It is a truism that riders want to ride, regardless of whether it is a wise decision or not. The latest victim of this compulsion is none other than Valentino Rossi, who, according to various reports in the Italian media, is considering returning to racing as early as the Sachsenring, on July 18th. The Fiat Yamaha rider suffered a complex fracture of his right tibia in a vicious highside during practice at Mugello, and initial reports indicated Rossi could be out for three to four months.
However, surgery to insert a pin in his tibia was successful, with no signs of infection, and the official word from Yamaha was that the seven-times MotoGP champion was aiming to make his return at Brno on August 15th. This would allow Rossi to compete in the second half of the championship, with nine races left to find his racing form again.
That does not appear to be early enough for the Italian, though. Rumors surfaced at Barcelona that Rossi was considering making a return at the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring in ten days' time, but were widely discounted as unlikely. More confirmation came earlier this week from Italy that Rossi is serious about racing at the Sachsenring. His recovery from injury is progressing extremely well, helped in no small part by spending time in a hyperbaric chamber to help his broken bones heal more quickly.
Finally, the Fiat Yamaha press office today issued a press release announcing that Valentino Rossi will be riding a World Superbike spec Yamaha YZF-R1 at Misano today, Wednesday July 7th, to evaluate his level of fitness. The official press release describes the purpose of the test as follows:
"The Italian has made an excellent recovery so far since breaking his leg at Mugello on 5th June and he has decided to proceed with the test ride today in order to better understand his current physical condition. Riding a racing motorcycle will help Valentino and his doctors to plan the next stage of his rehabilitation programme in order that he may return to racing as soon as he feels confident to do so."
The outcome of the test is expected later today, and will be issued in another press release from the Fiat Yamaha team.
Although the test may prove that a return to racing may be possible at the Sachsenring, question marks remain over the value of returning so early. The break in Rossi's tibia was rather ugly, and despite having a large pin and four screws inserted to fix the break, the leg will still be rather weak and rather sore. Making things worse is the fact that an early return would mean Rossi racing at the Sachsenring and Laguna Seca, two tracks which are extremely tight and technical, with no place to rest for a couple of seconds before the next lap commences. In their favor is the fact that both tracks contain predominantly left handers, placing less of a strain on the right leg.
The biggest worry will be another injury, though. Another crash at this stage of Rossi's recovery could jeopardize the remainder of the Italian's season, and potentially his career. The pin and screws inserted are large enough that they could cause serious damage if Rossi were to crash and injure himself in the same lower part of his right leg. What's more, the Sachsenring and especially Laguna Seca have a number of sections where the walls are very close to the track. As Marco Melandri demonstrated in 2007, it is not impossible to hit the wall at Laguna, and that is a risk which may not be worth it for Rossi.
Riders, however, are not known for being conservative when it comes to risk assessment. If Rossi comes away from today's test at Misano without suffering too much pain, and confident in his control of the bike, the most likely scenario is that he will be back sooner, rather than later.