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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-16-2006, 11:12 AM Thread Starter
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Rossi Interview - A Good Long Read !!!

Tuesday Conversation:
Valentino RossióPart I

Interviews with Valentino Rossi are always welcome, but this one is particularly appropriate. After all, today is his day (Valentineís Day), and his 27th birthday is on Thursday. Not only that, but he graces the cover of our new issue, which also contains an excerpt from his forthcoming autobiography, What If Iíd Never Tried It. This interview was conducted by Italian journalist Enrico Borghi, who worked with Rossi on said autobiography. The interview actually took place just after the final round of the 2005 MotoGP season, and it originally appeared (in Italian) in Moto Sprint, the Italian motorcycle weekly, but we think itís still very pertinent.
By Enrico Borghi

RRX: [Last] season, you were strong in conditionsóthe wetówhere youíre known for having troubles: China and England, for example. How was that possible?
I improved again, but that depends a lot on experience and on the feeling you have with the bike. Because riding in the rain is something that depends a lot on the setup. It becomes much more important for you to feel good on your bike. I didnít have that feeling in 2004. The bike was too new for me; I didnít know it well enough.

Even after a winter of testing?
Yeah. Think about it: In a year, we race about 30,000 kilometers [18,600 miles]; 29,000 [18,000] of thoseómaybe even moreówe race in the dry. Therefore, for me the M1 was a very unfamiliar motorcycle when I arrived at the wet races. [In 2005], my feeling improved, so it must be said that my riding in the wet didnít improve: itís that I got better with the bike, and it did as well. That also happened to me with Honda: it took a while, but then I found the feeling in the wet with the NSR and the RCV.

Do you think you were better [in 2005] than you were in 2004?
I donít think so. In 2004, in the preseason, I was the strongest. [Last] year, I went faster because my bike was better, so there were many more occasions in which I was able to ride at 100 percent, like I was able to do with Honda.

So 2004 was a unique season.
Well, even if a year has passed and many things have happened, thinking back, I can say that in my opinion, I was very good in 2004.

What did you like the most?
Many times, I was able to ride well even though the bike wasnít set up perfectly. That was the masterpiece of 2004óa season that, as a sporting accomplishment, remains unique: some may have already forgotten, but in 2004, the gap between Honda and Yamaha was really quite large.

Your competitors say that you always have special tires, which they donít have.
This story of the tires bothers me a lot. I would like to clarify, but starting from further back.

From where?
First, the problem was the bike: that is, I had the Honda and the others didnít. Then the problem became the factory Honda, which only I had. Actually, at this point, letís even name names: Biaggi and Gibernau. Yes, they said that I had the factory Honda, so I had an advantage; then I went to Yamaha and I won anyway! But evidently it wasnít over, because Gibarnau, and others as well, often said that they couldnít get the tires that I did. Well, thatís just stupid.

Okay, your point is clear.
No, letís continue: Michelin has contracts with the teams. Based on that, they must furnish all the teams they support with the same quality of tires. And if they donít respect itóthat contractóthe situation can justifiably end in troubles. Does it seem to you, then, that a company like Michelin would mess with a company like Honda? Therefore, to say that I was treated specially by Michelin is really stupid.

As for the rest, itís like when they say that I mess with my competitors, staying behind them until the final lap and then screwing them. Itís not true: If it happens, itís because I decided that in those conditions, that was the only tactic to use. Can it be that they donít understand that itís always better to stay by yourself, and that having your competitor nearby is always dangerous? Still, some people like to say things like that.

This topic brings to mind how often you beat Gibernau. Were you expecting such a collapse?
No. He went very fast, but he collected very little, if you look at the average of his speed and his points. But that shows that with bikes, going fast isnít enough. You must also be serene, humble, mentally strong. Heís someone who can do two incredible days of testing, an exceptional warmup, and then in the race heíll mess up just once on the brakes and be finished.

Some say that itís your fault, that you demolished him psychologically.
Oh, come on, be serious. If he were better than I am, he would win. Period.

Where did he mess up [last] season, in your opinion?
His biggest mistake was to want to take a step that was longer than his legsóthat is, than his real potential.

How so?
At the end of 2004, he thought: now I have the factory Honda, so Iím the strongest rider in the world. And it was an error. And then, this legendary, blessed, factory Honda; this magic bike that, according to general opinion, could win without a rider. Well, this blessed Honda screwed him up! Just like it did Biaggi. And Barros too.

But why?
Gibernau, after his ďpromotion,Ē decided in his head that he had become the strongest rider in the world. But that wasnít the case. He had to deal with that reality, and he went into crisis. Therefore, it wasnít my fault; it was his!

In effect, there is some sense in all that.
After he battled with me, Gibernau at a certain point said: If I battled with him when I didnít have the factory Honda, it means that now Iím the fastest. Not only that, but [in 2004] he actually said that if heíd had the factory Honda, he wouldíve beat me. He didnít think that his standard Honda (and by the way, it wasnít standard, because he, like Biaggi, had a factory Honda in 2004) was faster than my factory Yamaha. That part, he didnít actually say.

Before [the 2005] season, there was a feeling in the air that it would be the year that the Honda riders would beat you.
Because we werenít ready with the bike. We never were during the tests, and not even in the first races. I went fast only once, in Malaysia, but it was an isolated incident. We werenít consistently fast. And at Jerez, we were still having troubles.

How was the situation resolved?
The bike was very new, so we had to completely develop it. During that time, we also made some errors. At a certain point, we realized it, and we also found the biggest problems.

For example?
The electronic management of the motor was one of them, at first.

The 2005 M1, during the season, acted strangely: it often went very well, only to enter into crisis at moments. Is that the fault of MotoGP, or of the M1?
I believe the M1 was a little at fault. Itís a characteristic, remaining also in that bike; and itís one of the major differences with respect to the Honda.

Such a big difference?
To eliminate the last 10th, the Honda also has to be set up well, obviously, but itís a bike that more or less always goes well. Ours, on the other hand, suffers a lot if itís not ready, if itís not properly balanced: that is, the correct weight on the front wheel and that on the rear wheel. Also, the M1 still has a problem with delivery.

Itís still ornery?
It has a delivery that imposes one to ride in a certain way: if youíre not able to ride it in the way it imposes, it becomes a problem to which other problems are added.

The Honda is more rideable?
Itís more elastic, so itís easier to ride. The useable range of the Yamaha is a bit reduced; at times it reminds me of the 500 two-stroke. To give you an example: maybe from 9,000 to 12,000 rpm, it wonít go, then from 12,000 to 13,500 it goes well, whereas the Honda has a broader range. In addition, with the M1, if you start to have problems as soon as you get it on a trackóand if the track is unfamiliar itís even worseóitís very easy to get into problems that become bigger. And then you really end up in troubles. It happened to Colin, many times, because when you go the wrong way with the M1, it becomes unrideable.

Is that one of the priorities with the development of the 2006 M1?
Yes, because from one track to another, the M1 can change a lot. For example, letís take the two new tracks [last] yearóthat of China and that of Turkey. We had many problems, whereas the Hondas went well from the first turn. Itís not a concidence: the Honda is much easier to set up, it adapts more quickly. Thatís where you can see the difference between Honda and Yamaha.

But how do you solve the problem?
Much of it depends on getting the right grip on the front: the M1, if itís not balanced correctly, loses much of its front grip. Therefore, it becomes difficult to manage on the brakes and on corner entry. And thereís another problem too: because itís very sophisiticated, the M1 can get to where it confuses all of the other parameters if you donít get it set up right; so instead of improving, it becomes even more difficult to control. It can get to a point where thereís a problem with engine braking that wasnít even there before.

Technically, are MotoGP bikes more difficult to set up than the 500s?
More or less the same. The MotoGP is more complicated because thereís the whole electronic part to set up, but itís also true that all those systems are a big help to the rider: with the 500 we had crashes on acceleration, which you donít see anymore. Because the systems that assist the motor help a lot. These are bikes that weigh 145 kilos [320 pounds] and have 250 horsepower: if there werenít those rider aids, we wouldnít even be able to get out of the garage.

Is technology becoming the most important thing in bikes?
It must be said that we should be careful not to go too far; we shouldnít exaggerate, like F1 has done: there, everythingís becoming easier. Weíre at a good level, in my opinion, because with bikes the rider can make the difference.

Is that why you also went fast when the bike wasnít set up well?
Thereís little to be said: thatís the big difference that exists between those who are fast and those who are faster!

Thereís a legendary phrase [in Italy]: ride over your problems.
When the bike has problemsóand there are always problemsóitís easy to complain; you finish fifth, and at that point you can have a thousand excuses: the bike doesnít turn, there are problems under braking, the tire slips, etc. On the other hand, itís precisely at those moments that you need to make the difference, because when you add everything up after the 17 races, you also count the races in which you had problems but managed to patch things up.

Is that the definition of talent?
Talent certainly consists of winning the race. But if we speak about the way a championship plays outóbecause anyway, what counts is winning the titleóthe true difference is made in the ability to finish second or third on the days that are shi--Ö okay, letís say the days in which you have problems. Itís there that you have to make the difference.

But the throttle also counts.
Fortunately, yes. In our sport, the right wrists also counts, and how. The point at which you shut off the throttle counts, and above all, that at which you reopen it. He who opens it first, goes faster, period. Sure, many things count, like serenity, or the team, or the setup, but in the end, thatís always the main thing.

Today, at 20 years old, the kids all want a MotoGP bike. Isnít that strange?
Our world has totally changed. Up until a few years ago, one could decide to make a career in the 125 or the 250 class, and he would be more or less considered to be the same level as the 500 riders. There were three different classes, but all at the top; there wasnít this desire to make it to the 500s. But now, with MotoGP, thereís one class that attracts all the money, the media, the interest. Itís the F1 of motorcycles, basically. And even the kids dream of immediately arriving there, without considering the other classes.

Is that something you share?
I think itís a mistake. Today everything is undoubtedly in a rush. Sure, the MotoGP title is worth much more than the other titles, but Iím very happy with the way I took: going forward winning title after title, in every class. To these riders who are so young, Iíd like to say that you have to understand if you can win in one class, and then try; if you realize itís not possible, then change classes.

Hondaóthough very cautiously and without ever actually saying soómade it clear to you many times that you would be welcome back; Ducati, on the other hand, actually tried to get you again. You chose to stay with Yamaha. Leaving Honda aside, didnít the Italian challenge attract you?
It would be great to race with Ducati. But the troubles that I had to go through in 2003, to plan the transfer of my team, to convince my mechanics and above all Jeremy [Burgess], and then to organize everything, was very hard. Since I wouldnít move without my team, I didnít have any desire to re-live that whole mess. And anyway, Iím happy at Yamaha.

And thatís probably the biggest factor, in regards to your choice.
I like the people with whom I work: from number one, Furusawa, to [Davide] Brivio, and then the guys on the team, we all have a great human rapport. In the end, thatís how I am: I wonít stay in a place if thereís not that good human rapport. Iím very happy at Yamaha: and for me, Yamaha is Italian now.

How so?
Weíve created a group in which ďItalianismĒ prevails. The bikes are in Milan, the team is coordinated by Italians, and there are many Italians who work in it. Also, the Japanese of Yamaha have a mentality thatís pretty similar to ours. Therefore, even if weíre talking about a Japanese company, weíve ďItalianizedĒ Yamaha. I also have to say that itís the first time Iíve ever felt so attached to the brand for which Iím racing.
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-16-2006, 11:12 AM Thread Starter
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Well, it’s clear: there’s no chance of taking you away from where you are. Still, changing bikes could be a motivation to continue.
Sure, but it’s still not the time for a change.

What about this idea: seeing as how you won’t move without your team, could you—you and your team, including Brivio—ask for a factory Ducati and make your own team, with an Italian motorcycle?
Yes, that’s a great idea, but I think it would be difficult to manage a project like that. Anyway, who knows, maybe in the future I could also change bikes. Although I’d be sad for Yamaha. Tuesday Conversation:
Valentino Rossi—Part II

Will you ever grow tired of riding motorcycles?
No, I don’t think so. I could race bikes forever, because this is my great passion.

And yet…
In my opinion, sporting-wise, someone like me should try and do something more, look for new challenges, measure himself in other situations. If I didn’t feel that way, I’d have stayed with Honda for 10 years and tried to beat the record of [Giacomo] Agostini. But I’m more interested in other things.

At this point, is the problem the motivation, the repetition?
For sure. Because I’m having fun now and I like riding motorcycles, just like I like working with the people I have around me now. But our work is hard, there’s a lot of pressure, many people who push; one must always have maximum motivation to resist and to continue to do that which I’m doing.

How difficult will it be to stay at such a high level in 2006?
It will be difficult, for sure, but I race to win: I like to win races; I like to win lots of races in the same season. For me, racing is like fighting a battle: I love to fight, I like that my team fights together with me against the other teams.

An all-out war, basically.
I have plenty of adversaries, that is, other riders; my team has a group of them, that is, the other teams, against whom they measure themselves; Yamaha is facing the other manufacturers. Everyone has his enemy, his battle to fight. [This] year we start again from zero, so it’s the start of another battle. That—the idea of a fight—is my motivation.

You took Yamaha to the world title in the year of their 50th anniversary. Do you feel like you’ve completed your work?
No, I don’t think so. To win in the year of their 50th anniversary was something that interested many of the Japanese, but for me it was a year like any other. I chose Yamaha two years ago because I was looking for a certain type of fight, independent of other things. Then the two things were connected, and I’m very happy about that. But [this] year, for me, for my team, will be the same thing: we’re only interested in winning.

Like Jeremy says, it’s the difference between the “racer” and the “rider.”
I like Jeremy’s definition. It’s very nice. I’ve always had the sensation, when I’m racing, that half of my brain is concentrated on riding; from there, I derive the fact that in a race, probably half of my brain is enough for riding.

Excuse me, but what’s the other half doing?
It thinks about doing the battle, managing the situation. And I have enormous fun with that. I like to do the tests, develop the bike; I like riding to set up my bike. But I love the race, fighting, confronting: the thing that gives me great pleasure is to be able to ride a bike this powerful at the limit, being able, however, to also manage the race, think of tactics—that is, how to beat my adversary.

You’ve said that your best race [last] year was the Qatar GP. Why?
In Qatar, an unusual thing happened: there was a complete absence of tactics, on everyone’s part. It was as if, when we started, we all agreed not to use our heads but only the gas. It was like returning to the days of Sport Production: we turned off our brains and just opened the throttles. Period. It was very fun.

Sure, but as far as tactics go, there was nothing.
That’s true. In fact there were races that were much nicer than the one in Qatar, in that sense: for example, the race in Le Mans, the one in Phillip Island (although the title fight was already over), and then the one in Barcelona. In these cases there was a lot of force, speed, tactics, coldness.

One of your characteristics is your continuous search for your limits. Do you think you’ve found them?
Fortunately, my limit has always grown, so I continue to think that it will keep moving. In fact, I hope, in the future, to be able to go even better than I have so far. This is another of my motivations: if I realized that my progress were finished, then I’d know it was time to stop.

During the period in which you claimed your seventh title, you said, “Honestly, I don’t see myself here, with Yamaha, in five years.”
And I once also said that I didn’t see myself winning five years in a row, like [Mick] Doohan, in the top category; then, however, I did it and now I’m still here. Therefore, it could happen that in five years, I’ll still be here.

Now that you mention it, some time ago you said that you’d like to develop the 800. Is that still the case?
Absolutely. Sure, I’ll develop it!

The 800 will be “yours” then?
I’ll try to develop it, but that has to be Yamaha’s motorcycle: that is, a bike that can also become competitive under other riders. That’s the thing that counts. Sure, it could turn out that a bike that works well for me works well for other people, but the objective is to make a bike that’s good for everyone.

How will you prepare yourself for that job, which should start in the summer?
I’m a little worried about this change.

First of all, the bikes will no longer be as nice as the 1000s. The 800s will be much less powerful and therefore not as nice to ride, with respect to these powerful, technological monsters. Sure, there will also be lots of technology with the 800s, but I don’t think it’ll be the same. Also, there’s Honda’s standard reaction….

That being a new attack?
Yamaha must be very careful, because Honda will try to take maximum advantage of this change in displacement. They always have! The period of change in technical rules has usually been an advantage to Honda. It happened with the move from the 500s to MotoGP, when they were able to get the rules to allow the same weight for bikes with four and five cylinders, knowing already that they’d have five. In Japan, in the [Yamaha] racing department, it must be clear to everyone that we’ll have to immediately have a bike at the level of the Honda; we can’t take three years to get there, like happened with the first generation of MotoGP.

Does your interest in this situation make you think that you’d like to race an 800 in 2007?
Sure I’d like to race one. And it might happen that I do.

Is this a revelation?
Let’s just say that we’ll see what I decide to do in the coming years…. Anyway, currently being 26 years old [Ed. note: Rossi turns 27 on Thursday], in effect I could race bikes for another eight-to-10 years. There would be enough time.

It depends on whether or not a new Valentino emerges.
Yes, who knows from where? In any case, I believe that there’s still time for me, if I want to stay.

You’ve spoken often of [Marco] Melandri and [Nicky] Hayden, as two of your new adversaries. Does that mean that they scare you?
Scare? How so?

Well, you call them adversaries.
So scared means I’m worried that they could take the title? It could happen. Anything could happen.

Do you mean to say that they could challenge you?
Well, fear of being challenged in some races is something I have: they’re fast, and it’s always difficult to beat them. Sure, next year they’ll be faster still; they’re destined to grow. Therefore, who knows….

Honda has plans to beat you, and they have plans for [Dani] Pedrosa, the new HRC rider. Could ruining these plans be a stimulus for continuing with bikes even after 2006?
You can’t base every decision on the actions of others. The arrival of other young riders, or Honda’s plans, or even the plans of other companies, aren’t elements that I take into consideration when I plan my future.

That would be a change in style.
If next year—thinking of 2007—I find something that I like more, and that for me, personally, becomes more important, I’ll do it. If, on the other hand, if I don’t find it, I’ll stay. You must find motivation in the search for things that you want to do: they have to be personal things, intimate, profound.

That’s perfect.
The point is this: I like to think of myself as a driver of things that have an engine and wheels. I’ve always been that way. I started with a motocross bike, I raced karts, then minibikes. After that, I rode all the best racing bikes of their era: the Aprilia 125 and 250, the Honda 500, the Honda superbike at the Suzuka 8 Hours, the Honda and Yamaha MotoGP bikes. And in the meantime, I also drove the nicest racecars in the world, speaking of rally and Formula One. Therefore, I feel like a driver in the most general sense of the term. I get a lot of stimulation from also seeing how I can do with other things with engines, with wheels. Which could also include other motorcycles, naturally.

Or a car….
I don’t’ know, we’ll see. Now I’m enjoying my current situation, which makes me feel like a lucky guy.

Maybe I’m the only rider that can try all the nicest aspects of motorsport: I can race with a Yamaha in MotoGP, I can do it with Ducati, or with the factory Honda; but I could also race rallies with a factory Subaru, or maybe with a Ferrari in Formula One. And seeing as how I’ve won many things in my sport, I can also look inside myself.

To look for a new challenge.
To see if I can still do something more. For me. For my pleasure of competing.
What could give you greater pleasure than a motorcycle?
Bikes are the things that give me the greatest pleasure. I’ve always said that. In fact, I’m only trying to understand if there will be a future. If it happens that, on the other hand, it gives me greater pleasure to drive a car, maybe a rally car, then I’ll do it. And that’s what I mean when I say I’m lucky. Perhaps only I am so lucky.

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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-16-2006, 12:20 PM
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good read. thanks.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-16-2006, 01:15 PM
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printing it out so i can read it on the crapper

edit: he seems like a very introspective kinda dude, in order to succeed in anything you have to first defeat the enemy within, motivation, fear, rationalization, knowing oneself is a stepping stone to becoming a great human being, he doesn't seem to hate his enemies, but he never hesitates to drop the hammer so to speak in times a battle, he divides the aspects of his life into manageable chunks and has an easier time then others, riding is seperate from racing, being a human being and also being a competitor are separate, he seems like the kinda guy that knows how to give himself the greatest chance to succeed in whatever he does

by the way, losing turns anyone into an excuse-maker, he has never had the taste of being a loser, it would be interesting to see how he would react if he started losing, i am a yamaha/rossi fan but damn its getting boring seeing him win all the time

good read!

Last edited by daotan; 02-16-2006 at 01:58 PM.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-16-2006, 01:18 PM
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Stellar read!!

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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 02-16-2006, 02:02 PM
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awesome read, thanks!!!
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