Bezzecchi: Rossi still fast, ‘kicked my arse!'

Valentino Rossi may have retired from MotoGP at the end of 2021 and switched to racing cars but he’s lost little of his speed on a motorbike.
Valentino Rossi, Marco Bezzecchi and Luca Marini
Valentino Rossi, Marco Bezzecchi and Luca Marini

That’s according to VR46 MotoGP rider Marco Bezzecchi, who like the rest of the VR46 Academy has been training with Rossi this winter.

Alongside their usual dirt track duels at the nine-time world champion’s moto ranch, Rossi has also joined the VR46 riders on Superbike machinery at Portimao and their local grand prix circuit of Misano.

Asked if Rossi was still fast, reigning MotoGP rookie of the year Bezzecchi replied: “Unfortunately yes! Last time in Misano he kicked my arse! But next time I will beat him!”

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Although Rossi was only seen in the MotoGP paddock occasionally last season, Bezzecchi said the 44-year-old continues to follow the progress of his riders very closely.

“When we go to train, if he’s not there he follows us from another part of the world, but most of the time when he’s at home he also trains with us,” said Bezzecchi, who gave the VR46 team it’s first MotoGP podium with second place at Assen last season.

“So even if you don’t see him [at the races], he is ‘with’ us.

“We knew the moment had to arrive [when Rossi would retire and leave the paddock], but in the end now we have to try to be the best riders that we can.

“We have him fortunately on our back, supporting us. He’s really [close] with us. Even if he’s not there, trust me that he’s really interested in our sporting life and also normal life. So I think we are very lucky.

“Of course, it’s different [since he retired]. I miss him a lot in the paddock. But it’s like this. He now has a career in cars and I’m happy for him.”

Rossi hoping for first VR46 MotoGP race wins in 2023

Speaking at today’s VR46 team launch, Rossi set Bezzecchi and team-mate Luca Marini the target of a debut MotoGP victory in 2023.

“I expect a great 2023 from the Mooney VR46 Racing Team. Last year we made our debut in MotoGP after so many years in Moto3 and Moto2 and it was a fantastic season," Rossi said.

“We were fast, even though the team was a new one. The guys did a great job, fighting for the podium and the front positions on several occasions. This continues to be our goal also for 2023.

“We have two very fast and more experienced riders, I hope they can make another step forward to get their first victory and conquer as many podiums as possible.

“Luca is in his third season in MotoGP and I expect a lot from him. He has made great steps forward in 2022, he has grown a lot and has come close to the podium several times: he deserved it. In the testing sessions, he was very fast and he is competitive.

“Marco can do well too, in his rookie year in MotoGP, which is difficult for everyone, he was very good. He hit the podium in Assen and did many races with the fastest guys until the end.

“He has to continue like this and can improve to be even faster in his second year in the top class.”

Marini, Rossi's younger brother, has been fastest in both winter tests since last year's Valencia season finale. 

The final pre-season outing takes place at Portimao this weekend.

Luca Marini, Marco Bezzecchi, 2023 VR46 livery
Luca Marini, Marco Bezzecchi, 2023 VR46 livery

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