Razali: Rossi, Dovizioso 'totally different comparison'

Razlan Razali talks Valentino Rossi's tough final season and high expectations for Andrea Dovizioso in 2022 - confident Malaysians are 'craving' for MotoGP 'after two years of nothing'.
Valentino Rossi, Valencia MotoGP race, 14 November 2021
Valentino Rossi, Valencia MotoGP race, 14 November 2021
© Gold and Goose

Despite the best efforts of rider and team, Valentino Rossi's record-breaking MotoGP career ultimately fizzled out with 18th in the world championship standings at SRT last year.

Having lost his factory Yamaha seat to Fabio Quartararo, Rossi took over the Frenchman's place at the satellite Petronas squad, which won six races with Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli in 2020.

Although riding a factory-spec Yamaha, which took the 2021 title with Quartararo and a further race victory with Maverick Vinales, the Rossi-SRT combination never featured at the front and he concluded the season with a best of eighth place (tenth in the dry).

For team boss Razlan Razali it was a bittersweet experience, the unique chance to work with MotoGP's biggest ever star, tinged by the disappointing results.

"What happened last year with the team happened, but it was a pleasure to be working with Valentino," Razali told Crash.net. "In terms of generating value it was great and it was an honour that the last team he raced with was us.

"From our side, we learned a lot having him in the team. How to manage a guy like him. He also gave us a mindset of the important things to focus on. The things that are nice to have versus what you really need. I think that's important.

"Results wise, we never thought it was going to be like that, I don’t think he thought he was going to perform like that. But it happens! We just have to reminisce over it as having been a good fun thing to work with him.

"Now we start fresh with a new book."

Andrea Dovizioso, Jerez MotoGP test, 19 November 2021
Andrea Dovizioso, Jerez MotoGP test, 19 November 2021
© Gold and Goose

Rossi at 42, Dovizioso at 35 'totally different comparison'

That fresh start is in the form of Razali's new RNF team, which takes over the SRT grid slots and satellite Yamaha machinery for 2022.

Among the changes will be a new rider line-up of rookie Darryn Binder and former triple title runner-up Andrea Dovizioso.

Rossi's move to SRT marked the first time the Malaysian team worked with a rider over the age of 26, following stunning success with rising stars Morbidelli and Quartararo, now reunited at Monster Yamaha.

At 35, Dovizioso takes over from Rossi as the oldest rider on the MotoGP grid, but according to Razali the similarities end there.

After settling in with five races for SRT last season, Razali believes Dovizioso could even 'fight for the championship' on the Factory-spec M1 this year.

"Of course, some fans or sceptics will compare and say it could be another season like Valentino," Razali said of Dovizioso. "But people forget that we got Valentino when he was 42. Dovi is 35. If you look at where Valentino was when he was 35, he was still at the peak. So I think it's a totally different comparison.

"It's a valid one because he is now the oldest guy on the grid, slightly older than Aleix [32]. But Dovi's done a lot in his days at Ducati. Three times vice-champion. He was with Tech3 on the Yamaha before. And most importantly he had the five races last year.

"Yes, it was on a two-year-old bike, but I think it gives him the feel and the competitiveness is back. He was not pushing, but now with the same package as the factory guys I think he could be one of the riders that can fight for the championship."

That might sound ambitious given Dovizioso's best of twelfth on SRT's 2019 bike, directly behind Rossi and Morbidelli, at the Valencia finale.

But Dovizioso didn't fall once during his five race weekends last year, underlining his own margin to improve, in addition to the three-year jump in bike spec he will receive at RNF. The Italian was 13th fastest, as second best Yamaha and half-a-second from Quartararo, on his debut with the 2022 prototype at Jerez in November.

Dovizioso will continue working with Ramon Forcada, crew chief to Jorge Lorenzo during his championship seasons and a race winner with Vinales before helping Morbidelli to title runner-up at SRT.

Razali: Rossi, Dovizioso 'totally different comparison'

'Malaysians are craving for events like MotoGP'

Returning to Rossi, a wider question is what impact the retirement of the most famous motorcycle racer in history will have on MotoGP as a whole.

Answering from the perspective of his former role as CEO of the Sepang Circuit, home of the Malaysian Grand Prix and venue for the upcoming pre-season test, Razali said:

"I think if we look at Malaysia specifically, I don’t think it will affect the sport so much that Valentino is nolonger there because we have not had MotoGP for the last two years. I think Malaysians are craving for events, especially international events like MotoGP, after two years of nothing.

"Already I've heard that 10,000 people are allowed to watch the upcoming Sepang test, which is great, and there's a lot of hype on social media about testing. Yes, some are concerned about the current omicron situation but at the same time they are looking forward to hearing MotoGP engines at Sepang again. So I don’t think that is a problem at all.

"Could the new Indonesian race be a problem for Sepang, because Indonesia traditionally represents close to 20% of the Malaysian MotoGP attendance? Again I don’t think so because Mandalika is round 2 and Malaysia is the second round from the end. We thought Buriram [Thailand] could impact us when it came in, and it didn’t.

"So I think people are craving for events like MotoGP and most importantly MotoGP is still exciting. Yes, Valentino was not fighting for anything last year, but the racing was awesome. So as long as the sport continues to be exciting with great races, I don’t think there's a problem without Valentino."

RNF will present its official 2022 team colours at a launch in Verona, Italy, next Monday.

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