MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO - For once, Valentino Rossi is in no rush. After having won nine Grand Prix motorcycle racing World Championships, the 32-year-old Italian motorcyclist can now state with tranquility: "For the tenth title, we can wait until 2013."
Rossi sat down with La Stampa recently at "Vrooom," the annual event presenting the Ducati and Ferrari racing seasons, in the Italian mountain village of Madonna di Campiglio. He covered everything from his car rally hobby, the economic crisis and the mood among racers after the fatal accident last season that killed popular rider Marco Simoncelli.
LA STAMPA: How far behind was Ducati from Honda at the end of 2011?
ROSSI: It was one-and-a-half seconds. Its impossible to catch up immediately.
What are your expectations for the first trials?
We'll have to gather lots of data to get ready for the first race in Qatar [on April 8]. We will not be able to be competitive immediately, unless a miracle arrives.
Honda remains your main opponent?
Thats right. Last year, none of the other teams could match the budget they dedicated to their team. They built an amazing motorcycle, and will take advantage of their new technologies even in 2012. Our aim is to be closer to Yamaha.
Any positive news?
I feel great. I am in great shape, at 100 percent physically. Last year, I began the season with some shoulder pain, and until Barcelona [GP], I could not ride like I wanted to.
Your contract is due to expire at the end of the season. If you dont plan to win this year, and are focused on building toward 2013, does that mean that you are ready to renew your contract?
We'll speak about it during the season; later on, I hope, in order to avoid distractions. I want Ducati to win, but afterwards, it might end. I would like at least to have another two-year contract. Then, there will be other options outside of the motoGP. We'll see."
If Ducati isnt able to be competitive again, could you imagine riding again on a Japanese bike?
It is not very likely, but I cannot say right now that it is impossible. I'll say it again: I started here and I would love to win something with this team."
You used to win nine or ten times a season. What happened with Ducati?
Even 11, actually. It's not a problem of the bike, it's me. Now, I have very strong and young opponents, so it is harder for me to just dominate. Anyway, we cannot compare today with different times.
Why do you ride motocross bikes? Your colleague Andrea Dovizioso broke his shoulder at motocross.
Motocross is very dangerous, but it is a useful training, given the limitations of the trials. It is a way to get ready. I'll keep doing it and just hope I'll keep being lucky.
Are car rallies useful training too?
No, that's just a passion of mine. In Monza I won twice against [French rally driver Sébastien] Loeb, and I had great fun. When my motorcycle career is over, I'll plan six or seven rallies a season. I tried the Mercedes Dtm, one of the most fun cars to drive, but at the moment I dont plan anything else in 2012.
What is your take on 1,000 cc engines, which are set to return to MotoGP?
They are stronger, more suitable to tall pilots like me. More fun.
What do you think of the introduction of the new category CRT in MotoGP?
In a perfect world there would be 24 competitive bikes. But sadly, we must face the realities of the (economic) crisis. Yes, there will be nine slow entries, but the alternative was a race of 12 bikes. It was unthinkable.
Has Marco Simoncelli's death last October during the Malaysian GP changed the atmosphere among the riders?
No, I dont think so. Before, there were a lot of debates over the way that we raced. The accident was a shock, but my relations with most of my colleagues were and are still good.
Simoncelli's father said that you havent been in touch with him anymore.
I have a very good relationship with his dad, his friends and his girlfriend, who probably will work in my staff. We'll shoot a video using clips of Marco and me that have never been seen before.
Read more from La Stampa in Italian
Photo - José Ángel Biel