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The Gravity of What Valentino Rossi is Accomplishing This Year

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With two wins and a third place finish, Valentino Rossi is leading the 2015 MotoGP championship series. The nine-time world champion is accomplishing something far more significant, however, in my opinion.

Marc Marquez (Honda) has changed MotoGP racing. At 20 years old, he became the youngest rider ever to win the MotoGP championship in 2013. In 2014, just his second year in the premier class, he broke Mick Doohan’s record by winning 13 races. But these statistics are only the result of the real revolution Marquez has brought. The consistent, blazing speed of Marquez is the result of many factors (not the least of which is his factory Honda), but the most difficult for his rivals to match is his corner speed. Part of this is the ability of Marquez to get so far off the bike he routinely drags his elbow. He had speed that could not be touched in 2014, and only riders willing to alter their own riding style had any hope of ever matching his speed.

You would not expect the oldest rider in the paddock to be the most flexible. Nevertheless, Valentino Rossi is the only one who seems to now have brought himself to the same level as Marquez. Even his much younger teammate, former champion Jorge Lorenzo (just 27) has been left in the wake of his 36 year old teammate’s evolution as a rider.

Here is a quote you would not expect to see after the dominance Marc Marquez has shown. It is from Repsol Honda’s Livio Suppo, who had this to say after Marquez clashed with Rossi and went down two laps from the finish in Argentina:

“Race Direction said it is a racing accident. [It] can happen. We knew that with the same tyre Valentino was faster so the strategy I think was correct. The plan was to try to escape and then manage to the end. The strategy went ok until almost the end! It’s a pity we didn’t see a good battle between Vale and Marc, but these things can happen.”

The key admission here is Honda “knew that with the same tyre Valentino was faster.” I don’t know whether Marquez has entered a race in the last two years believing that a competitor was faster over race distance prior to Argentina last weekend.

The gravity of Rossi’s accomplishment is evident in Jorge Lorenzo’s statement after the race:

“Valentino’s race was unbelievable, he was able to go faster than anyone else with the harder tyre, he is in an unbelievable shape.”

On the same bike as Rossi, Lorenzo finished a distant fifth in Argentina. Lorenzo is a slow starter, and will very likely improve his results as the season goes on, but he is clearly in awe of what Rossi has accomplished. We here at MD are also in awe. Bring on the rest of the series.

74 Comments

  1. Ninja9r says:

    I’m hoping that MM doesn’t end up like James Stewart, extremely fast but crash prone. Ricky was a way smarter racer, just like Valentino is.

  2. Notarollingroadblock says:

    There’s lot of rooting for Rossi going on, me included. Here’s a good article, and a nice pic of our past heroes.

    http://superbikeplanet.com/2015/Apr/150423-45at36.htm

  3. Colin says:

    Marquez didn’t really break Doohan’s wins-in-a-season record. There are more races per season now, so comparing the absolute number of wins is meaningless. MM won 13 of 18 (72%), but Doohan still won a higher percentages of the races in a single season: 12 of 15 (80%).

    If one claims MM won more total races (13 vs. 12), you must also acknowledge Doohan lost fewer total races (3 vs. 5).

  4. rapier says:

    I’ve always had a surely crackpot theory that great motor racers have some innate sense of traction. That combined with an ability to predict it and then being able to find its jagged edge. Valentino surely has it and now a machine to equal the other guy who has it.

    He made a stupendous blunder going to Ducati but then he probably didn’t really know. Stoner had won not long before. The Ducati’s jagged edge was too slow. Age to a point doesn’t affect this as motor racers can perform at peak levels long after other athletes begin to decline. Baring some technological breakthrough by Honda, very unlikely, or injury it sure looks like Rossi can be in the hunt all year.

  5. Trpldog says:

    We’re at a good place in Motogp history. Looking forward to the next brawl at 211 mph.

  6. Tom Shields says:

    Along with everyone else, I am in awe of what Rossi is accomplishing. An additional opinion:

    Marquez reminds me in many ways of Stoner in his prime. In clear air at the front on a good bike, he would ride like a god and was uncatchable. But when he got caught up in a pack, or was directly challenged on even terms…. not quite so godlike.

    • Rick says:

      +1

      I echo your sentiments

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “But when he got caught up in a pack, or was directly challenged on even terms…. not quite so godlike.”

      I would disagree. People think Marquez isn’t good in a pack because he rarely finds himself in one. Yet we’ve all seen him gobble up riders, including Rossi, and then still open up a sizable gap once he gets in front.

      • Mark R says:

        Agreed.
        Short memories or others never watched Moto2, Margie has no problems in the pack.

        Yeah Vale!

        • Rick says:

          I don’t think you grasp the point here. The guy is fast and obviously come up through a pack. But he loses a little of his composure and at times makes some bonehead moves, ESPECIALLY if someone is near his pace or equaling it. He is a talent like no other, but not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I think in time he will mature and be able to look at the big picture.

          • Tom Shields says:

            Yes, that’s the point – thanks.

          • peter harris says:

            Yeah – if you want to win at all costs, someone like Rossi is going to make you play that card and see what cost you’re willing to gamble on. He won this time – he’s very very smart.

            Marquez is too – we’ll see what he’s learned.

      • TexinOhio says:

        As long as he keeps it clean. I hope race control pulled MM aside after hitting Rossi to tell him to cool it.

        He took out Bautista at the first race this season while scrambling up from last place, and now he had his run in with VR which thankfully only resulted in MM taking himself out.

        I understand contact will be made in racing, but when you take out other riders you need to rethink your tactics.

  7. Vrooom says:

    That crash cost Marquez the 20 points second would have given him. He’s got to learn to accept those finishes if he wants to remain a champion. His day’s of easy wins every race appear to be over.

  8. mkspeedr says:

    Wow the Ducati really sucked

  9. Dave says:

    I vote for Hailwood as the best of all time Rossi second Agostini third

    • Curly says:

      Showing my age but I’ll also go with Hailwood, Rossi, followed by Saarinen then Roberts, Spencer, Marquez. Ago was great but also benefited from a non-competitive era. Marquez has plenty of time to move up the list though. Rossi would probably match Hailwood in my mind if he can turn another championship. Why Saarinen? Because he changed everything before he died too soon and Roberts used what the learned from Saarinen to teach the world how it was done. Spencer because, 250 and 500 championships in one year and because he showed how it had to be done in the 80s on bikes with too much power and not enough tire.

      Would have loved to have seen the 1950’s champions like Leslie Graham, Geoff Duke and John Surtees race in person. They are all greats though and deserve our respect no matter where they rank.

    • Gordon Haight says:

      How would Hailwood do on a bike with today’s horsepower at the speeds that they are going? I’m sure that Rossi could easily adapt to the bikes of yesteryear but not so sure if Hailwood would fare so well in today’s racing environment. We’ll never know, will we. Hailwood is still great, if only #2 IMHO.

      • Curly says:

        If Hailwood was anything he was adaptable to all sorts of race bikes. Consider that he turned a 109 mph lap on the 900SS to win the IOM Formula 1 race after not racing for 11 years then came back the next year at 39 years old and turned a 111 mph lap in the Senior TT on an RG500 Suzuki. Could he have handled the high power bikes of today? Yeah he could’ve.

    • mickey says:

      I would give the nod to Ago, and find it funny that he “won in a non competitive decade” since he raced against the likes of Hailwood, Read, Sheene, Roberts, I think Redmon. 13 years, 15 World Championships. 186 starts 122 wins. 5 years he was both 350 and 500 Champion. He won 10 Isle of Mann TTs. He won the Daytona 200 the first time he raced a Yamaha. Won World Championships for 2 manufacturers.

      certainly Agostini, Hailwood and Rossi are the cream of the roadracing crop.

      I would put Roberts, Rainey, Spencer, Lawson and Doohan a step behind those 3.

      No matter what year, class or decade there are always guys who can ride a motorcycle very fast, and there are no ” non competitive seasons”.

      • mickey says:

        Where would I rank Marquez? Talented kid, too soon to tell. History will eventually let us know. check with me again in 2025 if I am still alive and possess my faculties.

      • Curly says:

        Ago was (is) great for sure but the non-competitive era(not decade) I spoke of was the 1968 through 1973 seasons that the MV 500 four cylinder bikes he rode competed mostly against non factory backed singles and twins. It wasn’t until 1970 that he came up against the new and under developed Kawasaki 500 H1R triple and overbored priveteer Yamaha 350 twins. Then Phil Read beat him out for the 500cc championship on the MV in ’73 and ’74 and I feel strongly that Saarinen was on his way to the 500cc title in “74 on the new Yamaha four when died. He essentially had the years ’68 to ’72 to pad his wins total with no real competition.

        • mickey says:

          I will give you that there was not a lot of competition during the 68-73 years in the 500 class except in 72 when he beat Pagani also on an MV, and in 73 when he again beat Pagani, Carruthers and Pasolini. In the 350 Class though there was plenty of competition with Carruthers, Read, Saarienen which he beat in 71 and 72,, Paul Smart, Passolini, and he beat all those guys 5 years straight.

          Maybe his bike was better in the 500 class ( maybe in the 350 class too who knows?) but usually the guy that wins has a better bike….best rider, best bike, usually equals a win…ala Marquez, ala Rossi, ala Stoner., ala Robert ala Rainey and Spencer etc. just because their bikes were the best doesn’t negate the talent it takes to ride one to it’s potential.

          Not to mention the Isle of Man wins and the 74 Daytona 200 on his first ride for Yamaha beating Roberts, Romero, Mann, McLaughlin, Smart, Castro etc guys who were familiar with the track.

          Marquez was able to beat Agostinis and Doohans wins in a season because he had 1/3 more races to do it in.

          Imagine what Ago’s win total would look like if they had 18 race seasons instead of 12?

  10. TZ250 says:

    Different tracks will produce different results. I’m a huge Rossi fan and although I’m enjoying the moment, I realize that there are future venues that will favor Honda or Ducati and that Marquez will be winning more races. Everyone talks about the new psychological edge that Rossi has over Marquez and I’m not buying it. If anything Rossi is more confident that he can compete well on certain tracks and Marquez is probably more determined than ever to win again.

    • VLJ says:

      I haven’t read where a single person, much less “everyone,” says Rossi has a psychological advantage over Marquez. Rossi is clearly regaining his confidence, and he has vastly more experience than Marquez, but nobody is saying he now has a psychological edge over the kid.

  11. Hot Dog says:

    The wise old Fox eyed the young Rooster, contemplating his next move. Fox knew Rooster could fly, so he must be cunning, swift and forceful when he pounced. Rooster knew he was being stalked, it made him nervous not knowing when/where Fox would bite. Rooster felt the teeth sink in as he tried to escape but it was to no avail. Fox made off with his catch, feathers everywhere, grinning as he dined on his feast.

    Moto GP makes me wish away time until the next race.

  12. Glen says:

    True That!

  13. Rick says:

    Rossi is riding well, and it is a great thing to see! Even though we all know how fast Marc is, we’ve yet to see Rossi vs. Marc when Rossi has his Swagger level at 100% 🙂 As of now everything is done above board and all clean and proper, but I can certainly remember a time when Rossi openly did things to get in the other riders heads. That was a spectacle in itself, and I for one would love to see it play out again. Will it? Who knows? I am just happy that Rossi is seemingly having fun and riding competitively. It has to be a hard pill to swallow for those who said he was done, washed up, and wouldn’t win another GP.

  14. xLaYN says:

    It’s said that it is the strongest the one who dominates/survives; it’s not.
    It’s the most adaptable.
    Downside, anything with the 46 will become (even more) expensive, oh well, the Lorenzo replica is on sale.

    • Dave says:

      The human species’ greatest strength is intellect. Adaptability and intelligence is strength in the human context.

      • peter harris says:

        and the ability to open a bear bottle with most anything within reach. But that’s off topic.

        • TimC says:

          So…”open a bear bottle” seems like slang I should be familiar with, but for some reason am not.

  15. Jeremy in TX says:

    Rossi is off to an amazing start. The bike has clearly been better adapted to him, and his technique has evolved.

    The Yamahas are known for their grip, so on this particular track and given the corner speeds from Rossi that Honda has no doubt taken note of these past races, I don’t think it is a surprise that Livio Suppo and the rest of the team came to the conclusion that Rossi might be faster than Marquez on the same tire at this track.

    Still, that doesn’t take anything away from Rossi. The guy is a master sorcerer, and it is a treat to watch him do his thing. Nobody else on the tarmac even came close to challenging Marquez for the lead, much less taking it from him. 199 podiums with 110 victories. Amazing.

  16. Bill says:

    Exposing my ignorance, does anyone know who the oldest GP rider was (or maybe is)? Essentially, given his current success, how many more years do we think we will be able to watch Rossi ride?

  17. Angel says:

    IMHO Rossi is the greatest rider in MotoGP history.

    • Blackcayman says:

      Especially when you consider how the sport has evolved…how the level of fitness to ride at that level has elevated.

      I’m a +1 on that statement.

      Since all the GOATs can’t race on identical machines at the perfect/best age of their career, we’ll never know conclusively.

      Since he is still racing, there is no telling what he may yet accomplish.

      • stinkywheels says:

        If you heard the breathing of the rider on the camera lap. Imagine on a faster, harder stopping bike and then do 20 laps. These guys are Gods!

  18. louisbiker says:

    Marquez: “It’s a shame what happened, because we were having a good race. It was really interesting, because our tyre choice was different from Valentino’s, because I knew that it would have been impossible to beat him with the [same] harder compound.”

    From: http://www.crash.net/motogp/news/217942/1/marquez-rossi-is-still-my-idol.html

  19. Hugh says:

    Of course, the unanswerable question is whether Vale or Ago is the best of all time?

  20. Pat says:

    Rossi is riding amazingly well. I’ll be cheering him on all season, and I want him to pull this off! But it’s just so hard to bet against a much younger Marquez, who has so much potential.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “it’s just so hard to bet against a much younger Marquez, who has so much potential.”

      I mean the kid did clear off by 4+ seconds. in competitive 12 metre sailing that’s known as pulling a “Horizon Job”.

      • Gutterslob says:

        So you’re saying Rossi controlled the planet’s rotation to reel him back in?

        • Norm G. says:

          Q: “So you’re saying Rossi controlled the planet’s rotation to reel him back in?”

          A: not so much.

          I’m saying Ross gambled on that “brandy new” extra hard tyre choice and won, while at the same time Marcus and Company chose NOT to gamble on the extra hard tyre choice and lost. it was a lucky confluence of events.

          to my knowledge the M1 has NEVER been able to successfully fit an extra hard compound rear in 3 maybe 4 seasons at ANY track and make it work…? given all the troubles they had with the “heat resistors” when they were introduced, it would be foolish to conclude at this point the Yamaha is going to make that work at other tracks.

          I’m not even sure we’re going to see that tyre again in the allocation ‘cept for maybe Phil’s Isle…? are we…? dunno. in contrast, the 213 has a history of being able to make the hard/harder compounds work in low traction situations that have routinely left the others scratching their heads (Indy is a good example). everybody should “live in fear” that the Honda has not lost this set-up capability.

          right then, being a student of the sport I’m more inclined to pay attention to the “devil” in these details, and less inclined to look for the “Superman” in these details, but that’s just me. I look to “engineering” for explanations, before i ever look to “human beings” for explanations.

          • Gutterslob says:

            Student of engineering or not, I give you props for spelling tyre right.

          • TimC says:

            And as discussed before, I utterly disagree with you. You can look for the details.

            I will look at – and to – a hero.

            VR 46, PhD.

          • TimC says:

            My previous comment is a reply to Norm, not Gutterslob. This forum’s format makes that kind of unclear.

  21. Rico says:

    We’ll said Dirck.

  22. LoneAmigo says:

    Firt Yamaha had to build a bike that fit him. Remember the business with the tank positioning. Only then could he ape the idecar monkey hang-off that modern tires require.

    (There are other major manufacturers who have not built bikes thatt fit their riders, even though sometimes that is what is required. One size does not fit all.)

    • Glen says:

      I remember what Repsol Honda did to Nicky when they built the 800. He was too big for it. But Pedrosa fit just fine.

  23. jonnyblaze says:

    The live telemetry did show the same.

    When Valentino went into a corner, with another rider in front of him, telemetry showed Valentino carrying more cornering speed than the bike in front. I observed this in all three past races.

  24. pete Rasmussen says:

    Its a bit early to be making rules out of one race! Marc was unlucky, thats all and Valentino rode really well. Interesting that Jorge is talking about changing his style of riding so as to be more competitive. Go the Andreas!

    • VLJ says:

      How was Marc unlucky? It wasn’t good luck that made Rossi so much faster late in the race, it was excellent riding combined with shrewd planning. It wasn’t poor luck that made Marquez crash after he surrendered the lead and hit Rossi’s rear tire, it was youthful aggression combined with a lack of maturity.

      I don’t see where luck, good or bad, played any role in this.

  25. TimC says:

    “You would not expect the oldest rider in the paddock to be the most flexible. Nevertheless, Valentino Rossi is the only one who seems to now have brought himself to the same level as Marquez.”

    Indeed. VR’s ability to change his riding/hanging off style is basically unprecedented. Nearly all racers get really good at one style and when things move on, they fall away, unable to adapt.

  26. BRIAN says:

    Amazing last few years… Raising the bar in skills, good to see..!!

  27. Gary says:

    WAY to early in the season to make such a broad statement. Rossi qualified in the third row so not sure what the basis is of the statement made by Suppo. In my opinion, Marquez is still fastest.

    But he is not as wise. With his tire clearly gone, he tried a foolish maneuver, when he should have settled for second place. That’s lack of maturity, not speed. I hope he learns some patience before he hurts himself, because he has tremendous potential.

    I love what Rossi did, and I hope he pulls off a miracle this year. But my rational self still thinks Marquez will be the champ.

    • Dave says:

      In Argentina, Rossi was clearly faster. Qualifying and race pace are not the same thing and one is clearly more important than the other.

    • Glen says:

      I thing Suppo meant Rossi was faster over race distance.

      • Dirck Edge says:

        This is clearly what he meant. You can bet Honda has a watch on Rossi when he does a race simulation during practice.

        • Gutterslob says:

          It would help if they released FP4 times that are recorded just before qualifying starts, to help those who don’t have a full MotoGP subscription get a better idea of race pace.

  28. mickey says:

    It is hard to call Rossi anything less than amazing.

  29. Krisd says:

    Nicely said Dirck- and couldn’t agree with you more.

  30. VLJ says:

    Music to my eyes.