Valentino Rossi without Jerry Burgess for home race

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Valentino Rossi will ride in his home race in Mugello this weekend without the influence of legendary crew chief Jerry Burgess after the Australian flew home to be with his seriously ill wife.

Burgess discovered his wife Claudine has been diagnosed with breast cancer and the crew chief, who has been the technical mastermind behind all of Rossi’s seven MotoGP world titles, immediately left Italy where he was preparing for Rossi’s home race in Mugello to return home to be with his family in Adelaide.

A pre-event press release for the Italian Grand Prix distributed by Ducati earlier this afternoon said: “Valentino Rossi won’t be joined by Jeremy Burgess. The crew chief has returned to Australia to be with his wife, who must undergo a series of medical exams and a possible urgent surgical procedure. The team and the Ducati technicians extend their best wishes to Burgess and his family, and they look forward to welcoming him back for round nine at Germany’s Sachsenring in three weeks. In the meantime, Burgess’s crew chief role will be filled by Max Bartolini, who normally works as Team Technical Manager on the Ducati Marlboro Team. Fabiano Sterlacchini will fill that role this week.”

Rossi, who has been working closely with loyal crew chief Burgess to try and transform Ducati’s fortunes in 2011, said “First of all I’d like to wish good luck to Jeremy, who won’t be able to join us this weekend due to very important personal reasons. We’ll miss him very much in the garage, but we look forward to seeing him at the Sachsenring.”

Rossi will be attempting to claim only his second podium for Ducati on home soil this weekend after a tough start to 2011.

He raced a radically revamped GP11.1 in Assen last weekend and finished fourth on the bike, which is effectively next year’s GP12 project fitted with the current 800cc engine.

Rossi, who broke his right leg in a horror crash at Mugello last season, said: “In the meantime, we must try to do well at Mugello. We’ve ridden there with the GP12, but because our bike is an 800, it responds a little differently to adjustments, and it’s also in its first phase of development. It will be vital to quickly find the right path for the setup, as it’s important that we improve in every session in order to qualify in a good position.

“The track is one of my favourites, and I’ve always done pretty well there. Returning after last year’s accident is no problem for me, because I enjoyed riding there during the recent tests, as I always do. I hope there will be a big crowd and that I’ll be able to do better than we’ve managed until now, because this is a very important race.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt