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Valentino Rossi: 'It will be a strange weekend'
7 November 2012
Valentino Rossi will bring the curtain down on a disappointing partnership with Ducati at this weekend's Valencia season finale.
When the seven time MotoGP champion switched to Ducati at the end of 2010, it was the dream deal Italy had been waiting for since the factory's 2003 debut.
Rossi, who had won two races for Yamaha either side of a broken leg during 2010, was also inheriting a bike that had claimed three wins (from nine podiums) in the hands of Casey Stoner that season.
Even the most pessimistic predicated that Rossi would fight for occasional race wins with the Ducati.
The reality has been significantly lower, with Rossi - who had never failed to win less than two races in a premier-class season - managing only occasional podiums (three) during his 34 races and not a single front-row start.
But the most baffling aspect has been the lack of linear progress.
Even die-hard Rossi fans were braced for a low starting point at Ducati, after seeing other proven winners struggle on the Desmosedici, but expected The Doctor and his crew to steadily refine and improve the package, clawing their way closer to the top.
Changes to almost every aspect of the Desmosedici have been made since 2010, but on-track progress has been sporadic - almost random - and the fundamental issues Rossi felt from the very first test, to do with the front end, never fully solved.
Stoner took 23 race wins and a world title for Ducati between 2007-2010, but Rossi was unable to adapt his previously all-conquering riding style in the same way.
Rossi's only consolation during his two seasons in red is that he has been the highest ranking of the Ducati riders - seventh in 2011 being followed by sixth (and a chance of fifth) heading into this Sunday's finale.
Rossi's pre-Valencia comments, as distributed by Ducati, made no direct reference to it being his last race for the team:
“Valencia definitely isn't one of my favourite circuits, apart from the fact that it's in Spain, which always has a great atmosphere.
“It's a 'Micky Mouse' track that's small for MotoGP and therefore difficult and tricky. There are a bunch of left hand corners, and I normally prefer those that go to the right.
“Anyway, we'll see. The asphalt was redone and that should have improved both the grip and the bumps.
“It will be a strange weekend that should be challenging for a few different reasons, but we'll do our best.”
Team manager Vittoriano Guareschi added: “It's the last race, and we have the chance for Valentino to finish the season in fifth place. We'll all do our best to help him achieve that.”
Team-mate Nicky Hayden has been the only other Ducati rider to finish on the podium during the Rossi-era, courtesy of a damp race at Jerez 2011.
Rossi, a winner of 79 races for Honda and Yamaha, is returning to Yamaha next season, where he will re-join double world champion Jorge Lorenzo at the Factory M1 team.
Rossi will make his 1000cc Yamaha debut in the post-race test on Tuesday and Wednesday, when his replacement Andrea Dovizioso will complete his first Desmosedici laps.
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