Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Carlo Carluccio
– 2006: The Doctor – What might have been
Valentino Rossi is a sporting superstar who transcends his chosen sport. His charisma, his joie-de-vivre and his self-deprecating humour has turned him into an idol for millions.
On this day – eight years ago – Rossi took part in an official Formula One test with other teams present at Valencia.
Rossi first tested a Ferrari at Fiorano – in April 2004 – amid high security. The reasons were very simple; Yamaha ran with Gauloises sponsorship on Michelin tyres, whereas Ferrari were sponsored by Marlboro and used Bridgestone tyres. The press inevitably found out and reported the story but such was his power – within his sporting sphere – that Yamaha forgave him.
Ferrari had provided a car for Rossi as reward for winning the MotoGP title the year before but Rossi had stated that his true love outside of motor-bikes was always rallying.
He had entered and crashed out of Rally Great Britain in 2002, but would compete in the 2006 Rally New Zealand finishing 11th out of 39. Another entry to the British event, in 2008, saw him finish 12th – just over 13 minutes behind the winner Loeb.
From 2005, he competed in the Monza Rally Show and showed sublime talent by beating Colin McRae in similar spec’d WRC cars in his first such event and has gone on to win the event several times since; against the cream of World Rallying.
Ferrari arranged another test session at Fiorano for August 2005 and Rossi once again lapped the circuit in under a minute. Considering he had never driven a racing car – let alone one which used downforce for its extreme capabilities – Rossi’s performance was mind-blowing.
Today’s Valencia test carried far more significance. Ferrari were looking to entice Rossi to race in Formula One as a team-mate to Michael Schumacher in 2007.
Rossi drove a Ferrari 2004M throughout the test which differed from the official drivers as they were using the 2006 Ferrari 248 with the new V8 unlimited engine whereas he had the 3.0-litre V10 but with its power limited to V8 levels.
Although his time was just over a second slower than Schumacher – the team took into account the differences between the cars in concluding that Valentino was approximately 0.4 behind Schumacher’s time. The test in Valencia would also herald a new villain of the peace…
The crowds that came into the circuit for this an early winter test numbered in the region of 20,000, an unheard of number for a Spanish winter test. The press had also turned out in force for this Italian showman and Alonso was not in the slightest impressed.
Alonso condescendingly remarked that he too could get within a second of the leading pace in MotoGP and Rossi admitted he hoped one day the Spaniard would indulge him the contest.
“Yes it’s true,” remarked the 7 times champion. “I wanted to make a bet with Alonso and have a heat with MotoGP, F1 and a rally car – but he said he didn’t have time! Maybe in the future it will be possible…”
Rossi would test for Ferrari on a number of occasions over the next two years, before a break until January 2010 at the Barcelona track. Not having sat in an F1 car for nearly two years he recorded a time just a quarter of a second slower than Raikkonen’s lap record..