Franco embraces his roots – and Rossi


My idol: Franco Morbidelli (left) owes his rise in motoracing to MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi (right).

PETALING JAYA: Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team rider Franco Morbidelli proudly celebrated his first podium finish in MotoGP – but did not lose sight of his humble beginnings.

The Italian immediately sought out his friend, mentor and probable future Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi and embraced him after the prize-giving at the Czech GP in Brno at the weekend.

The nine-time world champion, also from Italy, was the man who nurtured the Morbidelli’s rise through the ranks in his VR46 Academy.

“I’m here mostly because of him, because he believed in me when I was a nobody, ” said Morbidelli.

“I know it’s strange because we race against each other, but when the race is over, he is a great friend, he is like an uncle or big brother. “After the race, I just wanted to hug him and the academy riders. It was a great moment, ” said Morbidelli.

It was not the race win he was hoping for as he led from the start. He was reeled in by KTM rider Brad Binder of South Africa with nine laps to go. Morbidelli, however, said he could not be disappointed.

“I am very happy about this podium.

“The first part of the race I just tried to get my rhythm and manage the tyre as best as I could, so I did the maximum but after 10 laps I was already struggling with the tyres and then five laps from the end, I had another drop.

“I was just trying to bring the machine home and get this first podium to bring some joy to me, my team and people.”

“Last year was a difficult year for me because I thought I’d be stronger than what I showed.

“Instead, teammate Fabio (Quartararo) was really good and really strong, so I said to myself at the end of the year that I didn’t want to keep going along that path and have that situation again.

“I started to work more, work better and be more serious. I tried to be more professional and I have already seen the results in the tests. I was faster than last year.”

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