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Why?

With Casey Stoner aboard, Ducati  won 3 of the final six races last year. Stoner finished second at Valencia, the final race of 2010, after taking pole position during qualifying. In the off-season, of course, Ducati hired arguably the greatest racer in history, Valentino Rossi, to replace Stoner. Expectations were high, to say the least, as fans and industry pundits expected Rossi to improve the notoriously difficult-to-ride Ducati. Rossi was also expected to ride the machine to victory… Indeed, this went without saying. What happened?

Rossi found the Ducati difficult to ride, just as everyone else had (aside from Stoner, on occasion). He and his crew chief have worked diligently to improve the bike, and Ducati seemingly has provided all of the resources requested to accomplish this. In eight races this year, Rossi has but a single podium (a third-place at Le Mans). Although his race performances have certainly been below his high standards, his qualifying has been abysmal.

While Stoner qualified on pole position in three of the final six races of 2010 aboard the Ducati, Rossi has recorded the following eight qualifying positions so far this year, including positions 9, 12, 9, 9, 7, 13, 11, and 12. Rossi is running out of excuses. He and his crew chief have had plenty of time to develop the bike, but appear to be going backwards. His qualifying position has fallen below that of other Ducati riders several times.

Although Ducati is clearly looking forward to racing next year’s 1000cc machine, and Rossi has recently begun to race next year’s chassis (albeit, with an 800cc motor), it is inconceivable that Ducati did not intend to win with Rossi this year. Ducati clearly hoped for at least a podium out of Rossi at its home race at Mugello a week ago, but Rossi qualified 12th and finished sixth.

Why is this happening to the greatest racer in history? Will 2012 be any different?

83 Comments

  1. Hotkarl says:

    Best of all time? Doohan, Rainey, Schwantz.
    If Rossi wins the title on the Ducati, then he gets that title in my books.
    Till then, Doohan has it in my mind, those 500cc bikes with no electronics were stupid and racer’s basically had 5 years of riding them at the limit, before they would get spit off and so injured they couldn’t ride competitively anymore.

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  2. Nome says:

    Absolutely. The M1 (with Biaggi) had in 2002 placed second in the championship ahead of all Hondas and every other bikes except Rossi’s, so it was hardly a slow bike. 2003 it was ridden by mediocre riders to mediocre results and 2004 it once again had a great rider with Rossi.

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  3. Mustafa Jamal says:

    guys, lets start acknowledging few facts now after watching a few riders riding ducati. if no one except Stoner could ever ride ducati comfortably (barring Bayliss), we have to take hats off to him. I am not a stoner fan and always suspected his talent but he has proved now time and again on different machines. We cant argue about it any more. I am a Rossi fan but have to accept this now that he is just like any other rider who cant handle ducati. Yes the bike is new and he had injuries, and less time and so on, but a rider of Rossi’s calibre ought to do better than that, if he was at the peak of his career. age is defintely a factor no one can remain at the peak for ever. Rossi’s days are gone, its hard to digest, but looks like its gonna be fact even after 1000 cc introduction. He sounds confident of better result on it but so far its only based a testing results. you dont know how other bikes will have improved too. If Rossi cant produce result on 800cc, but rather going backward, i have my doubt on the potential of 1000 cc engine on the same chassis used now.
    Yes Rossi is one the greatest rider ever in history of this sport, but the sun is setting on him.

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  4. vipkat says:

    People the guy one championships on Honda and Yamaha, 125, 250, 500 , 880 and 990, nuff said!

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  5. Fat Old Man says:

    From the picture, it looks like it could be extra weight caused by breast augmentation.

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  6. Simon Evans says:

    I think there might be misunderstanding.

    Rossi was not employed to win the last of the `old` 800cc championships.

    He’s employed on a single basis to win the first of the new 1000cc championships…

    Because that’s how Ducati makes money.

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  7. Tim says:

    Age is probably Rossi’s biggest problem. With age comes wisdom, and wisdom tells someone to not take chances. I think he’s gotten cautious. Also, he’s a notorious poor starter, and when you’re in 8th or 10th place coming off of curve one, your chances of doing well are slim. In the past he had the ability to catch up quickly, but with guys like Lorenzo, Stoner and Spies at the front, those guys are not going to be caught easily. By the time you get out of the middle of the pack, those guys are long gone. I think, too, that the Ducati was so far behind the Honda in development, early, they’ve decided to concentrate on developing next year’s bike, so they’re starting from square one again.

    I’m not ready to give up on Rossi. Next year will be telling. Clearly the best rider on the circuit right now is Lorenzo. What’ he’s done with an inferior bike to the Honda is nothing short of amazing.

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  8. Rick Young says:

    I don’t think the general public really has any idea about whats going on with a bike development at the Moto GP level…if a rider wins the’s the greatest…but it’s not quite that simple…Valentino is one of the best racers all time no doubt about it…but he’s never won at the Isle of Mann & he’s still far behind Ago in Championships & there’s still that Mike the Bike guy…Rossi best ever I doubt it 1 of 3 or 4 best ever definitely

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  9. Bob says:

    What happened? A damaged shoulder; a broken leg; too much money; and age. Age happened.

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    • agent55 says:

      “Age happened”, go tell that to Bayliss. The guy dominated SBK into his late 30′s. No, age isn’t a problem for Rossi yet.

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      • Gregg says:

        Thats a good point agent55, but age and accumulated body pain hit us all differently and slows us down at different times. A recently broken leg and bad collar bone are a lot of pain to deal with. He’s only got to lose 1% of his speed due to these factors to not be a contender. I do think we will see more championship Rossi in the future.

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  10. Norm G. says:

    re: “Ducati seemingly has provided all of the resources requested to accomplish this.”

    emphasis on the word “seemingly”.

    re: “He and his crew chief have had plenty of time to develop the bike”

    have they…? alright, compared to what…? it took yamaha (with rossi and main sponsor cash) a race YEAR plus an off-season to turn the M1 back into a winner, while it’s taken honda (sans rossi, but main sponsor cash) a whopping 4 years and 5 off-seasons. in contrast, rossi and co. have been on the job at ducati (with
    no main sponsor)… all of… 6 months…??? grandprix racing and “desires for instant gratification” inherently make for strange bedfellows.

    re: “Expectations were high”

    expectations were erroneous.

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    • Gutterslob says:

      I may have misunderstood you, in which case I humbly apologize, but Rossi won on the Yamaha on his first race out, with only a few months off-season (Honda released him late) for Him, Burgess & Co to develope the M1. Also wani the championship that year, btw.

      Yes, Yamaha and Rossi probably did it with lots of cash, but Ducati have Marlboro money as well, don’t they?

      • Gutterslob says:

        Typo: Also *won the championship…..

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      • vince says:

        the M1 wasn’t great but it wasn’t that bad when rossi and Burgess took it over. Biagii won twice on it in 2002.

        Yamaha is a much larger factory. Throwing cash at the ducati with less manpower isn’t the same as throwinig cash at one of the big japanese companies.

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      • Norm G. says:

        re: “but Ducati have Marlboro money as well, don’t they?”

        do they…? there hasn’t been a barcode on the side of the D16′s for almost 3 years now. how long did we think marlboro would continue being a main sponsor of a team after tobacco advertising was banned…? what’s the ROI regarding “stealth” advertising…?

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        • Carl Moss says:

          Umm, Philip Morris (Marlboro) are throwing money at Ducati this year and were the main drivers behind the signing of Rossi. Ducati wanted to keep Casey but Philip Morris weren’t happy with Stoner’s lack of marketing potential and the debacle in 2009 when he was ill and missed races.

          Ducati now have more development resources than they have had for the last few years and the money is coming from Marlboro.

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        • Martin says:

          Rossi has taken FIAT from Yamaha to Ducati – he is reportadly on a 30 million Euro contract. Ducati are one of the most cashed up GP teams. Norm G – why do keep misplacing the millions from FIAT, the worlds biggest car company and owners of the Ferrari F1 team? I care little either way about the teams coming and goings, but I am a huge fan of truth. Ducati is THE ONLY team capable of producing a new engine and a new frame and a new gearbox in the first 1/2 of this season. I don’t care that you are a fan of Rossi or Stoner or Spies et al, just stop lying.

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    • vince says:

      good points Norm….I agree

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  11. Johnne Lee says:

    Joey was the GOAT. There is no competition.

    Mike was 2nd, Rossi is 3rd and Ago is 4th.

    Although number 2, Mike could ride the Duc. You should have seen him on the Isle in ’78. Never been anything like it on two wheels and never will be again I’m afraid.

    The Stoner is a fine rider, but he has a long way to go before he is even mentioned in the same sentence with Doohan let alone Mike, Rossi and Ago. Joey will always be the GOAT.

    The Stoner won when the Duc had a significant HP advantage, and he is winning now that Honda has a clear advantage of some sort.

    The Stoner still has to win titles on several different formulas, several different displacements and several different brands. Until then he is not even in the running for anyplace in the top 10 or 15 on the GOAT list.

    Joey is the GOAT. You should’ve seen him ride!

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    • Scott in the UK says:

      I did see him ride and win in 2000 at the TT. He was the greatest roads rider that ever lived.

      all the best

      Scotty

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    • Martin says:

      I don’t know about comparing different eras. Seems like a strange thing to do. I am just happy that this year we have Stoner and Jorge and Val and Ben and a few others. If only that other guy stopped dropping his bike and ruining the races.

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  12. RBen says:

    Bud says:(The greatest racer in history? Really?) YOU dang right BUD.7 MotoGP/500cc championships says it all. only 1 rider has more Agostini and thats 8 Doohan 5 Lawson 4 King Kenny 3 Rainey 3 Spencer 2 Schwantz 1 all great racers. I thank a lot of people have know idea how hard it is to win a motoGP championship and Rossi has won not just one but 7 ( THAT’S 7 ) Plus look what Rossi did for Yamaha. Yamaha was a also run before Rossi.And now thy are fighting for the front every race. And being a champion that Rossi is HE IS NOT A Whiny cry baby dose not b*!ch if it dose not go his way He moves on and rides harder he also dose not blame his crew/His manager/the track/ the fans/his mother/father/ well OK maybe mother/father is a stretch any way you get what I mean When He loses . LOL

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  13. Pete says:

    Easy…he’s not trying hard enough!!!

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  14. Dave says:

    I think Rossi is not pushing as much as he could in qualifying because he knows the bike is not good enough to win and the championship is not an option this year. Why risk getting injured again for a so so result. I think they are more focused on developing a bike for next year. If Rossi does poorly next year then that’s it for him and he might as well start racing rally cars. I think he still has the talent to be a world champion but whether Ducati can build a winning bike is a huge question. Stoner won when the Duc had a big power advantage that first year of the 800s, but that was it. He won races after that but had to ride the bike over the limit too often and ended up crashing too much to win another championship. I fully expect Stoner to win the championship this year and it will be well deserved as he is a huge talent. All Ducati can say is the very sad phrase “next year”……

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    • Stinky says:

      I don’t think it’s age or money. He barely got healed for the season, on a bike that needed development, and lots of it. I have no doubt he’ll contend for more wins next year. I don’t think he’s gonna dominate like he once did but next year will be better, maybe a championship. He’s smart enough to not throw his career away on a upperpack bike. Rossi would’ve dominated on the Honda this year. It’s a total package that only requires a little adapting to win with. The Duc woulda’ had to have a kamikaze pilot to win this year, he’s not that rider.

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      • Martin says:

        IT is an interesting comment that Rossi would have dominated on the Honda. A few years back we all said ‘if only he had Bridgestones’ then we all said but if only he was on the Duc. OK – so now we are going backwards to the Honda?

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  15. Jeremy in TX says:

    The title of the “greatest racer in history” is always directed to an individual person. But really, the “greatest racer in history” is usually a result of a formula combining rider, team and machine (and money). Before switching to Ducati, perhaps he was the greatest. Now he isn’t because the formula just isn’t quite right. The machine seems to be wrong for him.

    A rider who can switch bikes and teams at will and still see the top of the podium with high regularity may truly deserve such a title as “greatest racer in history”. I am not a race fan, so I don’t even know if there is such a racer these days. Rossi is a great rider, – no doubt – and he may yet prove himself worthy of such a title. For now, all I can say is that he had the right formula for a while. One of the greatest formulas in history.

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  16. kando says:

    Funny how Nicky Hayden gave up Honda and cannot do a thing on the Duc, Stoner is the best on a Honda versus Duc, Rossi cannot get the Duc to handle. What’s up? I feel for Hayden as since his switch his career as a champ has slipped to an also ran. Wish he had a decent bike with power to see if he still has it.

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    • Mach VIII says:

      Hayden didn’t give up on Honda, Honda gave up on him. Even having just won the championship Honda chose Pedrosa over Hayden and specifically built the bike around Pedrosa. Whether or not that was the right strategic move for Honda, it’s not accurate to say Hayden gave up on Honda. Quite the opposite.

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  17. CWOWW says:

    Let me get this straight – Rossi hurts his shoulder badly and does poorly for the first time in career, claws his way back to health and gets on a new bike and struggles. And now he’s a has-been and Stoner is the greatest rider ever? LOL

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  18. kpaul says:

    Stoner won the MotoGP Championship in 2007 on a Ducati. But my guess is the recent bike has been hard to ride, given that both Hayden and Rossi can’t win on it. Yes age and injuries have probably taken a toll on Rossi, but if you put Rossi on Honda I suspect he would be in the top 3 most of the time behind Casey and Jorge. How about the AMA this year? Great racing with lots of close competition from a variety of manufacturers.

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  19. Steve D says:

    One word. Age. Racing is a young mans game.

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  20. John says:

    Well, I definitely think it’s the bike. It took Vale and JB more than half a season to make the Yamaha a winning package. During that period, I remember reading a quote from Burgess discussing how it’s difficult to develop a bike when the rider can ride around the bikes inherent problems. Maybe that’s why nobody can ride the Ducati. Stoner was capable and willing to ride the bike beyond it’s design potential, which masks the bikes problems (too stiff at full lean?). Rossi learned in developing the Yamaha that one mustn’t continually try to overcome the machines weakness in practice and qualifying otherwise developing the solution will be more difficult for the engineers. They (Ducati)will get there, and Vale still has a some racing to do. Everyone wants to kick a man when he’s down. Shame!

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    • Chris says:

      Rossi won his first race on the Yamaha M1 and 4 of the first 6 races that season on his way to the title. I am not sure, but I think Rossi set a record (at the time) for wins in a season.

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      • John says:

        In Rossi’s own words the M1 was a dog when he first started riding for Yamaha. Of course he was coming off an all conquering Honda V5. The current Yamaha is light years ahead of what Rossi started with. The fact that Vale could make it happen anyway, is the same as Casey winning on the Ducati in 07. They rode around the bikes design flaws until they could get them worked out. It takes a while is my point. Oh yeah, Rossi is getting older, and he had a bad crash last year, blah ,blah, blah. Lol.

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    • Bugs says:

      So Rossi’s not to blame for Ducati’s problems it’s all Stoners fault for being good enough to actually win a race on the thing and therefore mask its problems?

      And Rossi isn’t winning this year because his years at Yamaha taught him that it’s best to not try and win if you want to help your engineers improve the bike?

      Now i’ve heard it all!

      If an average rider like Stoner can ride a Ducati beyond its design potential and in the process win 23 GP’s and a world title, why can’t the greatest rider of all time do the same?

      Either Rossi is overrated or Stoner is underrated (or perhaps a bit of both), but it’s definitely not just the bike.

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  21. Mr. Mike says:

    Instead of writing Rossi off, do you think he would be competitive and winning on a similar Honda like Stoner’s? Comments welcome…

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    • Firebladder says:

      Good question. Yet, not at Stoner´s levels anymore, I´m afraid. Like in all other situations in life, a fair comparison should be done at same peak levels. Problem with comparisons is that this cannot be done. You have to compare racers at same peak levels and equipment conditions. Although gradually, Rossi´s skills are decreasing exponentially with every year since his peak period. Stoner rules for now. Let us wait for a promising (hopefully more mature) Super Sic to take his place in history, relatively soon.

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    • Bugs says:

      Yes, I think Rossi would definitely be competitive and would win the odd race or two like Pedrosa and Lorenzo. But he’d still be playing second fiddle to Stoner. Stoner’s too good.

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  22. Ben Sawtell says:

    Ok, First. There are 2 people who can ride the ducati to wins. Casey (obvioulsy) and troy bayliss.

    Secondly, as much as i hate to disagree with the article, i think it prudent the Author research actual lap/qualifying/race times from last year to this year…And see if Rossi is going faster…Not just see if he is winning. But yea..I still agree. Casey is the greatest rider ever, as he has beat the greatest rider ever. Nuff said.

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  23. craigj says:

    If not #1 on the all time list, then #2 behind Agostini. Even Ago at the end of his career wasn’t winning everything and had to struggle for even podiums (albeit on his own team ans swtiching between customer MV’s, Yamaha’s, and Suzuki’s). The sun only sines for so long before it needs to set, and the sun is setting on Rossi’s career. He’s had a nice run, but it’s the new guy’s time. Add to that a bike, which for some unexplainable reason, only one person on earth can ride at peak performance. You’ve got a team with TWO former world champions, satellite teams with extremely talented riders, and former factory riders that were also former world champions. Common demominator is the Desmosedici, which despite millions in development dollars ain’t worth the carbon fibre it’s made of. Next year isn’t going to be much better. Stop hiring the most expensive riders, and start stealing other teams designers.

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  24. MGNorge says:

    Could also be factored in that Honda was willing to put extra R&D into a bike’s last season before upping displacement? That has the others scrambling and being perhaps caught off-guard?

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  25. Manolian says:

    Given the 2011 Honda that Stoner,Pedrosa & Divizioso are riding,Rossi would probably be leading the championship, Ducati’s are aesthetically nice but competitively lacking.

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  26. The Baron says:

    mxman420 says: “Stoner could ride it… sometimes.” Hmmm, I think 23 race wins and numerous other podiums on the Ducati 800 indicates Stoner could more than ‘ride’ that bike “sometimes.” None of his other team-mates could, even the guy it was designed around, Loris Capirossi. It’s hard to consider Hayden. He only managed to win three races on the V5 Honda, which is by far the most successful MotoGP bike. No surprise he can’t do anything with the Ducati – he never won on the 800 Honda either. Can’t imagine the old HRC guard would have kept a guy like that for so long. Back in the Lawson-Gardner-Rainey-Schwantz-Doohan-Kocinski era, if you did not start getting results after your second year on a factory Honda, it was sayonara.

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    • Chuck N says:

      Agree with you SIR BARON.:-)

      I’m amazed that Hayden still has a ride anywhere. Nine (9) years in the premier class, all on factory bikes, and three wins. Hayden’s last win was in 2006, and Stoner had just started in MotoGP. Since then, Stoner has gone on to win # 27, and Hayden is still winless in the same period.

      Cannot comprehend the reason why Hayden is still being paid to keep deserving riders out of MotoGP.

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      • Neil says:

        Nicky was used to braking thru the first half of a corner and then letting off and getting on the gas hard on a Superbike. Now he has to brake before the turn, let off earlier and start applying power sooner. It just seems like he never adapted to that. He slid the rear and got passed and he cannot pass the really fast guys. He is very good but not great.

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  27. Firebladder says:

    The guy was at his pinnacle a few years ago … like F1´s Schumacher, he´s over the hill now, which does not take anything away from a great racer. We will keep seeing traces of his skills in a gradually less frequent manner until he recognizes it´s time to quit. In the meantime, Ducati will improve their overall package thanks to the need to safe face as it´s true performance is not masked by a super-virtuoso pilot anymore.

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  28. sly says:

    if you look at the lap times there is not a lot in it for Rossi to be back at the front.
    When you consider his injury problems and changing to a new bike and how good the Honda is as well as the fact that the class is packed with talent his results aren’t that surprising.
    I think Ducati should go to a conventional frame not the engine as a stressed member with a frame off the front and a frame off the back both made of carbon fibre but maybe once they get it sorted it will pay off.

    Don’t count out Rossi next year, once he clicks with the bike he will be back at the front.
    When you listen to his interviews and he talks about ” i hada gooda feeling for da bika” that’s what he needs to push to the limit. He just doesn’t have that yet… end of story.

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  29. james kontol says:

    Simple actually, Stoner is a better rider than Rossi.

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  30. Markus says:

    I am a Rossi fan, but it looks like his days on top are over.
    I am still hoping he has one more title in him, so he can stand alone as the greatest ever. Titles talk, BS walks.
    It looks like he will end up tied with Agostini for most premier class titles and the debate will continue…

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  31. simple really says:

    What we’ve seen in 2011 lends further credence to what I suspected before 2011:

    1. While Valentino Rossi is //one of// the greatest racers in history, but there is a lot of luck, money, and alignment inextricably commingled with that.

    2. Casey Stoner is probably the fastest and most talented rider of motorized two wheel machines that any of us has ever seen.

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    • Neil says:

      How do we see that Casey is a better rider? To me the better rider can pass the top five guys for the win. Rossi did that. Casey is enjoying a really good bike that Dani and Nicky helped develope, after coming off the Ducati which resists turning as many Ducati’s have been said to do. We know the Ducati is bad because so many riders have been slow on the thing. Has the speed. Will not turn. A dog.

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      • Bugs says:

        You rightly say the Ducati is a dog because so many riders have been slow on it, so how did Stoner manage to win 23 GP’s and a world title on one?

        Throw Stoner on Rossi’s bike and I reckon he’d get it on the podium.

        One day you’ll learn that Stoner can ride anything. He doesn’t need Nicky or Dani’s help.

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  32. LarryC says:

    The problem isn’t so much with Rossi as with those who continue to attempt to define him as “the greatest racer in history.” They just can’t believe he’s human and doesn’t win everything in sight. Rossi’s had a spectacular run, but so have many others. Better than Hailwood? Agostini? Better than King Kenny? Spencer? Doohan, Lawson, Schwantz or Rainey? It’s easy to toss off the phrase “best ever” especially if you have no historical perspective. Rossi’s another racer that’s had a good run but has likely run his course. Get over it.

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  33. mxman420 says:

    Hey, you can’t blame Rossi and make it all his fault. Stoner could ride it…sometimes. Hayden hasn’t been able to anything to get the performance up and he is no beginner. So add it up and what do you have? Two former GP World Champions on bikes that just don’t perform. Common denominator… The Ducati?

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  34. donniedarko says:

    Rossi’s personal life is ashambles. Him and Uccio broke up over Uccio putting on 30lbs of weight since the Ducati hospitality truck is so much better than Yamaha’s… dont you guys know anything.. jeez lol

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  35. Bud says:

    The greatest racer in history? Really?

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    • Trpldog says:

      I think the “greatest racer in history” bit off more than he could chew. I wish him the best, but it appears that on the track, Sushi currently tastes better than Duc.

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  36. Trpldog says:

    A wise man once said, “A lame Duc can only run so fast no matter who chases it.”

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