Motegi MotoGP: Valentino Rossi suffers disastrous start to Motegi

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MotoGP Valentino Rossi has cast serious doubt on whether he will be able to prevent Ducati’s Casey Stoner from wrapping up his first MotoGP world title on Sunday after the Italian’s disastrous start to this weekend’s Japanese MotoGP.

On a weekend when he must defeat Casey Stoner to prolong the Australian’s certain MotoGP world championship success, the Italian could not have made a worse start in the Twin Ring Motegi.

Problems with grip with his Michelin tyres and a spectacular engine blow-up with Yamaha’s new pneumatic valve YZR-M1 motor this afternoon left Valentino Rossi languishing down in 14th place on the timesheets at the end of the opening day of free practice.

Asked if he had any hope of defeating Stoner to at least prolong the championship battle to Australia next month, the Fiat Yamaha rider said: “For sure it is very difficult.

“But today Casey made some mistakes or had some problem and was a little bit nervous with the other riders. I don’t want to say it is impossible but it is difficult.”

The crux of the problem for Valentino Rossi came once again from the lack of performance with his Michelin tyres. That was highlighted twice today when he spent spells following the factory Kawasaki of Randy de Puniet and the D’Antin Ducati of Brazilian veteran Alex Barros.

“I stayed four laps behind de Puniet and only three or four corners behind Alex but they have a lot, lot more grip in acceleration. They are able to use all the track without a problem.

“With Michelin it is like we use one line and if we make a mistake we lose a lot of time. With Bridgestone they ride like they want. They go wide and they can comeback and it’s a lot easier.

“So the difference is big, especially for 24-laps because with our tyre if you make a mistake you pay a lot more and its like with Bridgestone it all becomes a lot easier.

“In fact, if you see the lap times there are different riders, different styles on different brands of bike but the lap time is fast anyway. We know Bridgestone here is very strong but the reality is maybe worse than what we expected.

“When I open the throttle the acceleration is too aggressive and I spin,” said a downcast Rossi, who couldn’t blame all of his problems on Michelin tyres today as Dani Pedrosa dominated by topping the timesheets in both sessions.

Valentino Rossi revealed he is likely to revert back to Yamaha’s conventional spring valve engine tomorrow after the catastrophic failure today.

Rossi had a blow-up with 22 minutes of the second session remaining in which he was one of only four riders not to improve their time from this morning.

Valentino Rossi said it was too much of a risky strategy to run the pneumatic valve motor again, with the 28-year-old suffering an engine failure for the second time in three weeks.

He added: “I don’t know yet what happened but something exploded. In Misano it was a bearing and this was is not a bearing for sure. The feeling was a lot worse.

“In Misano it was possible to have the same problem with the old engine also. I’m not sure yet, but maybe we have to go back to the old engine because here the stress on the engine is strong.

“There is a lot of acceleration from first gear, so you stop, restart, stop and restart and the engine is always under stress. For me sincerely it is too risky to try with the new engine.

“Maybe we have to go back to the normal bike. The performance of the new engine is a little bit better but the reliability is not so good. For me tomorrow (Saturday) we have to try one and one.

And if the difference is not so big maybe we use the old one. I’m not sure yet. In Portugal we did a lot of laps without any problem. For me it’s the style of the track and this one is very strong for the engine.

“We have to make a meeting later but I think tomorrow we will try the old one. They have to understand the problem. The good bike had a problem with the engine and I have to use the other and sincerely I’m not fast enough.

“I think it’s possible to make better but it’s difficult. We have problems with the character of the engine at this track, especially in the last part of the track. I am struggling a lot because I don’t have enough grip.

“I arrive always quite close by Turn 10 but then I lose half a second just in the last part. Our bike is a little bit too aggressive from the bottom and for this track it is not helping.

“I need always to wait too much to open the throttle. We are not very far but we need to improve because 14th is not what we expect.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt