Working with the same small group of mainly childhood friends who have been with him throughout Rossi founded the VR46 Academy back in 2013, on land he’d purchased close to his Tavullia home. There he built a dirt-track offering several different layouts, while converting the existing buildings and adding more to create the classrooms, training rooms and other facilities, where a gang of hand-picked young riders came to learn from the master.
The academy offers not just riding training, though that is of course intrinsic, but a full panoply of related matters a rider needs for serious success. English lessons are vital, plus legal backing for contracts, and marketing for paraphernalia. Then there is camaraderie that goes beyond rowdy evenings at Rossi’s own Tavullia pizzeria, including trips to Florence and other cultural centres to add breadth to young minds that otherwise might be restricted only to study of the stop-watch and operation of the twist-grip.
It doesn’t work for everybody, of course. Romano Fenati, the most recent of whose 12 wins came in September this year, was one who rejected the all-boys-together atmosphere, and was soon afterwards dropped from the nascent VR46 Moto3 team, for a reported pitbox tantrum. (Fenati is a stereotypical biker bad-boy, banned for several races for squeezing another rider’s front brake lever at high speed.) But the list of rising youngsters from Italy, now beginning to eclipse the conquistadors of the recent Spanish invasion, is made up mainly of academicians (no-one graduates, because they keep coming back for essentially endless riding practice); making their way up from the smaller classes, with a first MotoGP victory this year.