It’s been a little over a week since our hero, Valentino Rossi, was catapulted into the Mugello air, putting his future (and the future of MotoGP) in jeopardy. In the few seconds it took for the affable Italian to come to a full stop from speed, he suffered an injury that threatened to change the face of the series.
As he sat in the gravel pit clutching his leg, and then with the subsequent medical reports of a broken leg, the world was plunged into the realization that Rossi is, in fact, the face of the championship.
The ensuing onslaught of press around the world had people speculating (often claiming legitimate inside information) about the ramifications of the crash and its impact on what Vale was going to do.
Concern about the 9-time World Champion’s health was matched only by the fan’s and the industry’s uncertainty over how this incident might reshape the future of motorcycle racing in the Premiere class. As one photographer said, “It was as if the Pope had been shot.”
Many of the speculators and scribes opted for the four-wheel opinion, claiming this would fuel Rossi’s decision to go into cars; either Rally car racing or into the vaunted F1 championship. Some proclaimed that Rossi would retire, banking on loose rumors over the past year that number 46 was getting old and was tired.
Well, in his first official interview since coming off the M-1 at Mugello (at an estimated 110 mph), with the resulting operations needed to set his broken right lower leg proclaimed a success, Rossi has answered the myriad questions and put to rest, for now, the speculation.
First up, regarding the intensity and spookiness of the high-side, which delivered the seemingly superhero Rossi his first major injury since starting his GP career in 1996-in the kind of crash that can shake the faith of a seasoned racer and make them consider retiring-the Italian said… “Sincerely, I haven’t felt any fear… I was a bit horrified when I saw the leg, yes…but the thing I dislike the most is to miss so many races!”
Rossi went on to add, “This incident will not influence my choices for next year in any way. Last Saturday hasn’t changed anything – I just have one broken leg extra! The result of 2010 has never been relevant to my decisions for the future.”
After the collective exhale around the world on that statement, the questions went out about how soon we can expect him back. To which Rossi responded, “I will take all the time I need and be sure not to do anything stupid because I want to return quickly, but only if my condition allows it. I know I have a bike for next year and I don’t need to rush my return to demonstrate anything.” (Coming from the mouth of Rossi, mention of ‘next year’ was so, so sweet).
“I could miss just four races, but I still wouldn’t come back to win the championship. It’s better to be careful, finish the rehabilitation in the best way and come back to race for many more years. I’ve heard of many other sportsmen – a lot in fact – who have had the same problem as me.”
And in that one statement, with focus on ‘race for many more years,’ we were all reassured that Rossi isn’t planning on going anywhere anytime soon.
Rossi’s home really is the MotoGP paddock. I don’t know Rossi-I met him briefly at an event one night and we exchanged a few pleasantries-and I certainly don’t know the man’s thinking.
But if I had to guess, given his record, his attitude, and his drive, I would say Rossi has been welcoming the new horde of riders that are now gunning for the throne, accepting it as yet another challenge to add to his crown. And he doesn’t want to miss out on the fun of racing against them.
As for the Doctor’s rehabilitation, Rossi said, “Now I have a lot of time at home to rest, to recover and to think. Firstly, I want to use this time to improve some things. I want to improve my English, learn something new, read a lot. Basically, I want to improve and learn. This I will do for sure.”
Who knows how long the MotoGP grid will be without Rossi. It could be four races, it could we don’t see him until next season. But rest assured, Vale is going to use this as yet another challenge in a career that has been one record after another. And so the master of spin and gossip sets the stage for the greatest come back in racing history. Send your well-wishes to Valentino Rossi