Valentino Rossi had just come off a relative high from Mugello having finished fifth at the Italian GP and less than twelve seconds behind race winner Jorge Lorenzo. Toss in the [admittedly somewhat cryptic] “let’s stick together” theme of his helmet and the seemingly positive talks with Audi, it appeared that the Italian legend just might be happy with where he was at Ducati Corse.
Fast-forward to the Thursday at Laguna Seca, where the pre-race press conference had just ended, the riders had all scattered about the room to answer additional questions. The small band of journalists crowded around Valentino were mostly speaking in Italian so I wasn’t able to understand much of what was being talked about but the number 46 was indeed mostly smiles, which I attempted to capture in my press room photos.
As chance would have it none of his smiling photos turned out, leaving me with this image that perhaps contained more tension than what was actually in the room that day. Ominously enough though, by Sunday afternoon what I had initially considered a throw-away shot had become an increasingly more accurate portrait of the rocky marriage that is Valentino Rossi and Ducati, after the nine-time World Champion once again struggled to tame the fickle red bike before crashing out of the race with just three laps to go.
Ending on such a sour note at Laguna Seca did not help Ducati’s bid at retaining the Italian superstar for 2013, especially with Rossi’s final decision expected to be made during the summer break. The old saying is “time will tell” but in this case the writing may already be on the wall.
Photo: © 2012 Daniel Lo / Corner Speed Photo – All Rights Reserved