Valentino Rossi: One More Hat Trick?

2011 MotoGP

The year 2009 saw Valentino Rossi cross another milestone in his motorcycle racing career by winning his ninth MotoGP title, four with Yamaha and three with Honda in the premier class, as well as one with Aprilia in the 250 GP and yet another in the 125 GP.

He showed that after 14 years of racing in the MotoGP World Championship he was still the best rider and worthy of the top motorcycle racing crown.

And in 2010 the Doctor came out swinging by winning the opening MotoGP round in Qatar by over a second ahead of his growing nemesis Jorge Lorenzo, the eventual title winner.

The GP of Spain saw Rossi finish third behind the injury-free Dani Pederosa, and again his teammate Lorezno. On to the French GP and Rossi again finished behind Lorenzo.

Then, Valentino Rossi suffered a displaced and exposed fracture of his right tibia after crashing in practice for the Italian Grand Prix in Mugello.

It was a horrific high-side crash at turn 13, the fast chicane at the top of the hill, that sent VR46 and his Fiat Yamaha M1 into a violent tumble.

To the MotoGP racing world’s utter surprise and to the joy of motorcycle racing fans around the globe, Valentino Rossi was officially cleared by the doctor to ride at the Sachsenring for the German MotoGP, just six week’s after his accident in Italy. He finished fourth.

Rossi went on to win only one race in the final ten MotoGP events, finishing behind Lorenzo in nine others. Valentino finished the 2010 MotoGP championship in third with 233 points, just a stones throw back from Dani Pedrosa with 245, but a country mile behind title-winner Jorge Lorenzo with 383.

Vale turns 32 in February, 2011, and is as enthusiastic as ever as he embarks on his 16th season in MotoGP, where he continues to have the support of his long-standing crew chief, Jeremy Burgess, who moved from Honda to Yamaha to work with him, and now to Ducati.

The question is does Rossi have more hat trick up his sleeve or the will the likes of Jorge Lorenzo on Rossi-developed Yamaha M1, the scary-fast Casey Stoner back-on top-notch Honda machinery, the Spaniard Dani Pedrosa or second-year MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli who showed signs of incredible speed at the opening Sepang test, get the best of him?

The Urbino born Italian MotoGP rider is starting 2011 with an uphill battle. First he is limited by a motocross-induced shoulder injury that is still-healing, an injury that influenced Neil Hodgson to retire from Superbikes.

Valentino Rossi (Ducati GP11) says: "My mobility has improved a lot, and I no longer think my physical limitations cost me a second; let’s say I lose five or six tenths, especially on braking and in corner entry."

Second, the Ducati Marlboro Team needs a large quantity of information and data that can be used to continue the development of the GP11 to suit Rossi’s riding style.

Valentino Rossi (Ducati GP11) says: "We were able to collect a lot of data and solve the chattering problem we were experiencing. And improve the other areas, especially the in-corner behavior, to make it turn better."

Third, Valentino Rossi and his Ducati Marlboro Team are off to an unimpressive start, finishing just 10th out of 17 riders at the first 2011 MotoGP test.

Valentino Rossi (Ducati GP11) says: "Obviously, there’s still a lot to do, but compared to the start of the test, we’ve definitely gotten closer to the base setup we’re looking for. There’s no need to change the Desmosedici’s character; we need to take advantage of its best characteristics, its stability and its engine.

"We’re a second off the top riders… I still have to do more kilometers in order to understand other aspects of the GP11 but, although I have to change my riding style a little, I now feel much more at home with the Ducati."

The MotoGP racing world awaits the night of March 20 in Qatar at the Losail circuit for the start of the season. Only then will the true lap times and race tactics be revealed. Rossi fans around the world wait in anticipation to see if this old hen can lay one more egg, one more hat trick for that tenth GP world title.