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Old April 21st @ 05:51 am   #1
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From: SoCal

Excerpts from Rossi: What If I Had Never Tried It
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Various excerpts from the recently published in the US book, What If I Had Never Tried It by Valentino Rossi:

At our meeting HRC was represented not just by Koji Nakajima, HRC director and the man we had been dealing with over the years, but also by his boss, Suguru Kanazawa, president of HRC. The pair had clearly flown to Holland thinking the situation was entirely under control. I suppose the team had told them that everything was fine, which is why Kanazawa immediately said he was going to fly back to Japan with a signed contract in his pocket. Everything seemed rather surreal to me during our meetings. The HRC executives' positions on MotoGP were far away from my own stance. And this left me somewhat perplexed. I was left with a sense that exploring other opportunities, taking on new challenges, maybe even trying to win with a different bike was the right thing to do.

The HRC executives were steadfast, not budging an inch. I got the sense that they were not going to compromise, they certainly weren't going to meet me halfway. Maybe the time had really come to go elsewhere. That's why, a few days later, Gibo and I decided to take a serious look at next season and that meant having serious talks with other teams, not just Yamaha. Gibo was eager to get back in touch with Yamaha.

I was also attracted by Yamaha's recent history and by the legendary riders of the past such as Kenny Roberts, Snr, Wayne Rainey, Giacomo Agostini and Eddie Lawson. All of them had won on Yamaha. It was a good company yet they had not had that many world champions of late and so the challenge for me was to awaken this sleeping giant ...


One thing for which I have never forgiven Honda is that they reneged on a promise to let me keep the NSR 500 bike, on which I won the title in 2001. That, in particular, was a huge disappointment, because I was very attached to that bike. And it wasn't just the bike, it was the way they handled the whole matter. I had started asking for it well before the end of the 2001 season and, within the team, they kept assuring me that I would get it. And yet, it never seemed to show up.


You see, on Sunday night we went out to celebrate with the boys from the Honda team, in a bar high up on a skyscraper in Kuala Lumpur. As we were returning to the hotel, we ran into Angel Nieto who started regaling us with stories of his triumphs, his adventures, his legendary duels with his rivals. We were having so much fun that, before we knew it, it was five o'clock in the morning. Which meant that we all overslept the next morning. It was one of those days. I knew I should be getting up, but I just couldn't do it. I tried, I really did, but then I'd fall asleep again, unable to move, only to wake up a few minutes later, when the whole thing would repeat itself.

Naturally, I was late, very late for my meeting with the Yamaha executives. They were waiting for me in a hotel room, and the more time passed, the more worried they became. They knew I had to catch the flight to Sydney and as the minutes ticked by, they started to think that maybe, just maybe, I wouldn't show. That I would stand them up. I appeared suddenly, all out of breath and disheveled. I had my rucksack on and I was dragging my luggage behind me.

"Here I am!" I shouted, bursting into the room and tossing my bags to one side. "I only have fifteen minutes to spare, so let's make this quick, shall we? I have a flight to catch!"

They looked at me with disbelief. I was just trying to lighten the mood, to break the tension. And it worked. After all, when you know you're wrong, dead wrong, you might as well go on the offensive straight away, before they have a go at you.

"Come on, we're late, we'll miss the flight, let's see this contract... Great, looks great to me! Fine!" I said, barely skimming it. "Let's get this thing signed."
Thus, I showed up to sign one of the most important contracts of my life in exactly the same way I do most things: at the last minute. For, you see, I am always, absolutely and constantly, late. It's one of my greatest flaws. I can only concentrate and be at my best if time is tight, if everything is on the edge and we all have to rush. If there's time, if we can do things calmly and quietly, I just can't perform.


The stakes were very high in 2004 as well, given what happened the year before: I had left Honda and gone to Yamaha, in search of new challenges. I was determined to prove that I could win even without a bike, the Honda, which everyone thought was invincible.

I chose Yamaha, a team which was in serious difficulty, which only made the challenge that much greater. This wasn't just about winning another title, it was about resentment and pride, rancour and honour. I knew that the 2004 season could put an end to an entirely different issue and therefore there was so much more pressure. I knew that if I could win right away, with a Yamaha, in my first season, it would change the face of motorcycling for ever. And that's what happened in Australia, on the hills of Philip Island, where I put the finishing touches on an adventure which had begun in South Africa.

Yes, South Africa. Welkom, the young city located in Free State. The date was 18 April 2004, a day which will long live in the history of motorcycle racing. I won my very first race with Yamaha. It was also the very first race of the 2004 World Championship. It was something absolutely unthinkable, even for me.

You may have seen me stop at the edge of the track, getting off my beautiful Yamaha, and watched as I sat down next to her, wrapping my arms around my knees and lowering my head. You may have wondered what I was doing; perhaps you thought I was overcome with emotion and was having a quiet sob of relief. In fact, I wasn't. Not at all. Behind my black visor, I was laughing. Laughing heartily at that. In that moment, huddled next to my bike on the grass, resting against her tyres, just me and my Yamaha, I was laughing.

The above excerpts reprinted with permission from MBI Publishing Company - What If I Had Never Tried It by Valentino Rossi ISBN# 0-7603-2682-7

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