Written by Owen Bradley, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
Following the retirement of MotoGP legend and nine-time World Champion, Valentino Rossi, an attempt to fill the void left by his departure was made, by his very own team - who left his legacy on track, as he had already done so successfully off the racetrack. So…how did the team do in the premier class in its inaugural season? Let’s run through their year.
But first, we need to understand that Valentino’s very own racing team really started back in 2010 when he would mentor a rising star, by the name of Marco Simoncelli. Simoncelli passed away in 2011 and, in his grief, Valentino began helping other young Italian riders, such as Franco Morbidelli. Slowly but surely, he ended up helping so many Italian riders that they all formed a team, which came to be known as: the VR46 Academy.
The Academy consisted of what have now become very recognisable riders, such as current MotoGP Champion Francesco Bagnaia, Franco Morbidelli, Luca Marini, Marco Bezzecchi, Nico Bulega and many others.
Luca Marini (Rossi’s half-brother) and Marco Bezzecchi would become the first ever riders to ride for the VR46 Racing Team, in 2022. Here’s how they got on:
Marini hasn’t exactly had it easy since coming into the sport. Simply due to being Valentino Rossi’s half-brother, he was compared to the success of Valentino on numerous occasions, a similar pressure other drivers and riders have come up against in the past. Take Ralf and Mick Schumacher for example, always being cast in Michael Schumacher's shadow.
However, Marini, after having a somewhat subdued yet solid rookie season in 2021, has had a very good season this time, and began the championship in Qatar, scoring VR46’s first ever points with a comfortable P13.
Unfortunately, this would sort of end up being the story of the season for Marini --never really being able to climb out of the midfield. However, a major highlight would be qualifying P3 at Argentina and a very strong P4 in the Grand Prix at San Marino. Toward the end of the season, Marini was really strong, and managed to finish in the top 10 at nearly all of the last nine races of the season.
All in all, Marini is certainly proving himself as somebody who could definitely get a few wins and certainly podiums. Perhaps, with a perfect combination of bike and rider, we may even see him challenge for a World Championship.
MotoGP Rookie of 2022, everybody! And what a deserving title. Bezzechi took a few races to find consistent footing in MotoGP, but once he did - he was off!
The breakthrough race of his rookie season was his lofty 5th place at arguably Italy’s best MotoGP track, Mugello. This was only his seventh race in the premier class as well.
He would also bring the VR46 Racing Team their first ever podium in the premier class, finishing 2nd at Assen, a circuit on which Team Founder Valentino Rossi would always go well at himself! Back in 2017 Rossi even got his final victory in MotoGP at Assen.
Bezzecchi would go on to score solid results on the cusp of the top 10, but still in the points. He ended up finishing P14 in the standings, only nine points away from his teammate.
VR46 has had a solid and strong year, and whilst a little quiet at times, the team is here to stay. I think the question we all ask is: when could we see a VR46 Team rider win a championship? That question is not particularly within the realms of possibility, at least for now, so perhaps a better question is: when could we see their first victory? I personally can see them taking the top step of the podium at some point in 2023, but we shall see. The team ended their first season in the standings sitting in P8. Crucially, they were ahead of a major manufacturer and team, Repsol Honda.
They ended with 231 points between Bezzecchi and Marini, and will be hoping to improve over the winter while looking forward to having a great 2023 season.
What do you think? Will we see the VR46 colours and team on the top step of a podium in 2023?
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