When qualifying got underway for Motegi MotoGP Saturday, Valentino Rossi’s performance was on the rise, the Italian the quickest of all Ducati riders.
Rossi’s efforts in qualifying placed him seventh on the grid, the top of the third row. The Ducati MotoGP team continued to work on the GP11.1, and Rossi had a strong Sunday morning warm-up ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.
But when Motegi MotoGP got underway, all of Rossi’s and the Ducati Team’s work plummeted within first few seconds as Rossi suffered a crash at turn two.
While making room for the American Yamaha MotoGP rider Ben Spies, Rossi made contact with his former teammate Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing). Rossi then went back towards Spies, and low-sided into the gravel, knocking Spies off the track. Spies was able to get back on the track, but Rossi’s day was over.
The nine-time World Champion landed hard on his left hand, hurting a finger in the gravel trap. But X-Rays revealed no fractures at the time.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team GP11.1 MotoGP) says: “It’s really a shame to be out of the race after two corners, especially after the progress that we made this weekend, and with the knowledge that we’d worked on the bike well.
“I was fourth in the morning warm-up, and it would have been possible to have a pace in the high 1:46 range. I also think our choice of tires for the race-hard on the back and soft on the front-was correct. When you also consider the troubles that Stoner, Simoncelli and Dovizioso had, we could have fought for the podium, which would have been really nice for us. We were a little unlucky.
“Unfortunately, Lorenzo went onto the grass slightly in Turn 1, and in the next turn he moved suddenly to get his trajectory right. He didn’t see me because I was slightly behind. When he touched me, it pushed me into Spies, who touched my front brake lever. It was normal racing contact, but I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Anyway, we did a good job this weekend, and we were more competitive than usual. It’s a challenging time for us, but we hope we’re on the right path.”
Valentino Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden went off the track once, but finished the race in seventh.
With three rounds remaining, Valentino Rossi has 139 points, 17 behind Ben Spies. The 2011 MotoGP Championship heads to Phillip Island next weekend for the Australian Grand Prix.