Valentino Rossi, The Eternal Peter Pan

“The past and the records don’t count so much. I live the present moment.”

Friends at the bar were telling Valentino Rossi, “It’s been a year since you last won a race. You need to win!”

“Good idea, I hadn’t thought about it,” replied Rossi, smiling, but with some bitterness.

The Doctor’s last victory was Barcelona 2016. Between then and now is one year in which everyone was winning except him: Marquez, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Iannone, Miller, Crutchlow, Viñales, and Dovizioso. Rossi missed some great chances, like in Le Mans a month ago when he crashed on the last lap trying to overtake teammate Maverick Vinales, 16 years his junior.

This year, Rossi has not been comfortable with his Yamaha. The M1 was not incisive in corner entry or in mid-corner, traditionally the bike's strongest points. Finally a new chassis arrived for the Barcelona test and at Assen he found the old feeling again. The result? A weekend during which he was fast through practice and then made a winning ride that was a masterpiece of intelligence, class, determination, and experience.

valentino rossi waves hello at assen 2017
Valentino Rossi, TT Assen 2017Courtesy of Movistar Yamaha

Between Rossi’s first GP win in Brno on August 18, 1996, to last Sunday at Assen he has achieved nine world titles, 115 wins, 225 podiums, and 20 years and 313 days have passed. An eternity, but not for Rossi, the artist on two wheels, the eternal Peter Pan, who lives in the present.

“The past and the records don’t count so much. I live the present moment. The reason why I work every day and I race is for the taste of those 5-6 hours after the victory. It’s difficult to describe the explosion of feelings when you cross the line first to the checkered flag. It’s the best thing ever that has happened to you. And this feeling goes on until you go to bed happy. Monday morning you wake up and it’s a brand-new day.”

Now Rossi can return to Tavullia lighter.

“This victory is important, like every win, but returning to the top of the podium after a winless year is a great satisfaction. I fought hard with Petrucci, Marquez and Zarco. It’s an important success also from a technical point of view: We worked in the right direction and the new chassis works well. And I gained 25 points for the championship.”

valentino rossi fans assen 2017
Valentino Rossi Fans, TT Assen 2017Courtesy of Movistar Yamaha

On Saturday, he said that he regretted that the chassis hadn't arrived earlier as he lost many points on tracks where he used to have an advantage. But in Rossi's world, looking back has no value. The present says that he is third in the world standing, 7 points behind the new leader Andrea Dovizioso on Ducati.

“I’m not thinking of the championship. It’s better to race weekend after weekend. Or even better: practice after practice, lap after lap. We are 4 riders within 11 points. I don’t remember a similar situation. Maybe we have to go back to 2009 with Lorenzo and Stoner with equal points after 6 rounds.”

Rossi’s ride at Assen was thrilling with some breathtaking moments like the contact with Zarco, who started from the pole and led for 11 laps.

“I understood that Zarco is not a bad guy. He simply doesn’t understand what the distance between the bikes should be. As it happened in Austin, he tried an impossible pass. I was doing my line. He needs to calculate that the other rider cannot simply disappear. He is aggressive, and that is fine....until nothing happens. I will send him an invoice for my leather suit.”

valentino rossi assen 2017 race action
Valentino Rossi, TT Assen 2017Courtesy of Movistar Yamaha

Maverick's crash was another coup de théâtre. On Friday, he had a good pace, so Rossi was expecting his recovery.

“The conditions were difficult for everybody, even for a rider who has an incredible talent like him. For sure, one thing is to perform an embarrassing speed in the practices, another thing is recovering. Luckily he has some weak points.”

Then came rain.

“I was building a gap on Petrucci and I was already caressing the idea of the victory when it started to rain. It was as if we had to start all over again.

“I never thought of changing bikes because there were only seven laps to go. So I said to myself that it was not raining and I kept on pushing.”

valentino rossi assen rain race action
Valentino Rossi, TT Assen 2017Courtesy of Movistar Yamaha

He lapped the unfortunate Jorge Lorenzo on the final lap.

“I’m sorry to see him struggling so much. He was the only one to behave properly, moving off-line and letting us pass.”

Valentino Rossi won by 0.063 seconds from the talented Petrucci on a Pramac Ducati.

Next Sunday in Germany, the Doctor will race and take risks to again seek the joy of victory.

“Sachsenring is Marquez’s domain. He is winning there since ages. We need to be competitive. We will start from zero without thinking of Assen, of the records or of 20 years of successes. Only the present moment counts.”

tt assen 2017 podium
TT Assen 2017 podium: Danilo Petrucci, Valentino Rossi, and Marc MarquezCourtesy of Movistar Yamaha

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