Rossi ducks questions over his MotoGP team's new Saudi deal - The Race
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Rossi ducks questions over his MotoGP team’s new Saudi deal

Apr 29 2021
By Simon Patterson

Valentino Rossi ducked questions about the appropriateness of Saudi Arabian state-owned oil company Aramco becoming title sponsor of his newly-expanded VR46 MotoGP team for 2022 when quizzed about it ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix.

The deal allows VR46 to step up from one bike to two and split from its current interim partnership with the Esponsorama Racing team to run its own operation.

But the news has caused controversy among fans due to the Saudi government’s human rights record.

“I’m not directing all of this. I’m just the capo, just the boss, and I don’t speak directly with the sponsors” :: Valentino Rossi

Rossi downplayed the issue, pointing out that VR46 was far from the only sporting organisation to have commercial links with Aramco.

“Aramco in the past years have supported a lot of different sports, from football to especially motorsport and F1,” he said when asked about the deal by The Race.

“For us, it’s an important partner and they can help us to make the team in MotoGP.

“For the rest we’ll see, but maybe we can do something to improve the situation – but under our point of view our relationship is for [sponsorship].

“We’ve got a deal with Aramco to make the team, and all the people who work in VR46 are very happy because we’ve worked for more or less 10 years, starting in the Italian championship, and arriving to race in MotoGP is great for us.

“A lot of people are involved in the project, and that’s good.”

Luca Marini VR46 Ducati Portimao MotoGP 2021

When pressed further about whether he had input over the deal – which VR46 CEO Albi Terbaldi described as “a true collaboration that fills us with pride” – Rossi was adamant that his role as figurehead of the organisation meant his involvement was limited.

“I didn’t speak with them because first of all I am a MotoGP rider at this moment and I’m focused there,” he maintained.

“For sure, I am involved because the bike says VR46 like the Moto2 bikes of this year and Luca [Marini]’s Ducati.

“I think we’ve built something good, starting from the Italian Moto3 championship, and we have helped a lot of riders arrive in MotoGP. We’ve made important things to help this movement.

“But sincerely, I’m not directing all of this. I have a lot of people in VR46 who have worked on this deal, and with the Moto3, the Moto2 and the future MotoGP team.

“I’m just the capo, just the boss, and I don’t speak directly with the sponsors.”

Rossi was much more open about what VR46’s 2022 MotoGP expansion meant to him,
having started the project as something of a hobby for him and his closest friends, albeit always with the goal of helping young Italian talent reach MotoGP.

“If I’m the boss and I want to race, I can keep one bike for myself!” :: Valentino Rossi

“Our story has started step by step, and at the start we wanted to help young Italian riders arrive in the world championship,” said Rossi.

“After we started the team with [outgoing title sponsor] Sky, we’ve enjoyed it very much because we’re motorsport fans, motorsport addicted. To follow our team was something we enjoyed a lot.

“In the beginning, we never thought about MotoGP, but after the Moto2 team the game changed.

“We had this chance, a lot of people working on the project, and in the end we said ‘why not?’

“It’s a good way for me to stay in this world when my career as a rider is finished.”

He even admitted that there could be a future role for him within the team not just as team principal but even as a rider, joking that it would be hard to be sacked from his own bike.

“From one side it doesn’t change a lot because I’ll decide during this season what I’ll do, and like I always say it depends on the results,” he said, echoing previous statements that he’ll make a call on his 2022 plans in the coming months.

“From another side, maybe it’s a help, because it means there’s an extra place on the grid for me if I want to race with my team!

“For sure if I’m the boss and I want to race, I can keep one bike for myself!”

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