Reviewing The 2014 MotoGP Season - Part 2: Valentino Rossi

For the next part of our review of the 2014 season, we continue our count down of the top 10 finishers in MotoGP. After yesterday's look at Marc Marquez, today we turn our attention to the runner up in the 2014 MotoGP championship, Valentino Rossi: 

2nd - 295 points - Valentino Rossi

Six races. That was the deadline Valentino Rossi had given himself. After the first six races, he would make a decision on whether he was still fast enough, or it was time to hang up his leathers. The goal was to be fighting for podiums and wins. If he could not do that, he felt he did not want to be racing. The fact that the sixth race of the season was at Mugello was ominous. If you had to choose a place for Valentino Rossi to announce his retirement, that would be it.

The season started off well, with a second place at Qatar, but with Marc Márquez just back from a broken leg, Jorge Lorenzo crashing out, and Dani Pedrosa struggling for grip, that didn't quite feel like a true measure of his ability. Texas was a disaster, with severe tire wear, then at Argentina, Rossi came home in fourth, just as he had done so often last year. His string of fourth places in 2013 were what had prompted Rossi's doubts about carrying on, so many journalists and fans feared his mind was made up.

They were right about that, but they had totally misjudged his decision. In reality, Rossi had felt at the Sepang tests that there was real improvement, and was optimistic he was fast enough to run at the front again. From Jerez, he proved it to the rest of the world, getting onto the podium for the next four races. By Mugello, there was no more talk of retirement, he was already well on his way to signing a new two-year deal with Yamaha.

From there, Rossi just kept getting stronger. Podiums were now the rule, rather than the exception, Rossi only missing out when the weather complicated things at Assen and the Sachsenring. He was back on the podium after the summer break, and arrived at Misano with that look about him. He had come to win, that much was clear in the way he moved, the way he held himself. This was the Valentino Rossi of the glory years, and he would brook no opposition. Marc Márquez tried, and crashed out in the attempt, Rossi going on to take what was his first clear and overwhelming victory since 2010. He may have won at Assen last year, but his triumph at Misano had no asterisks, no question marks, no riders injured or otherwise rendered uncompetitive.

It would not be his only win: Rossi went on to take victory at Phillip Island as well, though he benefited there from the severe drop in temperature which caught out the men on the new asymmetric front tire, handing him the lead as they crashed out. But he would not finish off the podium again this year, his only error a big crash in the rain at Aragon. It was good enough to secure second spot in the championship, comfortably holding off the challenge from his teammate, and staking his claim for 2015.

Where did his improvement come from? Was firing Jeremy Burgess the key to his success? Was it Burgess who had been holding him back? A little bit of this, perhaps, but the biggest change was probably in Rossi's mind. Replacing Burgess with Silvano Galbusera had seen some changes made to the way the team worked, with a slightly greater emphasis on data, alongside Rossi's feedback.

But the most important factor was the way Rossi rose to the challenge. Sacking Burgess had been his last throw of the dice: if it had failed to improve his performance, the only variable left was Rossi himself, and he would have been a lot closer to retiring. That gamble had forced Rossi to take more risk, push himself harder, work harder at changing his style. That change was visible, his body position different on the bike, head and body hanging much further off the bike on corner exit, more like the styles of Marc Márquez and Casey Stoner. It was a style he had been perfecting at his dirt track ranch, the practice paying off.

Rossi was helped by a better Yamaha M1, the Japanese engineers working hard to build a better bike. The chassis was already a match for the Honda at the start of the season, the M1 much better on the brakes than the 2013 model, its greatest weakness largely eliminated. Yamaha struggled with the reduced fuel limit, but by the middle of the season, a new exhaust and many revisions of the ECU software had solved those issues. The bike was more or less on a par with the Honda RC213V, the only real disadvantage the seamless downshift, which makes the Honda much smoother into corners. A rejuvenated Rossi on a revamped Yamaha YZR-M1 was a formidable adversary once again.

All throughout 2013, journalists – myself among them – had been queuing up to write Valentino Rossi off. That proved to be a mistake, just as it always has been in the past. Rossi reached inside himself and found what he needed to transform himself into a race winner and a championship contender once again. There are many things which are remarkable about Valentino Rossi, but his motivation, the ambition and drive needed to do what it takes to remain at the pinnacle of motorcycle racing is perhaps what marks him out as truly exceptional.

Valentino Rossi has made his intentions for 2015 perfectly clear. "He wants to finish better than he did this year," Silvano Galbusera told me at Valencia. "He is second now, so that leaves only one position..." Next year, Valentino Rossi will be 36, and will be embarking on his twentieth season of Grand Prix racing. Winning a title at that age, and after that much time in racing would be virtually impossible for anyone else. But you can never write Valentino Rossi off...


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Comments

Love him or mildly dislike him, what he accomplished in 2014 is the stuff of legend. His finest year perhaps?

Regarding his new off-the-bike riding style, I have really enjoyed watching on-board footage this year from riders following Valentino.
As he is quite tall for a rider, he just seems to lean so far off the bike that he´s a joy to watch.

And regarding his attitude, just watch his race-starts - head down and incredibly aggressive compared to the VR of old. All that time on his ranch has really payed off there.

I don't recall you being in that queue, but perhaps you thought it stronger than you portrayed it?
My feeling was one of seeming inevitability: age taking its toll, and experience and guile being no match for slower reactions and the fear brought by experience and success of the highest order.
He proved us and a lot of other people wrong. Perhaps the only person who truly believed was Vale himself - everyone else must have doubted the trajectory he was on to some degree.
That Mugello win was a true joy to watch.
There was a large points gap between 1st and 2nd though. Whether MM will lose, or has lost, some of his edge (be that him or the bike) and VR maintains his will only be known as the results arrive. If VR can both close that gap and take the lead it will indeed be an historic comeback and place him, beyond doubt or at least in extremely strong contention, as the GOAT IMO. Yes, I am Rossi fan but also an MM93 one and have respect, at least, for all the others.
That's assuming it's a two-horse race , of course.........

Best wishes for a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year to you and your family.

I never doubted the guy for a millisecond, not even during the Ducati run. You don't win 100+ wins in this sport without having the minerals. In the premier class, his name is at the very top of a long and distinguished list. You don't write that guy off, even if he makes a bad career move.

I also don't think the Assen win in 2013 is asterisk laden. He judged practice better, didn't crash and hurt himself. He won Assen fair and square by a full weekend of brilliant riding. There are no asterisks in the GP official records so that asterisk belongs in some journalist's notebook, along with their ill fated doubts.

Yes David! Keep this writing spilling forth. So very happy to connect with our beloved MotoGP, your ALIEN JOURNO offerings, and the top notch community of readers here. 2014 was a great ride.

Bricktop I was doubting, in the sense of the inevitability of an end of his career that will occur. I had thoughts like "please oh please don't lock 5th down this year like he did 4th in 2013, and start going through the motions with waning grace and passion."

Interesting to me right now is the dynamic interrelated nature of how Rossi's 2014 has been in my experience of it. W/o any discount of Marquez's performance, just as 2013 was his year, Rossi was the rider of the year for 2014. Misano, oh lovely Misano, my heart sang like a cross plane crankshaft.

Rossi's declaration of "6 races" was of course first to himself. And his team. And Yamaha. How many of us were calculating tenths lost to HRC for specifics like the fully seamless gearbox, and getting exasperated by the loss of ANOTHER liter of fuel for the year? Enter resentment towards HRC, and the whole of MotoGP for tipping the rulebook again in Honda's favor? Then the Bstone solution to tire wear lowers edge grip?

Rossi's 2014 is AMAZING. And inseparable for me from Yamaha's equally and interrelated coup. My fantasy of Rossi magically being on a Honda for the season vanished. Concerns that 2 years with the Ducati in this minute margin for momentum and focus loss sport would drop him back down on the ground dissolved. It was a beautiful and unlikely transformation that offered fantastic resonance with Marquez's glory.

Great season from Vale. He won PI fair and square, no bones. Marques wasn't faster than Rossi on the same tyre he took the riskier option which suggests he felt he needed to and made an error in judgement.. Rossi knew his tyre was slower but would make the distance in the temperatures. That's all down to rider skill, not good fortune. Look how fast Cal looked whilst it lasted.
MM showed signs at the end of the season that he was getting faster again and so was the honda. He will take some stopping this year cannot wait.

Been watching old races and 2014 races, amazing how Rossi's style has evolved.

Anyone think Rossi will be touching his elbows next year? Will be fun to see what he does next year to take that next step.

So u see, i think its all down to the Honda for elbows down coz that bike Rossi is riding is the NSR.

So now, As far i noticed is when Casey started it when he had the RCV under his butt (No offense).

Now Marq has it under him :D :D :D

Wow or GOAT had the sliders for his elbow 12 Friggin years ago.

BUhaaaaaaaaaaaa :D:D :D

Ohhhh and by the way, Lorenzo & Rossi have been slidin them elbows with the M1. Sadly i don't have the patience to search for a picture.