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5 days ago

Raising the next Rossi

With Valentino Rossi at the helm, the VR46 Academy certainly has some top quality teachers but what goes on at the Ranch?

Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) is a name synonymous with the MotoGP™ World Championship, a rider who has proven himself on track again and again. But in recent years ‘The Doctor’ has began to focus on his legacy and helping to promote the next generation of Italian racers. In March of 2014 he opened the VR46 Academy, Franco Morbidelli, Luca Marini, Andrea Migno, Nicolò Bulega , Romano Fenati and Francesco ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia his first pupils.

Since then the ‘class’ has grown and features 11 riders from the FIM CEV Moto3™ Junior World Championship, the CIV Championships, the Moto3™ World Championship and the Moto2™ World Championship. Almost every up and coming Italian on the world stage is now working with Rossi.

An ambitious project such as this requires a special home, the VR46 MotoRanch housing his school. The Ranch is based around a dirt track, featuring both left and right hand bends unlike the more conventional American dirt track, and is where the riders spend most of their free time. Dirt track has become an increasingly important part of training for a Grand Prix rider, knowing how to control a sliding motorcycle a crucial skill in the Moto2™ and MotoGP™ classes.

As such racing and riding around this dirt track forms the core pillar of the VR46 Academy educational plan. Lap after lap is completed with all the riders pushing hard. Even when they’re out to have fun and train, professional riders are always looking for an edge over their rivals. The training doesn’t just allow the young riders to learn from the master, but Rossi himself benefits from racing with the next generation. Fighting against riders who are almost half his age helps to keep Rossi feeling young and fit.

Winter training ???????? L'Americana del sabato pomeriggio al #MotoRanch

A photo posted by VR46RidersAcademyOfficial (@vr46ridersacademyofficial) on

Rossi’s Ranch isn’t an exclusive club however; he frequently invites other riders from a multitude of championships to come ride with the Academy. Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) is one of the more recent guests but the likes of Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and even Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) have all had a chance to join in on the fun and competition. Even AMA Supercross legend Chad Reed has flown over to try his hand at flat track.

Super photo avec Valentino ???????????????? / Great picture with @valeyellow46 ????????

A photo posted by Fabio Quartararo (@fabioquartararo20) on

Riding on dirt isn’t the only activity the Academy do, Rossi frequently bringing everyone to the Misano circuit for track days. A variety of bikes from minibikes to superbikes are used, every different capacity helping to teach the Academy riders a new skill and helping to further their understanding of how bikes behave under different circumstances. It’s a comprehensive program, something many riders dream of and all under the watchful eye of Rossi and his handpicked team.

Rossi is always on hand to share his knowledge with the Academy riders, especially when they’re at a new track. He may not have ridden in Moto3™ or Moto2™, but with 20 years of racing experience under his belt, he can at least give a handy tip or two about what line to take.

It’s not just about riding motorcycles though. When you’re a World Championship rider media demands are high and often involve speaking a language other than your native Italian. As such most of Academy are given English lessons between races to ensure they know how to answer those tricky questions.

In attesa di partire per il #DutchGP➡️ english????????class ???????? per @m16no e @nicco23on con @marcobez12 ????

A video posted by VR46RidersAcademyOfficial (@vr46ridersacademyofficial) on

The Academy not only teaches critical skills but also helps to form strong friendships amongst the riders in it. They’re fierce rivals on track but no matter the result they’re always up for a joke once the helmets come off. There’s more to life than just racing sometimes.

It’s clear to see how successful the VR46 Academy is, in the Moto3™ World Championship four of the top six are members and in Moto2™ both Morbidelli and Baldassarri are continuing to pressure the established order. The program is quickly growing with Yamaha announcing themselves as an official partner, looking to bring riders over from Asia to join the training program.

Now it’s time to take a lap of the famous Ranch.