Jerez de la Frontera (Spain) (AFP)
Valentino Rossi had plenty of reasons to smile in Spain on Sunday as his third place in Andalusia MotoGP capped a day where his academy graduates also stepped onto the podium, though their celebrations could benefit from being less awkward.
Rossi, 41, helped Yamaha to the podium in the second race of the season behind Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Vinales.
It was the first post-race champagne tasting by a seven-time elite world champion since Australia last year.
However, the Italian veteran had just as much fun watching Luca Marini – his half-brother – and Marco Bezzechi finish second and third in Moto 2.
In Moto 3, another Celestino Vietti graduate finished third.
All three drivers race for Rossi’s own team – Sky Racing VR46 in the two-start series.
“I’m so proud of my guys because we have a great relationship. They never give up and being with them makes me less old, or let’s say, younger, ”Rossi said.
However, 18-year-old Vietti has to work on his podium skills.
While trying to uncork his bottle of champagne, he cut his hand and needed 20 stitches.
“It’s a disaster,” Rossi lamented.
Marini, 22, and Bezzechi, 21, also caused Rossi to lose a heartbeat or two despite their second and third places.
After congratulating each other on crossing the finish line, they lost their focus and both ended up in the gravel.
“When I saw my two bikes in the gravel, I was like ‘this can’t happen’,” explained Rossi.
“I saw my brother afterwards at the park-farm and I said ‘no more nonsense, that’s enough’. ”
Rossi also enjoyed a flamboyant celebration of his first place on the podium since April 2019.
He climbed over a barrier and hit the air in a victory dance in front of a completely empty grandstand due to COVID-19 restrictions.
On a normal racing day, Jerez would be packed with 125,000 fans.
It was “almost like a win,” Rossi said. “It’s for everyone who had to stay at home. “
© 2020 AFP