“Yamaha and MotoGP™ are ready for Valentino Rossi’s withdrawal. He doesn’t represent our future anymore.” Those words, uttered by Yamaha Motor Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis, touched on a subject many long considered taboo.
Sooner or later, someone will write the final word of what has been an incredible chapter of Grand Prix motorcycle racing history. Rossi has been a star for a generation, but it’s logical for Yamaha to look ahead, even if the 40-year-old Italian’s contract runs through 2020.
“An athlete knows when it arrives the moment to stop,” 15-time world champion Giacomo Agostini confesses. “I cried for two days. I woke up in the middle of the night, dreaming of riding. It was a nightmare, but inside I knew that it was the right decision.”
And some of Rossi’s recent comments suggests that the popular Italian’s love affair with the YZR-M1 may be coming to an end. “The problem can be the rider or maybe not,” Rossi said at Assen, site of his last victory in 2017 and the track where team-mate Maverick Viñales scored his first win of 2019 and Yamaha placed three bikes in the top five.
“Everything goes in phases,” Jarvis stressed. “Until 2010, Valentino had brought us four titles – 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009 – so when he left us [for Ducati], it had a big impact. It would be like Marc Márquez leaving Honda right now. That was a big deal.
“Now he is at a different stage of his life and career,” Jarvis added. “With all due respect, he is no longer the future of our participation in MotoGP™.” Viñales and rookie standout Fabio Quartararo are Yamaha’s future.
For fans, the story is different. Seeing Rossi – The Doctor– defeated is heart-breaking. He is the stubborn symbol of an era that doesn’t want to end.