At the MotoGP test in Qatar, the week before the 2011 season opener, all eyes were on Rossi and the GP11. Naively we wondered if he would be able to recreate his magic at Welkom in 2004, and comparisons to Rossi’s move to Yamaha were inevitable. Some in the paddock thought he was in better shape going to Ducati than he had been when he left Honda, after all Casey Stoner had managed to win several times at the end of 2010 on the bike Rossi was taking over, while the pre-Rossi Yamaha was widely considered a mess on two wheels. Burgess’ remarks that he and Rossi would sort the Ducati straight away gave us the impression that the dream team could see what was wrong, and knew at least in theory what to do when they took over Stoner’s ride.
In spite of the problems that had been apparent since the first GP11 test in Valencia the previous November, our faith in the Rossi, Burgess, & Co.’s expertise still had many of us prepared for a strong finish at Losail — expecting Rossi to do at least as well on the GP11 as Stoner had managed on the GP10. “He’ll at least win a few races once he gets the Ducati sorted,” was a common attitude in Qatar.
But we had no idea things would turn out so differently from our early expectations by the time MotoGP arrived at Aragon for the 14th round of 2011. Not only has Rossi failed to win a race, he became the first rider to start from the pit lane after an engine use penalty, the direct result of Ducati’s frantic chase for a bike upon which Rossi could compete. The Greatest of All Time has had the worst season of his career on a bike that began as one Stoner could ride to victory, but which has morphed into something the Australian might not even recognize, now sporting, of all things, aluminum frame parts made by FTR.
Talk from Bologna is that 2011 is a write off, now a long series of tests for 2012′s return to liter engines. If the first 2012-season test at Valencia leaves Rossi and the GP12 still a half second or more behind the Hondas, many of us will have to scratch our heads as how we could’ve been so wrong about the Rossi/Burgess magic back earlier this year at Qatar. We just might wonder if anyone has ever given Casey Stoner the credit he deserves for what he accomplished on the Ducati.
Scott Jones is a professional photographer known for his great action shots and poignant candids when covering MotoGP and WSBK racing events. You may have already seen his work on MotoMatters (they still have more calendars available that feature Scott’s work by the way). Not only do we like Scott’s shots, but he fits right in with our all Nikon-totting office. You can find him on his blog, Twitter, & Facebook.
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Photo: © 2011 Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved