Perhaps the old saying ‘If it looks too good to be true, it probably is’ applies to the stunning machine you see before you? From the overall shape of the thing, down to the exquisite details like the forks, the radially-mounted brake calipers and the exhaust outlet at the end of the rear cowling, we’re confident enough to describe it as ‘gorgeous’.
However, there’s no hiding from the results sheets as a measure of how capable it was as a racing machine and the inescapable truth is that it was mediocre. Even the great Valentino Rossi couldn’t consistently coax any real performance out of it.
When The Doctor moved from his beloved works Yamaha team to Ducati for the 2011 season it seemed like a match made in heaven. Despite his dominance on the Yamaha M1, most fans reckoned that the move would give him the same advantage over the competition that Casey Stoner enjoyed when he rode for the Bologna outfit. By the time he left and returned to Yamaha two years later however, the Australian remained as the only rider in the modern era to make the Desmosedici really go.
After a steady start in the first three rounds Rossi bagged a third place at the Italian Grand Prix in front of a huge crowd. Had you told any of his assembled fans not only that this was to be his best result of the season, but that he wouldn’t stand on the podium again that year you would have been met with bewildered disbelief. As it was, he managed only two other podium finishes in his two seasons at Ducati and none of those saw him on the top step.
For 2013 he returned to Yamaha and, despite now being in the latter half of his thirties, he seems to be getting better and better, holding off the immense challenge of Marc Marquez and team mate Jorge Lorenzo. Anybody who saw the great man at the Festival of Speed this year could attest that he seems to be in a happier place than when he was giving everything trying to get the Desmosedici to work.
As motorsport failures go though, this must be one of the prettiest ever.
Full gallery at top of page.
Photography: Antony Fraser