Valentino Rossi: “My motivation? I like what I do, I like my job”

The nine-time world champion talks to Sport Rider about what keeps him going, and his rivals and expectations for 2015

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Now entering his 20th GP season at 35 years old, Valentino Rossi has certainly earned the status of elder statesman in the MotoGP field, but the big difference is that this elder is still competing right at the front...not just circulating in the middle of the field and collecting a paycheck. To be competing as long as Rossi has while still maintaining the motivation to train and practice long hours, and then subject himself to the grind of a MotoGP season traveling across the world through numerous time zones has only added to his already legendary stature—never mind the fact that he has seemingly reinvented himself after his ill-fated Ducati adventure to return to being a definite threat for a race win.

“The motivation is very important, especially if you race as long as I have,” noted Rossi. And yet his reason is amazingly simple. “But in this aspect I have no problems because my biggest motivation is the pleasure that gives me to ride a bike, try to be every time stronger, to improve the bike, to work with the team…I like what I do, I like my job.”

Many were expecting Rossi to retire after his Ducati contract was finished, but the Italian re-signed with Yamaha for two years in 2013, and he renewed the contract for another two in the midst of last season. “I have a contract signed with Yamaha for this season and the next, so surely I will keep the next two years trying to stay at the top. After, I don’t know, I haven’t decided yet.”

For those wondering how Rossi can compete with riders 15 years younger, much of it is good ol’ fashioned hard work. “As you get older you have to train a little bit more. Last year I changed a little bit my training. I try to be on bikes as long as possible and I have started to do things like flat track, motocross, supermotard or ride on asphalt with bikes of different dimensions. I train a lot with our riders of the Academy (the VR46 Riders Academy founded by Rossi in his home town of Tavulia) and it is always fun to compete with them”.

“Physical fitness is very important in MotoGP because MotoGP bikes are very difficult to ride. I have worked well these last years, so I am in quite good shape."

And what about his expectations for the future? When we asked if he could achieve his 10th title before retirement, he answered, "The year of my 10th championship? Good question, it would be great to know (when)? The goal is to certainly to try. I think there are chances because I am arriving from two years in which I have been always growing, especially between 2013 and 2014, and at the end of last season I was always competitive. I got a lot of points, I got many times on the podium, but to win the championship is very complicated, is much more difficult. At the moment it is important to be strong and in shape, and try to be in front straight from the beginning; to win races and fight with Lorenzo, Marquez and Pedrosa already in Qatar; this is the goal. Later, we see what we will be able to do in the second half of the season."
Below is the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team's introductory video to Rossi:

Rossi also had high praise for his crew chief Silvano Galbusera, who was controversially brought in by Rossi to replace his long-time crew chief Jeremy Burgess at the conclusion of 2013 season. “Galbusera did it very well last year in his first MotoGP season. With this one year experience, I think he may improve related with me as well as with the bike”.

Who does Rossi think will be the rider to beat this year? As if there was any question. “If I had money to bet I would put it on Marquez, because he is the favorite,” before adding good-naturedly, “and I would try so he have little bit of bad luck on him; because to bet attracts bad luck (laughs).”

Some are speculating that because Rossi outperformed Lorenzo last year that the pecking order in the Movistar Yamaha garage has changed. Rossi refuted that whole premise, stating, “Yamaha treats Lorenzo and I the same way, as number one riders; there is no favorite rider. It was already like that in 2014. It isn’t so important for me be number one because Yamaha has enough resources to build two completely different bikes. Last year I finished in front of Jorge, but this season I expect it to be a little bit more difficult because Jorge surely wants revenge. But our main goal will be beat Marquez.”

“Yamaha’s way of working is always similar. I know Yamaha since many years and I have learned to trust them because they try to improve all the areas of the bikes step by step through a very logical and intelligent work without stressing the basic project. At the end of the season the M1 was quite fast on acceleration exiting the corners and on the straights, a very positive aspects for Yamaha. I want to keep this for this season. We need to improve a little bit on braking, entering into the corners; we are trying.

“Last year we tested two or three different chassis during the season. Some things did work better in one, others in the others… I think Yamaha has done a kind of a mix taking the best of each version.”