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The Lion In Autumn: Rossi as the Test Case


He has 9 grand prix championships, including 7 in the premier class (500cc and MotoGP), has made countless millions (and certainly could retire comfortably despite a run-in with the Italian taxing authorities). He is an old man by MotoGP standards (soon to be 34), and remembers well some very painful get-offs. Can he still “hang it out” like the young ones that feel they are immortal/indestructible? He is, of course, Valentino Rossi.
Our answer will start to take shape this week during testing at Sepang. Can you recall an old warrior who came back to battle in any sport/competition and rose once again to the top while risking life and limb alongside the youngsters? Tell us about it below.

44 Comments

  1. proheli says:

    I think Michael Jordan had 3 NBA championships before he went to baseball, and when he came back to the NBA won 3 more championships in a 3-Peat. Wow. Its not always the ultimately fastest that wins the championship. Its easy to go with the odds, 1 Jorge, 2 Ped, 3 Rossi, 4 Marquez. But its racing/sports, it never goes down quite like you thought it would. I say ROSSI/PED battle for first

  2. Simmy says:

    As good as Rossi has been and apparently still is, I’m afraid Jorge is now the benchmark. Rossi’s head games worked on his previous rivals, Biaggi, Giberneau, Pedrosa but Jorge is a machine. I don’t see Rossi’s antics working on Pedrosa any longer either. Anything can happen in this game but it will take injuries to both Dani and Jorge before Rossi takes his 10th Championship. Marky Mark is still a rookie trying to prove himself and will be pushing it over the edge to get that 1st win and likely won’t finish every race, which is what will be needed to win in 2013.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “I’m afraid Jorge is now the benchmark.”

      jorge WAS the benchmark… right up to the point when monster money showed up peeking through the shop window looking for rossi.

  3. jamaal speights says:

    Mick Doohan was 32 when he won his last title. The racing was hard because he was on a 2 stroke 500cc machine without all the trick electronics. I think Rossi can as well.

  4. Mr.Truth says:

    34 is not old, Max Biaggi took on the world in SBK and beat the lot of them at a young 41

    Checa would be getting on too

    Rossi has a good 10 years to go if he wants…..

  5. tomas says:

    Hey bikefans! Like big Rossi fan I must say that I am really pleased with last test results. Rossi just 4 tenths behind leader, that is really huge after two years of “2seconds behind” Ducati times.. Well, I was really surprised.. You know, 34 is great age but in GP most of the riders retire around 30.. In my opinion, even though Rossi fan, title chances are low but I am very happy that there is still big chance for podium fight! I am also interested in race analysis and from time to time I do some calculations and predictions about race pace from practice and qualifying times- INTERESTED FACT- in many races during last two years Rossi had just from 2 to 8 tenths slower race pace than practise+qualifying pace(I calculate it from times of fast laps during whole session) and sometimes he had got nearly same pace, sometimes even faster!(I consider this like riding Ducati on the limit all the time). Others had race pace slower from 5 tenths to 1 second, sometimes more. For example Australian GP 2012 calculated Stoner’s Race pace 1:30:922 – QP pace 1:30:287(race pace 0,635s slower than QP pace) Rossi’s Race pace 1:32:281,QP pace 1:32:518( Race pace FASTER than QP pace! for example Rossi’s fastest QP time was 1:31:661 and best race time 1:31:662..). Now I have made some calculations from these test resluts and “pace” lap times are very interesting for me. Let me share: Dani Pedrosa’s “pace”(I had cut times over 2:03) time 2:01:6384, Jorge Lorenzo’s pace time 2:01:3396, Valentino Rossi’s pace time 2:01:6565, Marc Marquez’s pace time 2:01:745.. Jorge made also 8 wet laps, which arent included in pace time. From my observation I must say Jorge is really consistent, Dani can do really fast laps but in my personal opinion He is not able to ride on the edge for so big part of the race like Jorge can. From analysis is also obvious that Marc’s times differs from lap to lap, He is able to do some really fast laps but way his lap times differs I think he cannot fight for the title this year but He will be fighting for podium. And what about Valentino? Discussion about title winning based on the first dry test wouldnt serious but I think this DOCTOR would be seen on podium way more often than in last two years. For test results analysis visit http://resources.motogp.com/files/testresults/MotoGP_Test__Sepang_analysis_2.pdf?version=1360145474 For Australian GP2012 race analysis visit http://resources.motogp.com/files/results/2012/AUS/MotoGP/RAC/Analysis.pdf?v1_4aecb2e9 For Australian GP2012 QP analysis visit http://resources.motogp.com/files/results/2012/AUS/MotoGP/QP/Analysis.pdf?v1_b431e882
    Everything in this “article” are my opinions and my calculations, not official numbers.
    Finally I am sorry for my English, I am not native speaker

  6. Nate says:

    If Bayliss can win a race in his late 30s, Rossi can certainly win a Moto GP championship. Rossi isn’t your average Joe rider, he is arguably the greatest of all time and was riding motorcycles while in his mother’s womb.

    Someone with his craft and skill doesn’t forget how to ride overnight and in many sports, atheletes peak in their 30s because they have the skill, maturity, and health to get the job done (this may eventually happen with Pedrosa if he sticks around long enough). This whole thing about Rossi being done is just ridiculous and based on fallacy.

    Anyone who doubts Rossi’s ability to run with the big dogs of GP will be surprised come race day.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “This whole thing about Rossi being done is just ridiculous and based on fallacy.”

      internet parrots them.

  7. EZ Mark says:

    Agostini was 33 when he won his last title.
    It’s possible, but the odds are against him.

    • bikerrandy says:

      Ago had no where near the competition at the top Rossi has now. In fact in most of Ago’s career he had little real competition compared to now. Most the time he had the single fastest bike, period. Not to take anything away from his accomplishments at the time. But now there is much more competition for the Title.

      • MGNorge says:

        This made me think about the differences between now and then. Speeds are way up but so too has the equipment improved. Then I thought about reaction time. At current speeds the split-second decisions that must be made go against age. The younger riders may be able to pull the trigger faster but make more mistakes while the older, wiser riders may have learned from past mistakes but have slower reaction times. Which trumps which in motorcycle racing?

        • Gary says:

          I think the biggest challenge with aging as a professional racer is the understanding of how fast things can go from “oh yeah!” to “oh $hit!” It’s literally the blink of an eye. And that realization creates just enough hesitation in tight situations to keep you off the podium.

          • John says:

            It really is just a blink of an eye. Last summer at the track, I had just said to my self, “there’s no need to stuff the guy in front of me entering the turn, I’ll get him on the exit.” Shifted my body position, and started to hold my line, then sky-ground-sky-ground … Fudge … Thought I was in control of the situation. Riding is a fickle mistress to dance with.

  8. Mark Pearson says:

    I don’t believe his age, from a physical standpoint, is an issue whatsoever. It’s if he’s willing to risk a comfortable retirement to an injury. There will always be hotshot punks who need to be put in their place. He can’t beat them all.

  9. Gary says:

    I figure this will be Rossi’s last season. But he deserves a chance at it. Either way, he had a GREAT career … the greatest of the greats. But time can be cruel.

  10. Martin says:

    Rossi looked good in the first practice, but then so did all the guys on Honda and Yamaha machines! (Sorry Ben, looks like the Dukes still need a bit of sorting out)

    Kelly Slater, at 40, is still feared surfing competitor. 5 of his 11 world titles were won in his 30′s, his last at 38. Have you seen what guys do on surfboards these days? Pure kid stuff, and he’s doing it at 40. Amazing, and so I don’t see 34 as too old for Rossi.

    • Chris says:

      Sorry Martin, but “The Dukes” have a different level are starting from. Ben pulled off still not recovered from his shoulder surgery. But yeah. Audi better bring their A game to help this team. Hayden and Dovizioso were so little ahead of the B team, they got their work cut out. Although, I would love to see them do that. Spies & Hayden at the top! That would be the ultimate comeback dream!

  11. mickey says:

    Can Rossi still hang? with Lorenzo? wIth Pedrosa? with Crutchlow?

    Doubt it.

    With Dovisioso, with Hayden, with Bradl, with Bautista

    Probably

    With Marques?

    Too early to say

    • VLJ says:

      Pedrosa and Lorenzo? Perhaps not, at least not on a consistent basis. Crutchlow? Absolutely. Rossi is on either the same or slightly better bike (“seamless” transmission for the two factory bikes, among other possible differences) and right out of the gate he’s already faster than Cal. There is little reason to suspect that Rossi on an M1 won’t be consistently faster than Crutchlow, who still really hasn’t done much of anything in MotoGP.

      I won’t be surprised to see Rossi win a (dry) race or two this year. I would be far more surprised to see Crutchlow win one. If anything, Marquez will likely be the third guy who most often keeps Rossi off the podium.

    • Fred M. says:

      Day 2 of testing at Sepang has completed and Rossi is 4th and within a 1/2 second of Pedrosa, Lorenzo, and Marquez. And he’s 3/10 faster than Crutchlow, who is in 5th.

      Dovisioso, Hayden, Bradl, and Bautista are well behind.

      Perhaps you’d like to rethink that prediction?

  12. Ricardo says:

    Max Biaggi (mad Max) clinched the 2012 and 2010 SBK championships at the young ages of 39 and 37 with a great come back. Rossi? he is still young, has the energy, drive and something the younger guys don’t have, EXPERIENCE. My bets are on him….

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Max Biaggi (mad Max) clinched the 2012 and 2010 SBK championships at the young ages of 39 and 37 with a great come back.”

      and lest we forget OG checa’s title in 2011. hizzy won BSB at age 40 and did so over 10 years ago. really gotta wonder how many times this topic of rossi’s age can keep coming up…? while blatant information proving that it’s irrelevant keeps getting ignored…? how many…?

      • mickey says:

        Winning in WSBK and BSB is NOT the same as winning in MotoGP. I believe Biaggi and Checa would both attest to that.

        And whether Rossi can still win at his age in MotoGP will be questioned until he does win again at MotoGP. Even he has pondered in public interiews if he “still has it”. if he wins the Championship this year or next, that will answer the question. If he ends up in 4 th or 5 th for the season, that will also answer the question.Im willing to cut him some slack for not winning on the Ducati, but now he has no excuse. It’s either win, or realize that there are now better, faster riders in the sport.

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “Winning in WSBK and BSB is NOT the same as winning in MotoGP.”

          correct, WSBK and BSB offers a relaxed and rider friendly environment while MotoGP is too damn political for it’s own good. hey thanks for pointing that out.

          • goose says:

            Norm,

            Here is a quick way to prove Mickey’s point.

            List all the current and former MotoGP riders who have world championships in WSB (Biaggi, Checa, Spies, Edwards come to mind, could be more) how many MotoGP championships to they have between them? Zero. Spies and Edwards have three WSB championships and one MotoGP race win between them. How about WSB riders becoming a 500cc GP championship? I can’t think of any but I could be wrong on that.

            MotoGP may have become boring to watch but it remains the pinnacle of motorcycle road racing for the rider.

            Goose

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “List all the current and former MotoGP riders who have world championships in WSB (Biaggi, Checa, Spies, Edwards come to mind, could be more) how many MotoGP championships to they have between them? Zero.”

            curious, what part of my comment “MotoGP is too damn political for it’s own good” did you not understand…?

            re: “MotoGP may have become boring to watch but it remains the pinnacle of motorcycle road racing…”

            …to the layperson.

        • Dave says:

          I bet if you asked Biaggi and Checca about their experiences, they’d tell you that most of the time, they were held back by resources. Now they win titles against up to 10 potential challengers on equipment that is on par with their own.

          Rossi’s experience at Ducati and return to competitiveness at Yamaha proves that MotoGP reduces the rider to a secondary factor. The fact remains that there are only 4 motorcycles in the division with any chance on winning, possibly just 2 when you consider that only Lorenzo has been competitive on the Yamaha (same with Stoner on the Ducati previously). Unfortunately the Honda RC212v has become the pinnacle of road racing, no longer MotoGP.

          • mickey says:

            We’ve been thru this before..there are in fact maybe 4 that are capable of winning the championship in WSBK, not 10. Maybe 1 more than is capable of winning the championship in MotoGP.

            The cream will always rise to the top..in WSBK or MotoGP..or football, or basketball, or car racing, or in any true sport.

            If you dumb down a sport where anybody can win, its not much of a sport.

            MotoGP is so political, they’ve allowed an American ( Hayden ) a Malorcan ( Lorenzo ) an Italian (Rossi) and an Australian (Stoner) to be World Champion the last few years.

            I do wish more factories were involved in MotoGP and rumors have Suzuki returning in 2014, but developing prototypes motorcycles and hiring the best riders is very expensive, too expensive for most.

  13. stephen says:

    Come on – joey Dunlop at the Isle of Mann in 2000! – Surely one of the best races of his life!!! Rossi is great – but

  14. ROXX says:

    34 too old??? No way!

  15. Dave says:

    Biaggi and Checca. Both = old. Both compete in a class where there are many more potential challengers to win than in MotoGP and both win.

    FWIW, Rossi is coming back from poor seasons, not absence.

  16. Hefner says:

    Bayliss had a less than stellar MotoGP career, left the series to go to WSBK, then after two years being gone, showed up at Valencia and SMOKED the entire field in a one-off appearance. (last non-Stoner Ducati win?)

    It isn’t your traditional comeback, because he never stopped racing motorcycles, but I think it still counts. It was a fantastic race by Bayliss, but the fact that he dominated from flag to flag is often forgotten due to some other memories of that race: Hayden won the title, but the circuit apparently had only set up yellow smoke bombs.

  17. Vrooom says:

    It would be cool to see Rossi and Lorenzo cooperating. Obviously Michael Jordan returned, George Foreman returned, Roger Clemens seems to retire every year, there are quite a few atheletes in this category.

  18. I suspect Rossi will do well. He is not necessarily, as you imply, riding against individuals who will take unrealistic risks. Results? Hard to say for sure, but he will do well. If, at is appears, the main competition is Lorenzo and Pedrosa, he is riding against two individuals who will ride at the limits of the machine, but not over, as they also know they have to stay injury-free and finish consistently to be there at the end of the season. It will take a disruptive force to push those three to the point of making mistakes, therefore risking injury, before they will back off. Marquez? Crutchlow? We’ll see! It’s racing, anything can happen, that’s why we line ‘em up on Sunday!

  19. chris says:

    Sugar Ray Leonard was a tremendous boxer I watched growing up in the 80s in the Washington DC area, I believe he came back to box after a detached retina nearly ended a brilliant career that included olympic boxing medals as well as a professional winning streak that remains at the top of his sport.

  20. Rossi46 says:

    As a big Rossi fan, I hope he can be competetive. I will never forget the battle when Rossi was first on a Yamaha and beat Biaggi. I believe that was one of the best races I’ve ever seen! I hope to see more of those type of races

  21. Neil says:

    Michael Jordan. Joey Dunlop. Dunlop won at the Isle of Man on the Honda twin up in his 40s. Brother Robert was missing it up too. John McGuiness is not kid either and he is winning at over 125 mph average on the roads.

  22. MGNorge says:

    Only time will tell but his years are working against him.

  23. Gutterslob says:

    Those that follow rallying might remember Ari Vatanen. Won the World rally Championship, then had a very bad accident and other medical issues (there was the whole AIDS via blood transfusion at hospital story). Came back to win at Pikes Peak. Also competed in the Paris-Dakar, and won, iirc.

    There’s also Alex Zanardi. The guy got cut in half (really) in an Indicay accident. Lost both legs but still made a comeback to motorsport. Didn’t win any world championships, but that’s still one helluva comeback, imho.

  24. Gutterslob says:

    Niki Lauda (F1) made a comeback. Actually, he made two. First was after a near-fatal crash (he still carries the burn scars) and the second after he announced retirement (heard he returned simply because he needed the money). Wond championships after each comeback.

  25. Rus says:

    Mike Hailwood coming back after a long time in car racing to win the IOM TT.

  26. paul says:

    well! his first test is putting any doubts to bed so far