeks' time. For Mugello, Rossi's first race in Italy as a Ducati rider, Max Bartolini, who normally works as the Ducati Marlboro technical manager, will fill in. Bartolini's job will be taken by Fabiano Sterlacchini, on loan from the Pramac Racing Team. Sterlacchini works with Loris Capirossi, but the Italian veteran will miss his home Grand Prix after suffering broken ribs in last weekend's Dutch Grand Prix.Mugello has always been one of Rossi's favorite tracks and it shows in his results; he has nine wins on the track north of Florence in various classes, including every premier class victory from 2002 through 2008 . But it was here that Rossi broke his femur practicing for last year's race, an injury that forced him to miss the next three GP's.

"First of all I'd like to wish good luck to Jeremy, who won't be able to join us this weekend due to very important personal reasons," Rossi said." We'll miss him very much in the garage, but we look forward to seeing him at the Sachsenring."In the meantime, we must try to do well at Mugello. We've ridden there with the GP12, but because our bike is an 800, it responds a little differently to adjustments, and it's also in its first phase of development. It will be vital to quickly find the right path for the setup, as it's important that we improve in every session in order to qualify in a good position. The track is one of my favorites, and I've always done pretty well there. Returning after last year's accident is no problem for me, because I enjoyed riding there during the recent tests, as I always do. I hope there will be a big crowd and that I'll be able to do better than we've managed until now, because this is a very important race."Team Manager Vitto Guareschi echoed Rossi's comments."We're very sorry not to have Jeremy with us at Mugello for our home race, where we'll have many fans in the grandstands. We're with him in spirit, and we're awaiting his prompt return. In the meantime, we've revised the working structure in the box with the addition of Fabiano Sterlacchini, a very experienced Ducati engineer who normally looks after Loris, who is unfortunately injured. We thank Paolo Campinoti and the Pramac Team for making Fabiano available to us so that we can fully support Valentino for a very important race. As for Nicky [Hayden], we'll continue working on the step 2 frame, which we didn't use in the race at Assen, where the inconsistent weather conditions prevented us from carrying out the necessary comparative tests."Coming off a fifth at Assen, Hayden said, "Even though we're probably not at our finest moment, Mugello is going to be special for the team. I know the fans are going to come there and support us, especially now with an Italian rider. I love the track, although it's not one where I've had great results, so I'm not planning on an easy weekend. I know I'm going to have to come out there on Friday and get going. We're going to have plenty of expectations, and it should be a busy weekend with all the hype going on. I'm really looking forward to it."
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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.

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