Valentino Rossi’s VR46 "wanted Suzuki, afraid of legacy left at Ducati”

Uccio Salucci of Valentino Rossi's VR46 MotoGP team initially wanted the team to go to Suzuki

Valentino Rossi
Valentino Rossi

VR46 went into their earliest negotiations with Ducati worried that they could be negatively impacted by Valentino Rossi’s previous experience with them.

Rossi spent two notoriously unsuccessful years with Ducati in 2011 and 2012 - a mission bringing together Italy’s superstar with the Italian brand which backfired.

Eight years later, Rossi’s team VR46 were negotiating their entry into MotoGP and Ducati were an interested party.

But VR46 initially preferred a move to Suzuki.

“At the beginning Vale told me that MotoGP would be difficult,” his right-hand man Uccio Salucci told Sky.

“That it wasn't Moto2 where we had had a lot of success.

“It was 2020 and I told him that maybe I felt better with MotoGP.

“In the sense that Moto2 was completely new to me, while I had been in MotoGP for many years together with Vale and always in official teams.

“So it went and off we went. Vale gave me the project and here we are.

“Initially I wanted to work with Suzuki, then Suzuki didn't make the bikes and withdrew.

“Yamaha was with Petronas and we didn't want to bother anyone.”

Marco Bezzecchi, Qatar MotoGP test, 19 February
Marco Bezzecchi, Qatar MotoGP test, 19 February

VR46 eventually became a Ducati team, writing a new chapter in the awkward relationship between Italy’s biggest star and its biggest manufacturer.

“In the first meetings with Paolo Ciabatti and Gigi Dall'Igna it felt a little strange for me to talk about our bikes,” Salucci admitted.

“But I immediately saw the right eyes in them, with the desire.

“I was afraid of some legacy left by us in Ducati. “Instead I saw that they wanted to take us by the hand and make us grow. So I'm having a lot of fun.

“Gigi is a genius, we talk to each other very well, even if sometimes we clash then we immediately get back on track.

“I didn't think I could have this relationship with them. It was a very positive surprise for Ducati.”

The VR46 team - riding year-old Ducatis - won their first MotoGP race last season through Marco Bezzecchi in Argentina.

Bezzecchi’s rise to becoming a title challenger put Rossi’s team on the map.

Although Rossi’s brother Luca Marini has now left for Repsol Honda, VR46 have replaced him with Fabio di Giannantonio.

Looming in the short-term future of Rossi’s VR46 is whether to stay with Ducati or find a new home.

Their existing contract expires at the end of 2024 although VR46 can choose to automatically extend it.

But they have also spoken to KTM and Yamaha, where Rossi became famous and where he remains a brand ambassador.

But VR46 have repeatedly claimed that Ducati are their No1 choice.

Ducati’s Davide Tardozzi said: “It’s something in discussion.

“VR46 told us that they would like to close with us, quite soon.

“So honestly it’s in the hands of Gigi, and Valentino Rossi’s people.

“It’s something we would like to continue for another two years.”

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