'The Doctor' confirms that he's still got it once again.
His contemporaries have either left MotoGP or are resigned to lesser teams but nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi keeps his knees scraping the ground as he pounds the Movistar Yamaha YZR-M1 around the track in hopes of someday taking a 10th overall championship and eighth in the MotoGP class. Then, perhaps, The Doctor will stop practicing the fine art of grand prix motorcycle racing? Or not. Maybe he’s chasing Giacomo Agostini’s 122 wins with Rossi currently holding 108 race victories?
Still running strong
For now Vale is simply schooling his younger adversaries (Marc Marquez being the sole exception it seems). As the 2014 MotoGP season comes to its close at Valencia on Sunday, it will be Rossi leading the field at the lights with the intent of coming second on the year, behind only Marquez. He’ll have to beat his teammate Jorge Lorenzo, whom he led by 12 points coming into the last race.
As one would expect from the veteran, Rossi earned his pole position on the last lap, making a studied effort. He set an early baseline on a mostly empty track and then began to improve on his second run, with a final lap of 1:30.843 to earn a 50th MotoGP pole and 60th overall. Incredibly, this was Rossi’s first pole since 2010 at Le Mans, a four-year stretch. Conceivably, he’s done better this year in his second at return to Yamaha and with his new crew, after replacing longtime tuner Jeremy Burgess.
With teammate Lorenzo just behind him in fourth on the second row and the pair of Andrea Iannone’s Pramac Racing Ducati (1:30.975!) and Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa alongside at 1:30.999, Rossi will have to make a clean getaway at the lights to stay ahead of Lorenzo. Reigning MotoGP champion Marquez fell during the final practice qualifying session but was still able to take fifth place on the grid.
The resurgence of Rossi
Not only does this result mark the resurgence of the Italian, it also shows some more chinks in Marquez’ armor. It’s been said the young Spaniard has only himself to beat; recent falls have shown that he might, in fact be human and can commit errors. That 35-year-old Rossi is surging at the end of the year and has two victories on his 2014 resume is truly remarkable; he looked fairly washed up and over the hill when riding for Ducati. This return to Yamaha has made him a true Renaissance man.
As he rides like the savvy veteran he is, Valentino Rossi also has the bit between his teeth, realizing that his days at the head of motorcycle’s premier series are numbered. How many other 35-year-olds can sustain their talent at the top of the motorcycle food chain? Not many, but No. 46 sure can. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing him kiss the ground at Mazda Raceway at least one more time, exult with his fans with each success and exit on his own terms - when he’s ready.