Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Can Valentino Rossi win in 2017?

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.

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Total votes: 2
Total votes: 2

Comments

I expect Rossi will tire of getting beat by yet another teammate, and will retire at the end of 2018, if not before.

Total votes: 22

I think VR really is just great at staying young.  Where he is in his career right now is where you would normally expect a rider to be in his early thirties - rather than his late thirties.  He's been very successful, and continues to be, but his edge has just dulled a bit compared to the young riders.  He still makes up for it in racecraft and continues to be close to the top of the championship sheets, but just doesn't quite get there.

If he's like a 33 year old at 38, should we expect to see him still racing at 40+?

Total votes: 10

... in the past few years Rossi has been faster than ever.  His riding has adapted, as have all the riders in the field.  Go compare some pictures from say, 2008 to 2015-2016 and see for yourself.

He has the pace, he has the experience.  He doesn't fall off.  He clearly enjoys what he does. He's been runner up for the past 3 years.

To rule him out would be extremely foolish.  He's only 3-4 months older than he was at the conclusion of 2016.  It's not like he's magically become a basket case in the off-season (same reason I laughed at those who thought he was past it when he had issues with the Ducati).  He'll be there at the front, no doubt at all, but to win the championship will be difficult purely due to the current level of competition.  Definitely possible though.

 

Total votes: 10

No one can deny that Valentino has put some effort to be champion again after the Ducati’s disaster, the battle in 2015 between Valentino and Jorge proves that, he was determinate to regain the title at all cost, after 2 years of adaptation to the M1 (2013-2014), he become one of the top riders, again his experience and adaptation to a new M1 was crucial to succeed this. But being part of probably the best team and the best bike in the paddock also helps. I wouldn’t imagine Valentino wining on the new Suzuki or the new Ducati transformed by Gigi, as probably the best combination for him and for Yamaha still is the M1. I don’t think it’s easy to stay on the number 2 rider for the last past 3 years but a big part of the motivation Valentino has are the tools to beat his tema mate and the youngers riders again and again, maybe We couldn’t say the same if after the Ducati’s disaster He would have been located in a satellite team or Suzuki. But that’s part of the show business, Dorna wanted madly Valentino back in business, he was offered another chance in the best team and after one year he proved to be one of the contenders again. Competition for the next year will be as hard as ever but who can tell if Marquez, Viñales or Lorenzo are up to the task and don’t fail trying as the same Valentino did over the past 2 years.

Total votes: 2