Valentino Rossi: Right time to replace Jerry Burgess

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Valentino Rossi believes now is the right time to part company with legendary Australian chief engineer Jerry Burgess, as the news of their shock split continues to dominate the headlines at the final race in Valencia.

Rossi informed Burgess yesterday (Thursday) that he would be replacing him as crew chief for the 2014 season after the story leaked in the Italian press the previous day.

Rossi’s ruthless decision ends a remarkably successful collaboration with Burgess, that included 80 premier class wins since they began working together at Honda back in 2000.

Rossi attended a specially convened press conference with Burgess in Valencia earlier today; where he explained why he felt now was the right time to end his association with Burgess.

The 34-year-old said: “It was more my decision because we already spoke with Jerry and all of the team about next year and he said he wanted to stay. He had some more question marks for the future but he didn’t say yes or no but said he wanted to wait for next year.

"Sincerely I want to wait for next year also, even if in my mind I want to continue and I will decide after the first races. It was more my decision and we spoke together and tried to explain to change and do something different to get a new boost.

"In my mind I took the decision last week and I didn’t want to stay one weekend working with Jerry knowing that I had decided this. I can’t do this and I think it was better to do it the first time I saw him.”

Rossi has struggled to match the speed and form of Spanish rivals Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez in 2013 and a return to a factory Yamaha YZR-M1 has yielded only one win at Assen.

That came in a race in which Lorenzo raced just 48 hours after smashing his left collarbone.

Rossi intends to remain with Yamaha beyond his current deal, which expires at the end of 2014, and asked if he felt the issues this season were more of his own doing or down to failings of Burgess, he said: “I don’t know. For me I want to say maybe both.

"But now the level has been raised a lot by the top three and they are able to ride these bikes very fast. The lap time in each track improves a lot and it is a great challenge for me and I know it is difficult.

"But I don’t have any particular issue, regrets or problem with the way to work of my team and especially of Jeremy. But I know that it is a key moment because I have in my mind that I want to try one time in another way and I think this is the moment.”

Burgess and all of Rossi’s long-serving crew are under contract for 2014. The team are incredibly close and tight-knit and Rossi said he hoped that the rest would remain, despite the loss of their clear leader in Burgess.

He added: “I have to speak with the rest of the guys but I am happy with all the team, so if all the other guys decide to continue with me then nothing changes. But I don’t know if somebody decides to make something else because Jerry is not with us. If they want to continue I am happy and ready for that.”

Rossi said he had two or three different options to replace Burgess, with an early front running contender appearing to be Silvano Galbursera.

The Italian is a long-standing Yamaha crew member from World Superbikes and in 2013 he was crew chief for Marco Melandri at BMW.

Rossi added: “We have two or three options open but we are not in a hurry.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt