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Valentino Rossi

Rossi.jpg
Valentino Rossi
Caption Valentino Rossi's show after a victory
Nationality 3dflagsdotcom italy2bs.gif Italy
Nicknames Rossifumi, Valentinik, The Doctor
Bike number 46
Current team Camel Yamaha Team
Championships 7 (1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005)
Race Starts 159
Race Wins 80
Podiums 118
Poles 41
Fastest laps 65
Points 2886
Last season 2006
Last position 4th (27 pts)

Valentino Rossi (born February 16, 1979, Urbino, Marche) is an Italian professional motorcycle racer and multiple MotoGP World Champion.

Following his father, Graziano Rossi, Rossi started racing in Grand Prix in 1996 for Aprilia in the 125cc category and won his first World Championship the following year. From there, he moved up to the 250cc category, again with Aprilia, and won the World Championship in 1999. He won the 500cc World Championship with Honda in 2001, the MotoGP World Championships (also with Honda) in 2002 and 2003, and continued his streak of back-to-back championships by winning the 2004 and 2005 MotoGP World Championship after leaving Honda to join Yamaha.

He is the reigning World Champion and won his seventh World Championship (5th consecutive) in the 2005 MotoGP series. At the end of the 2004 season, Valentino Rossi holds 68 Grand Prix victories which makes him the most successful rider of the Grand Prix series, surpassing legendary rider Giacomo Agostini by a single second place. Rossi clinches 68 first, 21 second and 12 third places; Agostini at the same time clinched 68 first, 20 second and no third places.

The early years

Valentino Rossi grew up surrounded by racing. Son of Graziano Rossi, a former motorcycle racer, he first jumped on a bike at the age of two, and his astounding career progressed in leaps and bounds.

Rossi's first racing love was actually go-karts. Fuelled by Rossi's mother, Stefania's, concern for her son's safety, Graziano purchased a go-kart as substitute for the bike. However, the Rossi family trait of perpetually wanting to go faster prompted a redesign; Graziano replaced the 60cc motor with a 100cc national kart motor for his then-5-year-old son.

Although Valentino showed interest in such things as his guitar and playing football, his interest in school and study waned. Shrugging off his mother's attempt to get him to attend soccer school, he found more interest in the gravel pits and various motorcycle GPs.

Graziano attempted to forge documents in an attempt to get Valentino's junior kart licence one year before he was legally allowed (he was 9 at the time), but ultimately failed.

Valentino won the regional kart championship in 1990. But before they had finished engraving his name on the trophy, a new craze had taken over. The minimoto had now become his weapon of choice, and before the end of 1991, he had won 16 regional races.

Although minimoto was for fun, he continued to race karts and finished fifth at the national kart championships in Parma. Both Valentino and Graziano had started looking at moving him into the Italian 100cc series as well as the corresponding European series, which most likely would have pushed him into the direction of Formula 1. However, the high financial burden of racing karts led to the decision to race minimoto exclusively. Through 1992 and 1993, Valentino continued to learn the ins and outs of minimoto racing, steadily racking up win after win.

The move to motorcycles

With Valentino growing both in size and talent, it became abundantly clear that a proper motorcycle was required to further his progress. In 1993, Rossi acquired a Cagiva Mito 125cc motorcycle, which was damaged in a first-corner crash no more than a hundred meters out from pit lane.

The bike was repaired, giving Rossi an opportunity to correct his first-corner mistake, only to crash it going into the second corner. It was an amusing yet trying moment for Rossi, who was trying to decide whether motorcycles were really for him.

Vale ended up finishing ninth that race weekend. Although his first season in the Italian Sport Production Championship was varied, he consistently improved his skills, leading to a pole position at the season's final race in Misano, where he ultimately would finish on the podium. By the second year, Rossi had been provided a factory Mito by Cagiva team manager Claudio Lusuardi and cruised to the Italian title.

The World Championship era

In 1994, Aprilia by way of Sandroni had found a new young talent in Valentino Rossi and proceeded to use him to improve its RS125R and in turn allowed Vale to learn how to handle the fast new pace of 125cc racing. At first he found himself on a Sandroni in the 1994 Italian championship and continued to ride it through the 1995 European and Italian championships.

Rossi had little success in the 1996 World Championship season, collecting more crashes than anything else, failing to finish five of the season's races. In August, he won his first World Championship Grand Prix at Brno in the Czech Republic on an AGV Aprilia RS125R. By the end of the season, he was in ninth position, plagued with somewhat inconsistent performances, yet showing stunning speed at times. Rossi treated it as a learning process and refined his skills enough to comfortably wrap up the 125cc World Championship in the following 1997 season, winning 11 of the 15 races.

By 1998, the Aprilia RS250 was reaching its pinnacle and had a formidable team of riders in Valentino Rossi, Loris Capirossi and Tetsuya Harada. But even with a fast bike and experienced championship-winning teammates, Rossi struggled in his first season in 250cc. Rossi considered 1998 the toughest year of his career, due to the persistent pressure to perform that he felt from Aprilia, the media and effectively everyone around him. The death of two of his friends in a car accident also took a toll. Again, he found himself learning the ways of his new bike in the first season, concluding the 1998 250cc season in second place, only three points behind the champion Loris Capirossi. In 1999, however, he won the title, collecting 5 pole positions and 9 Grand Prix wins along the way.

Rossi was rewarded in 2000 for his 250cc World Championship by being given a ride with Honda in what was then the ultimate class in World Championship motorcycle racing, 500cc. Jeremy Burgess, part of Honda Racing's brains trust, had shown him the NSR500 and was convinced that the pairing of it with Rossi would bring nothing but success. It would also be the first time Rossi would be racing against fierce rival, Max Biaggi. Although the two had never raced against each other, an intense rivalry had developed due to Rossi's arrogant yet loveable nature and Biaggi's proud, king-of-the-hill persona. The media naturally escalated things, printing any juicy gossip they heard, be it alleged or real. Rossi proceeded to showcase the NSR500's strengths, constantly using his analytical mind to refine it even further. It would take nine races before Rossi would win on the Honda, but like his previous seasons in 125 and 250, it was inevitable that 2000 would be a warm-up to a dominant second season. Vale finished 2nd to American Kenny Roberts Jr, with Max Biaggi finishing in 3rd place.

Rossi stormed home to an overwhelming World Championship in 2001, winning 11 races, including the first three and the final four of the season. It would be the final 500cc season not just for Rossi but for everyone.

Also in 2001, Rossi teamed with American rider Colin Edwards for the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race aboard a Honda VTR1000SPW. The pair won the race despite Rossi's "lack" of experience racing Superbikes.

MotoGP

2001 had turned out to be the swansong for the 500cc World Championship; the 500cc giving way to the newly created MotoGP class. The two-stroke 500cc were rapidly being replaced by four-stroke 989cc engines, allowing the factories to provide their riders with staggeringly fast motorbikes. Honda outfitted their factory riders with the RC211V, a liquid-cooled V5 four-stroke with traditionally odd aerodynamic aesthetics but phenomenal speed.

2002 was the inaugural year for the MotoGP bikes and with all riders experiencing the same teething problems getting used to the new bikes (or dealing with the inferior 500cc bikes), it was all Rossi needed to grasp the Championship with two hands from the very first race and never let go of it. Rossi won an astounding 8 of the first 9 races of the season, eventually claiming 11 victories in total.

It was more of the same in 2003 for Rossi's rivals; Rossi claimed 9 pole positions as well as 9 GP wins to his third consecutive World Championship. The Australian GP at Phillip Island in 2003 is considered to be one of Rossi's greatest career moments due to the unique circumstances in which he claimed victory. After being given a 10-second penalty for overtaking during a yellow flag due to a crash by Ducati rider Troy Bayliss, 1st-place Rossi proceeded to pull away from the rest of the field, eventually finishing more than 15 seconds ahead; more than enough to cancel out the penalty and win the race.

From Honda to Yamaha

There was much speculation during the second half of the 2003 season about Rossi's plans for the future. Most suspected that he would succeed in his bid to claim a third consecutive title and wondered where the amazingly talented Italian would go in the future. There were even rumors that he would attempt a career in rally cars after he had competed in a Peugeot 206 WRC rally car at the 2002 Rally of Great Britain (although he crashed the car into a tree). His contract with Honda was up at the end of the year and there were rumors that Rossi had become somewhat disillusioned with his ride at Honda. His tenure at Honda had effectively run its course; he had provided Honda with a 500cc World Championship as well as consecutive MotoGP World Championships, he had helped perfect the RC211V into a formidable, almost unstoppable racing machine and considering Honda's reluctance to pay top dollar to secure his services in 2004, seemed to have overstayed his welcome. To Honda's credit, they offered him a significant and lucrative contract but ultimately it wasn't enough to keep Rossi where he felt he no longer belonged. Partnered with increased skepticism that the reason for his success was the dominance of the RC211V rather than Rossi's talent, it was inevitable that Honda and Rossi would part. Mid-season rumors pointed towards a possible move to Ducati, which sent the Italian press into a frenzy; the concept of the great Italian on the great Italian bike seemed too good to be true. Ducati did indeed try to seduce Rossi into riding their MotoGP bike, the Desmosedici, but for numerous reasons Rossi passed the offer up. Critics say that compared to the other manufacturers, Ducati had a significant way to go before being competitive even with Rossi at the helm. This proved to be the truth with Ducati's lacklustre performance in the 2004 season, which had actually been worse than their inaugural year in MotoGP in 2003.

Ultimately, Rossi signed a two-year contract with rivals Yamaha reportedly worth in excess of USD$12 million; a price no other manufacturer, even Honda, was willing to pay.

Rossi's move to Yamaha would be a baptism of fire. His fiercest critics claimed that on an inferior machine (the Yamaha YZR-M1), Rossi would not be able to recreate his World Championship wins of the previous years, especially with increased development of the RC211V and the likes of Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau on Hondas. The RC211V was a superior machine in almost every aspect although it was guaranteed that the gap would shrink with the defection of Rossi and Jeremy Burgess (chief mechanic for Rossi at Honda, whom Rossi had also convinced to join). The 2004 season would give Rossi the ability to show everyone, especially his critics what he was made of and provide him with an opportunity to prove that it was his talent rather than his bike that won him his championships.

With the traditional first race of the season at Suzuka off the list due to safety considerations, the 2004 season started at Welkom in South Africa. Rossi shone through to claim first blood in his new team colors and somewhat silenced some of his critics who thought the Yamaha would still play second fiddle to the Honda. Rossi would go on to claim 8 more GP wins during the season, battling Sete Gibernau ferociously until Rossi eventually closed the door on Sete's hopes in the penultimate race of the season at Phillip Island. Gibernau and Rossi had become bickering enemies during the course of the season; whereas in previous seasons they had been competitive but friendly rivals, various disputes arose during 2004 which led to their falling apart. Rossi would continue to rub salt into the wound for both Gibernau and Honda by winning the ultimate race of the season at Valencia. It was a painful blow to both Gibernau and Honda; Gibernau, so close to a World Championship, and Honda, starting to become aware of what they had let go. Valentino Rossi ended up with 304 points to Gibernau's 257, with Max Biaggi 3rd with 217 points.

Intense rivalries

Earlier in his career Max Biaggi was, for all intents and purposes, considered Rossi's arch-nemesis. At one time his website didn't even have Max's name; instead a glaring "XXX XXXXXX" was placed wherever his name should have appeared. Although they hadn't even raced against each other until 2000, the rivalry between the two had been growing since the mid-90s. Rossi has always considered himself a better rider than Max Biaggi and the Roman has always considered himself far superior to the clown prince. The rivalry has started to die down over recent years due to Vale's consecutive World Championships and Biaggi's struggle to find support and a consistent rhythm with his races. Biaggi looked to improve on recent results with a ride with Honda's factory team in 2005. However, he was off the team and unemployed once the 2006 season rolled around.

For a few months, Rossi's main rival was Sete Gibernau. Although it started out innocently enough as fellow riders who respected each other's talents competing for the same championship, Gibernau and Rossi turned their backs on each other at the 2004 Qatar Grand Prix where Rossi's team was penalized for laying down rubber on his grid position to aid in traction along with other teams and was subsequently forced to start from the back of the grid. Rossi accused Gibernau of reporting the incident, and since then the two have rarely spoken to each other, refusing to make eye contact or mention each other in comments unless absolutely necessary. This rivalry apparently reached a new level in the first round of the 2005 MotoGP World Championship at Jerez where a final-corner collision resulted in a Rossi win and Sete claiming second after a run out onto the gravel. Gibernau was visibly displeased, making hand gestures on his way across the finish line along with clearly unhappy body language, spitting water in Rossi's direction during post-race celebrations and a terse response in the post-race press conference. Rossi offered a handshake to Sete which he accepted. Rossi said in the post-race press conference that he understood that Sete was angry but that at the end of the day, "these are the races." Gibernau remained visibly angry, explaining that he simply wanted to move on to the next race and not get caught up in the feud. As a comparison, a very similar incident occurred at the Qatar GP of 2004 when Rossi collided with Alex Barros when Rossi attempted to outbrake the Brazilian into the first corner, after colliding with Barros he instantly raised his hand in apology.

Nicknames

Valentino Rossi has had numerous nicknames during his racing career. His first prominent nickname was "Rossifumi." Rossi explained the etymology of this nickname as a reference and tribute to fellow rider Norifumi Abe.

His next nickname appeared some time around his days racing in the 250cc World Championship. The nickname "Valentinik" was a reference to the Italian Donald Duck superhero, "Paperinik."

Since his dominance in 500cc and MotoGP, Rossi has used the nickname "The Doctor." This has been attributed to his "cold and clinical dismantling of his opponents" as well as his cool and calm composure in racing compared to his frenetic days in 125cc and 250cc where his performance was erratic and dangerous, resulting in numerous crashes. There are two theories as to why Rossi is entitled "The Doctor", one is Rossi adopted the nickname upon having earned a degree, which in Italy entitles one to use the title "Doctor". Another, as spoken by Graziano himself, "The Doctor because, I don't think there is a particular reason, but it's beautiful, and is important, The Doctor. And in Italy, The Doctor is a name you give to someone for respect, it's very important, The Doctor... important". Although Valentino often jokes that the name arrived because in Italy, Rossi is a very common surname for Doctors. These days Rossi rarely crashes and in fact holds the record for the longest streak of consecutive podiums. From September 8 2002 to April 18 2004, he stood on the podium at the end of all 23 races including every race in 2003.

He is famous for using the number 46 only, the racing number of his father, Graziano. Typically, a World Championship winner (and also runner-up and third place) is awarded the #1 sticker for the next season. However in an homage to Barry Sheene (who was the first rider of the modern era to keep the same number), Rossi has stayed with the now-famous #46 throughout his career. The text on his helmet refers to the name of his group of friends: "The Chihuahua Tribe", and the letters WLF on his leathers stand for "Viva La Figa" or Long Live Pussy. He traditionally also incorporates his favorite color (fluorescent yellow) into his leather designs. Rossi wears the #1 reserved for the reigning World Champion on the shoulder of his racing leathers.

Rossi now lives in Knightsbridge, London, England.

Plans for the future

Rossi has signed a contract with Yamaha to continue racing the premier class through the 2006 season. Rumors abound speculating Rossi will switch from two wheels to four wheels some time in the next few years. These rumors continue to gain momentum following his recent test of the Ferrari Formula One racecar [1], his second test of the car to date. Times from the test at the private circuit in Fiorano, Italy had Rossi approximately 3 seconds back of Michael Schumacher's outright lap record.

Rossi tested the Ferrari in 2006 on January 31, February 1, and February 2 at Valencia. The first day saw Rossi spin out on the damp track into the gravel trap ending his day. On the second day, he posted the ninth fastest time of fifteen drivers, approximately one second behind Schumacher, who himself was third fastest. Rossi lapped faster than seasoned drivers Mark Webber, David Coulthard and Jarno Trulli [2]. On the final day of testing, Rossi was a half second behind Schumacher's best time [3]. Schumacher hailed Rossi as having immense talent and said he's perfectly capable of moving to Formula One and being competitive immediately.

There are rumors that Ferrari has given Rossi a six month period until mid-2006 to decide if he wants to pick-up Formula One racing. He is confirmed to have more frequent testing opportunities throughout 2006. If Rossi makes the switch to four wheels and should win the World Championship, he would be the second man in history to accomplish the feat behind British racer John Surtees.

Rossi has also expressed a strong passion for rallying, and plans to race a factory Subaru Impreza car in the Rally of Monza in November 2005, the first of three events planned for the European winter. Rossi has often spoken of his love for rallying, leading some to speculate a future move to the World Rally Championship rather than Formula One.

Grand Prix motorcycle racing career

By Seasons

Seas Class Moto Race Win Pod Pole FLap Pts Plcd WCh
1996 125cc Aprilia RS125R 15 1 2 1 2 111 9th 0
1997 125cc Aprilia RS125R 15 11 13 4 7 321 1st 1
1998 250cc Aprilia RS250 14 5 9 0 3 201 2nd 0
1999 250cc Aprilia RS250 16 9 12 5 8 309 1st 1
2000 500cc Honda NSR500 16 2 10 0 5 209 2nd 0
2001 500cc Honda NSR500 16 11 13 5 9 325 1st 1
2002 MotoGP Honda RC211V 16 11 7 355 1st 1
2003 MotoGP Honda RC211V 16 9 9 357 1st 1
2004 MotoGP Yamaha YZR-M1 16 9 5 304 1st 1
2005 MotoGP Yamaha YZR-M1 17 11 5 367 1st 1
2006 MotoGP Yamaha 3 1 1 0 40 5th
Total 159 80 118 41 65 2886 7

By engine displacements

Class Seas 1st GP 1st Pod 1st Win Race Win Pod Pole FLap Pts WCh
125cc 1996-1997 1996 Malaysia 1996 Austria 1996 Czech Rep. 30 12 15 5 9 432 1
250cc 1998-1999 1998 Japan 1998 Spain 1998 Dutch 30 14 21 5 11 510 1
500cc 2000-2001 2000 South Af. 2000 Spain 2000 British 32 13 23 5 14 534 1
MotoGP 2002-2006 2002 Japan 2002 Japan 2002 Japan 67 41 59 26 31 1410 4
Total 1996-2006 159 80 118 41 65 2886 7

Races by year

Yr Class Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Team
1996 125cc Aprilia MAL
6
IND
11
JAP
11
SPA
4
ITA
4
FRA
ret
DUT
ret
GER
5
BRI
ret
AUT
3
CZE
1
IMO
5
CAT
ret
BRA
ret
AUS
14
    Aprilia
1997 125cc Aprilia MAL
1
JAP
ret
SPA
1
ITA
1
AUT
2
FRA
1
DUT
1
SMR
1
GER
1
BRA
1
BRI
1
CZE
3
CAT
1
IND
1
AUS
6
    Aprilia
1998 250cc Aprilia JAP
ret
MAL
ret
SPA
2
ITA
2
FRA
2
MAD
ret
DUT
1
BRI
ret
GER
3
CZE
ret
SMR
1
CAT
1
AUS
1
ARG
1
      Aprilia
1999 250cc Aprilia MAL
5
JAP
7
SPA
1
FRA
ret
ITA
1
CAT
1
DUT
2
BRI
1
GER
1
CZE
1
SMR
2
VAL
8
AUS
1
SAF
1
BRA
1
ARG
3
  Aprilia
2000 500cc Honda SAF
ret
MAL
ret
JAP
11
SPA
3
FRA
3
ITA
12
CAT
3
DUT
6
BRI
1
GER
2
CZE
2
POR
3
VAL
ret
BRA
1
PAC
2
AUS
3
  Honda

External links