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MotoGP: Valentino Rossi: Don't retire #46, Suzuka 'when I stop'
“If another rider wants to take that number they can" - Valentino Rossi.
Valentino Rossi is not keen on his famous #46 being retired when he stops racing in MotoGP.
The Italian superstar has become synonymous with the number, using it ever since joining grand prix in 1996 and building a brand (VR46) around it. A winner of nine world titles, Rossi has always rejected the #1 plate.
On a day when Marco Simoncelli's #58 was officially retired from grand prix - it can be used again only with the blessing of the Simoncelli family - Rossi said:
"What the family of Marco - and especially Paolo - have done after 2011 is something very special and I always try to help them. Paolo had this idea of a hospital [for disabled children] a long time ago and whenever we meet he always explained they are at a good moment, so I'm very happy it is now ready [to be built].
"About my number , I was thinking... my first impression is that I don't like that the 46 is cancelled. I prefer that it remains and if some other rider wants to take that number they can."
The Doctor also revealed that he is open to racing for Yamaha in the Suzuka 8 Hours, but only after he calls time on what is already a record-breaking MotoGP career.
"I like a lot that race and I love to make also with Yamaha. For me, can be. But the problem is not during the MotoGP season," said Rossi, who won the event riding for Honda, alongside Colin Edwards, in 2001.
"So maybe when I stop because sincerely now I'm too old and we don't have enough time for make the 8 Hour because in reality is the only week or ten days that we have off holiday between the first and second parts of the MotoGP season.
"So if you spend that week in Suzuka is a big stress physically and mentally and I think you can pay in the second half. But maybe in the future when I stop, I want to try with Yamaha. Is a great race."
Yamaha has won at Suzuka for the last two seasons, with the aid of Tech 3 MotoGP riders Pol Espargaro (2015-2016) and Bradley Smith (2015).
Rossi has beaten world championship leader Marc Marquez in all three races since the MotoGP summer break, but remains 50 adrift heading into this weekend's Misano race.
The 37-year-old is contracted to race in MotoGP with Yamaha until at least the end of 2018.
Valentino Rossi has explained the reason why a mid-session exchange with Aleix Espargaro became so heated on Friday afternoon, with the Suzuki rider's refusal to apologise after the incident infuriating the Italian.
Fastest on Friday morning, Rossi found himself behind the Suzukis of Maverick Viñales and Espargaro in FP2, but found the latter particularly slow to move off the racing line.
According to Rossi, it was Espargaro's reaction that caused him to raise a middle finger in his direction. “Sincerely, I don't know his behaviour and it's not the first time.
“It happened exactly the same also in Austria,” said Rossi, sixth fastest at the end of Friday and 0.6s off pace setter Pol Espargaro.
“I push and arrive behind the two Suzukis. Both rider see me: Viñales and Espargaro. Viñales go wide and Espargaro remain on the line. Sincerely I don't know why.
“After I say to him something. I say to him, 'What are you doing?' And he said to me, 'F**k you!' so for this I was angry. It's enough to say sorry. But they don't know the way to say sorry. It's better to say, 'F**k you!'”
Espargaro's actions earned him a visit from race director Mike Webb, who warned the Catalan to be more aware of the whereabouts of other riders on track.
“He came to the pits,” said Espargaro of Webb's visit. “It's not normal, because he never comes to the pits. He always calls you to go there. But I imagine, since it's Valentino, he came to the pits.
However, Espargaro contended that he was not a major obstruction for Rossi, and was angered by Webb's subsequent visit.
“He told me to be more aware, but I asked him if they checked the video, and he said 'Yes, and you are not in the middle, you did not disturb him.' And he said, 'But anyway, be more aware', and I said, 'I will not be more aware if I didn't disturb him.'
“I repeated three times to him, "I disturbed him? Did you check the video?' And he told me no, I didn't disturb him. Then I say, 'Then go to talk with him, because I will not be more aware!'”
Looking ahead to Sunday's race, Rossi went on to explain how there is a need to find improvements with Michelin's medium front tyre, that is new for this race weekend.
“The day start in a good way. This morning was a good practice. We work a bit on the bike and especially at the end we put on harder tyres and I feel good and quite fast. We were quite positive for the afternoon. Then we have 15 degrees more. Unfortunately for some reason the harder rear does not work.
“The pace was a lot slower. Also we have some troubles with the front tyre. This circuit is very demanding for the front. Michelin bring a stronger front tyre but after some laps it's difficult. The tyre suffers quite a lot.
“Fortunately at the end I put the soft rear and I did quite a good run. The pace was not so bad. I finish in sixth. We have a lot of work to do, especially with the balance of the bike.
“We will try to improve the performance of the front tyre because the race will be very long, 28 laps. We need to find the way to improve the feeling with the front. Anyway we are not so far. As always everyone is very strong so we'll see if we can continue with a good thing.”
Having sampled a new Yamaha chassis at the post-race test in Brno and in free practice at Silverstone, Rossi revealed that he has reverted to the standard chassis of before. The difference between the two, he said, was very small.
“We decide to use the standard because looking deeply at the data and my feeling we have some things a little bit better, some things a little bit worse. At the end of the lap it's very similar. At the end we decide to use the standard chassis which we know better and [with] which we have more experience.”
This post has been edited by Raikkonen: Sep 10 2016, 10:14 PM