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Where’s Valentino?

Let’s say you have the greatest roadracer in history working for you, and the most important roadracing series on the planet (in which this roadracer rides) is coming to the United States for the first time in many years. Add to this the fact that you, a motorcycle manufacturer, consider the U.S. the most important market for your products. Finally, said greatest roadracer may not be working for you next year. Wouldn’t you parade him around in front of the U.S. media as much as possible in order to promote the event (of which you are a title sponsor) and, most importantly, your product in your most important market? Not if you’re Yamaha, the rider is Valentino Rossi, and the event is the U.S. MotoGP in Laguna Seca, California this July 10, 2005.

Granted, Rossi’s native language is Italian, not English, but he speaks to the press in English after every MotoGP (since he is on the podium at every MotoGP). He speaks English rather well, in fact, with a charming Italian accent that would go over well on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, for instance.

As it turns out, I am informed by a Yamaha press representative that Rossi will have very limited contact with the American media. After all, he is here to win a race. Then again, I thought the whole reason for racing, and winning, was to sell motorcycles for your manufacturer. But what do I know?

Perhaps, this is all just sour grapes because I can’t personally interview the Elvis Presley of our sport. Nevertheless, as I watch American MotoGP riders such as Nicky Hayden and John Hopkins, making high profile press appearances to promote the MotoGP event at Laguna Seca, I can’t help but wonder why the real star of the sport is nowhere to be seen.