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By Paul Fenn
As those who follow such things will know, Valentino Rossi, the world's most aggressive, winning and interesting MotoGP motorcycle racer had a snoozer of a 2011. And with the likes of Casey Stoner catching him up, the age of retirement (as declared by Rossi himself a few years back) now past, and the Ducati he rides showing less-than-definite promise as yet, one sets to wondering what is to become of the man in the coming years.
Apart from MotoGP, he has shown very respectable onions and skills in both F1 auto racing and WRC rally racing. Being called a serious contender by Michael Schumacher is nothing to laugh off. And what he did at Monza in 2005 - beating another legend, Colin McCrae, the man who taught him to drive rally - has shown that he has plenty of velocity left in him. Hell, Ferrari's F1 team is all but holding a car at idle for Rossi, in wait for whenever he decides.
Rossi must inhabit a pretty banged up body by now. He's probably not so fast out of bed mornings these days, and, if he's like most of us at that age and injury count, would probably prefer not do too much more bone-breaking. And yet, the thing about Rossi is that he'll likely need to continue going very fast in some capacity until either speed, or old age, or something female and irate sees him out.
So if you or I were him - single, early thirties, still charming, cocky and horny (the letters for 'Long live pussy' in Italian are emblazoned on his race leathers), with a few hundred million in the bank - what path do you suppose we'd be entertaining?
Rossi in '12 will be well worth watching: Will the Ducati people finally crack the engineering challenges that have held their golden non-boy back for too long? If so, will Rossi ride it out well enough to start being referred to as a champion again? And if that happens, and he wins heartily this year, will he then come back for more in '13, or go out on a high as the great Italian champ on the great Italian bike? If he has another vanilla year, will he ignominiously limp off to graze at lower paddocks?
Me, I hope he sticks it out in MotoGP another couple of years. Because with Marco Simoncelli sadly gone, and Mr. Stoner not exactly the second coming of the rock 'n roll motorcycle racing brat, there's simply not a lot of colour left to this game.
Some fine footage of the man:
And should you ever find yourself wanting to visit Rossi's hometown of Urbino, Italy, here's a great route to get there from Roma: http://esr.cc/ywlZhD