MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, ITALY, JAN 10 - Valentino Rossi made his long-awaited debut in the fireiengine red colors of Ducati Corse at the opening night party for the team intro high in the Italian Dolomites.Rossi had been mostly out of the public eye since undergoing surgery on November 15 to correct the ligament and tendon injuries he suffered in a motocross accident on April 15. Other than a few postings on his personal website, very little news has come from Rossi's home in Tavullia, where he's been recovering.The party marks the start of Wrooom 2011, the annual event in the picturesque village of Madonna di Campiglio where journalists from both the MotoGP and Formula One press rooms split their time among working, feasting, and skiing. Rossi showed up fashionably late for the party, then waded through a crowd of photographers to be greeted by Ferrari's Fernando Alonso. Before long they were joined by Ferrari's second driver, Felipe Massa, and Nicky Hayden, who was the first of the drivers and riders to arrive.Rossi was first greeted by Alonso, who'd tweaked Rossi back in 2006 after the Italian impressed in a Ferrari test. Alonso, then a Renault driver, said, "Rossi might finish fifth or even get on the podium [in Formula One] but I could do the same in bikes if I was given enough time to practice."Rossi responded with an offer to race head-to-head in Formula One, World Rally, and MotoGP. That never happened, but they might go head-to-head this Friday night under the lights in an ice race. Ducati team manager Vitto Guareschi said last week that Rossi wouldn't be healthy enough to snowboard, but that he would be up to racing on the ice. But whether it happens or not remains to be seen. Last year's course included a jump, from which the drivers and riders launched their Fiat Panda 4x4's in the first race, won by Massa, and go-karts in the second race, won by Hayden over Casey Stoner and Massa.Hayden greeted Rossi soon after his arrival and, after posing for photos, it was obvious the pair were talking about Rossi's shoulder.The most famous joint in motorcycle racing will be thoroughly discussed on Tuesday morning, when Rossi and Hayden hold separate press conferences in the congress hall. With an hour, 15 minutes allotted for the press conference, there will be plenty of time for Rossi to discuss not only his recovery, but also his first impression of the Ducati Desmosedici which he rode at the Valencia test following the final race of the season. Rossi set tongues wagging when the only rider he was faster than was Czech MotoGP rookie Karel Abraham. But Ducati Corse's Filippo Preziosi made it clear prior to the test that Rossi had to sacrifice the glory of an outright fast lap for long runs that would provide the data needed to design the GP11.The GP11 will be unveiled on Wednesday in a theatrical presentation that mostly confounds the photographers on hand. Last year's presentation began with dancers jumping on and off boxes before an igloo made entirely of red balloons was lifted up to reveal the GP10, Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden. Whatever the producers dreamed up for this year's show will have to go a long way to beat the drama of Rossi and the Ducati GP11 together for the first time.

 


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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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