The Veteran: Once Motorcycling's Wonderboy, Valentino Rossi Slows Down - Just A Bit

Though he still gets his kicks doing motorcross and car rallies, Rossi, now 32, has secured his status as one of history’s best ever motoGP racers. Before the 2012 season, he reflects on the death of a fellow Italian racer, and eyes the road to one more c

Valentino Rossi (José Ángel Biel)
Valentino Rossi (José Ángel Biel)
Stefano Mancini

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. It's 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?
That's 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 don't 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 isn't 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 don't 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 don't 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 haven't 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

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"The Truest Hypocrisy" - The Russia-NATO Clash Seen From Moscow

Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.

NATO chief Stoltenberg and Russian Foregin Minister Lavrov

Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via ZUMA
Pavel Tarasenko and Sergei Strokan

MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative

These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."

In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."

The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.

Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.

NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.

The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."

Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."

The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.

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