In the fourth part of our series looking back at 2013, we take a look at Valentino Rossi’s season. To catch up with previous instalments, you can read part 1 on Marc Marquezpart 2 on Jorge Lorenzo, and part 3 on Dani Pedrosa.

Valentino Rossi left Ducati at the end of 2012 with a palpable sense of relief. At last he would be back on a bike with a front-end he could trust, and could get back to being competitive. The goal was to test himself, to see if he could still run at the front with the Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, he repeatedly told reporters in the preseason.

Testing looked promising. Rossi was a little way behind the Hondas, but so was his teammate Jorge Lorenzo, and that was the man he had to measure himself against. At the first race, Rossi was straight onto the podium, dishing out a lesson in racecraft to Marc Marquez along the way. It looked like he was finally back in business.

Qatar turned out to be something of a false dawn. Rossi struggled in Austin, and could only manage a distant fourth at Jerez. That was an omen of things to come, Rossi racking up a grand total of 8 fourth places during the season, only getting on to the podium when one or other of the top three were injured or otherwise struggling.

Despite the difficulty, the wily veteran still managed to bag himself a win at Assen, his first in nearly three years. It was a moment of release for the Italian, but even during the press conference, he conceded that his win was in no small part due to his teammate’s injured collarbone. Rossi cemented his place in the MotoGP hierarchy: the fourth best rider in the world.

Was the problem age, talent, or equipment? That question is still unanswered. Age must surely play a part, but Rossi’s biggest problem was an inability to get the bike to brake as he wanted. The new, less stiff front Bridgestone introduced during 2012 was causing Rossi problems, the bike lacking stability as he tried to slam on the brakes as late as possible.

It was, he admitted, in part his own fault: when Bridgestone had brought the front tire in 2012, he had seen its weakness then. But given the miserable time he was having getting the Ducati to turn, a softer front tire might actually help, but slowing down the others. “We were already in the sh*t,” Rossi commented, “so it made no difference.”

In 2013, he wished he had held out against the softer front. While Jorge Lorenzo could use his strong point, braking earlier, less abruptly, and carrying more corner speed, Rossi and his crew turned his bike upside down in the pursuit of better braking.

At a test in June at Aragon, the Italian thought he had found something, but though it was an improvement, the problem remained. It would never go away entirely, and Rossi was never able to change his style enough to compensate.

At the end of the year, Rossi took a radical step, sacking his crew chief Jeremy Burgess, the man who has guided him throughout his entire career in the premier class.

That move was widely seen as an act of desperation, thrashing about trying anything in the hope of improvement. Sacrificing Burgess left only one variable left to blame. By the end of 2014, we will know whether the problems lay with Burgess or Rossi.

High Point:


It had been a long, long time, and the relief was palpable. Rossi celebrated victory at Assen with fervor, it having been over two-and-a-half years since his last win. Rossi’s 80th premier class win (and his 106th in all classes) was huge.

True, it had been taken while his teammate was injured, and Dani Pedrosa had struggled with tires, but a win is a win, and Rossi celebrated it as such.

It also came after a successful test at Aragon, giving his confidence a much needed boost. The euphoria did not last long, but Rossi proved that he still had it in him, at least when the stars aligned.

Low Point:


Rossi’s 2013 MotoGP campaign reached its nadir at Mugello. Finally back at the track he loves so dearly on a bike that at least allows him to ride, the Italian had high hopes of success.

A poor qualifying session – something Rossi struggled with all year, only really getting his head around the new, 15-minute session towards the end of the season – left him down on the third row of the grid.

His race lasted just three corners, before Rossi ended in the gravel alongside Alvaro Bautista. The two men had taken wildly different lines out of Luco, and those lines intersected on the entrance to Poggio Secco.

Blame was hard to apportion, though Rossi made no secret of his belief the fault lay with Bautista. Rossi now has his hopes pinned on Mugello in 2014, perhaps more of his hopes than he cares to admit.

Photos: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • phil

    He’s still no push over by a VERY long way, hasn’t lost his nerve so lets see for 2014. Personally I think he needs to change his riding style. what works for Jorge needs to work for him , and I don’t mean the crew chief !

  • smiler

    What is amazing and likely annoying to all those who dislike Rossi is firsly how much he is still a draw and at the centre of MotoGP. Unlike Merguez, he is personable whilst being ruthless, humourous whilst being completely cold, charismatic whilst being totally focused.
    The fact that he is still so eager to win after nine titles and the risks he has taken is amazing.
    For those who want to see the back of him. He has purchased himself into MotoGP as a manager.

    The changes to tires, his M1 and the rehabilitation from Ducati seem to have had much more imapct than others arriving on the MotoGP secene.
    To be honest I hope he goes out with a blaze of glory in 2014 then calls it a day. Otherwise it will be another very dull season. The loss of Marco Simoncelli was much more than the death of a good rider. Imagine him on a full factory Honda or Yamahahaha. Merguez I suspect would have no response and it would keep Dorna’s Spanish domination ideas in check.

  • L2C

    The way Burgess was let go was the only way Burgess could have been let go. A ton of journalists are pissed off about the way it happened, but if it could have happened in any other way it would have. I don’t think that Burgess was lying when he said that he was okay with the way things went down. And based on comments that Burgess made in the press following his departure, Rossi was right to let him go because it’s now crystal clear that Burgess doesn’t have as much faith in Rossi’s ability as he used to.

    No relationship can withstand a lack of faith.

  • JW

    No matter what happens in 14, it has been a true pleasure to have had VR a part of this sport.

  • SBPilot

    @JW – That is the best comment regarding VR I’ve read in a long time. With so much talk about VR and his capabilities and the negativity of him releasing JB, we need to just sit back and look at VR as a whole. We need to say, regardless of whatever happens in ’14, whether he stops mid season or magically finds the speed to run at the front, he is one hell of a class act. 15 years at the front is no easy thing.

    You watch any race from the 500GP era, on that Honda dicing it out, and you really realize, wow, he’s been so good for so long. It’s amazing.

  • Vale is still the cooliest racer out there, but his best days are long gone. He lost the corner speed he had, he would be better off riding a Honda or in WSBK

  • Jw

    Sadly the death of his dear friend Marco , surely has been an obstacle, but it’s OK, I think we can all appreciate this human side.

  • Guido Fawkes

    1. I still regard Valentino as one of the best and certainly capable of winning races and the championship.

    2. People who say he should step down due to all the 4th place finishes are being ridiculous. There are 4 premier bikes on the grid and they are the 2 Hondas and the 2 Yamahas. As long as he’s finishing in the range of 1-4 he deserves his factory seat. Ideally, he should be in front of or just behind his teammate.

    I really do hope that he continues beyond 2014 because he is still one of the best. What would be interesting to me after hearing about Ducati testing “Open Class” bikes is this scenario:

    Valentino and Yamaha running a with an “Open Class” bike. If Yamaha can give him everything identical to the “Factory Class” machine minus the Software, I think he’d be very competitive. I’m sure the extra motors, softer tires, and 24l of fuel would help Valentino greatly.
    If that formula could get him another championship he’d have won 125, 250, 500, Factory MotoGP 800 & 990, Suzuka 8hr, and then MotoGP with an ‘Open Class’.

  • Jimbo

    I would agree with the comments above. His best days are gone. However he is still the 4th best rider on the grid and so deserves the ride he has.