Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi and his veteran race engineer, Jeremy Burgess, answered a volley of questions at a Yamaha press conference Friday afternoon at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain. Right off the bat, Rossi took responsibility for sacking Burgess.
“It was more my decision,” he admitted. “Yesterday, we spoke together. I tried to explain that I need a change. I need something different—like Jeremy said, ‘a new boost, some more motivation.’”
In response, Burgess said, “Clearly, it blindsided me. I knew yesterday afternoon when Valentino invited me into his trailer that we weren’t going in there for the Christmas bonus.”
With his factory Yamaha teammate, Jorge Lorenzo, still in contention for the title, why did Rossi choose to make this announcement at the beginning of a race weekend? “I make in my mind the decision last week,” he said. “I don’t want to stay one weekend with Jeremy knowing this is inside me and not say to him. I’m not able, you know?”
“I would prefer it as it happened,” said Burgess. “I think it’s a far better way to do it rather than sign off on Sunday night and say, ‘Right, ciao. It’s all over.’ Fourteen years, 80-odd Grand Prix wins—those figures are good. What we’ve done, I think, has been terrific. I’ve enjoyed every bit of it.”
Asked if he would remain in the paddock, Burgess admitted he hadn’t made any plans for the future. “My intention was to continue next year,” he said. “We’ve been chasing rainbows for four years. We haven’t nailed anything decent in those four years. These are long periods in racing.
“I’ve read many sport biographies, and quite often, the top sportsman in the latter part of his career might have a change. This is what we’re working on now—always working on fixing the problem. This is part of the fix, the next step, to try to get Valentino back on top, extend his career, and be competitive.”
Rossi, too, believes this is a “key moment” in his career. “I have in my mind that I want to try one time in a different way; this is the moment.” Asked if he believed he could still compete with Marc Marquez and Lorenzo, Rossi spat a one-word reply. “Yes,” he said.
As for the rest of his crew, Rossi said, “Nothing change. I am happy with everybody.”
Following the press conference, Burgess and Rossi stood for photos, after which journalists surrounded the 60-year-old Australian, forming a human cocoon. Rossi, meanwhile, quietly slipped away.