MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Can Valentino Rossi win in 2017?
A faster motorcycle, a more focused mind and a better atmosphere in the Yamaha garage. Could this be the year Rossi wins his tenth world title?
Last May I wrote a ridiculously premature story on this website, headlined: could 2017 be Rossi’s year?
The premise was straightforward. Jorge Lorenzo had already signed for Ducati, so I suggested that “the Desmosedici will do what he wants at some tracks but not at others”. Maverick Viñales looked set to take over Lorenzo’s user-friendly Yamaha, “but at some tracks he won’t have the experience of the bike to nail the set-up to the nth degree, without which he won’t win the title”. And Honda needed to build Marc Márquez a bike “that will allow him to do what he did in 2014”, when he walked the title, winning ten consecutive races.
In other words, if Lorenzo, Viñales and Márquez aren’t at 100 per cent, then Rossi could win the 2017 title because he alone will have a bike that “he probably knows as well as he knows his mum and dad”.
I never usually make predictions, because what’s the point of trying to predict what you don’t want to be predictable? But against the odds the situation right now seems the same as it was nine months ago.
There is one difference. Tomorrow Rossi will celebrate his 38th birthday during preseason testing at Phillip Island. Which will make him literally old enough to be his team-mate’s father. Viñales was born in January 1995, when Rossi was preparing for his debut international season in the 125cc European Championship. Read that again and let it sink in.
Twenty-two years later, Rossi still wants to win as much as ever. During the recent Sepang tests I bumped into Loris Capirossi (former 125 and 250cc world champion and Dorna’s new Race Direction representative) and we got to talking about the nine-time world champion.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.