Gardner: 'Big mistake' to write off Rossi
Former 500cc world champion Wayne Gardner has outlined why those writing off Valentino Rossi’s 2011 MotoGP chances will be proven wrong.
Seven time MotoGP champion Rossi was left just 15th fastest, out of 17 riders, by the end of his Ducati debut, during testing at Valencia last month.
Rossi’s lingering shoulder injury - for which he has since undergone surgery - has been mentioned as a mitigating factor, but Gardner thinks time and technical changes will bond the Italian rider and Italian bike.
“It seems everyone in the Italian media is already writing off Valentino Rossi for 2011,” Gardner wrote on his official website waynegardnerapproved.com.au. “The consensus seems to be that the switch has already proven to be a failed gamble, and that next year will turn out to be a huge disappointment.
“Believe me this type of thinking is a big mistake.
“While a lot of people expected Rossi to be fast straight away I’m not really surprised that he wasn’t. I’ve ridden Ducati MotoGP machines in the past and know that they’re very strange bikes. They take time to get used to and require a completely different technique to ride fast.
“Would Rossi have been surprised how the bike felt when he finally threw his leg over? Possibly, although we probably won’t know his true thoughts for quite some time. Regardless, I think there’s a good chance Vale now has an even higher regard for Casey [Stoner’s] ability.
“But mark my words: Rossi and his team will make the necessary adjustment. Everyone tends to forget very quickly what he’s achieved and how good he is. People always tend to discard his chances too early and the same is happening again now.
“While Vale may struggle a little in the first few races because of the lack of testing time, it will just be a matter of time before things fall into place.
“The crucial part will centre around how quickly the factory can respond to any additional changes Rossi requests. I’m sure they are prepared for this aspect. Remember: they don’t have a Superbike team to worry about anymore, so it’s not like they have anything better to do.”
However, Gardner did concede that had Rossi not been released by Yamaha for the Valencia test, 2011 might have been 'a bit of a disaster'.
“What can’t be overlooked at this stage is just how valuable Rossi’s early release from Yamaha was. If he’d had to wait until next year to test the bike, 2011 would probably have shaped up as a bit of a disaster,” wrote Australia’s first premier-class champion.
“By that late stage there would have been no time for the team to go away and design a new bike and Vale would have been forced to contend with whatever he found underneath him.
“As things stand now, there’s a good chance next year’s machine will accommodate most of the requirements Rossi would have identified. But the simple reality is that it will all take a bit of time to sort out.”
The last time Rossi raced a non-Japanese bike was in the 250cc class, in 1999 (Aprilia). His next test will be at Sepang, Malaysia, in early February.