After his retirement was announced yesterday, we have decided to recap the long and very successful career of The Doctor, Valentino Rossi.
Rossi was born in Urbino, Italy in 1979. He was the son of Graziano and Stefania Rossi. Graziano himself was already an accomplished motorbike racer, having come third in the 1979 250cc championship, and finishing runner up in the 1980 500cc Dutch TT. Despite Graziano’s success, nobody was prepared for Valentino’s talent.
At a very young age, Rossi got into karting, mostly due to his mother’s fear for his safety on a bike. He proved to be very handy on four wheels too, taking out the 1990 Italian kart championship. That was the end of his karting career though, and he took up minimoto racing in 1991, winning a few races.
In 1992 and 1993, Rossi continued to hone his craft in minimoto. This caught the attention of Paolo Pileri, who put him on a 125cc bike for the Italian Production championship. His first season was fairly average, but he did score a pole at the season finale at Misano.
1994 was much better for Rossi though, he dominated and took the title easily, backing it up in 1995 too. For 1996, he moved to the 125cc international championship. Much like in the Italian championship, his first season was modest, though he did win the Czech Grand Prix in Brno. He ended the season 9th with 111 points.
Then came 1997, and the Rossi we all know and love came to play. He won the season-opening Malaysian Grand Prix after taking pole, with the fastest lap in the race too. He retired from the Japanese Grand Prix, but won in Spain, kicking off a 12-race podium streak. Ten of those were wins, and he took the title by almost 100 points. It was in 1997 too where his famous celebration antics began to garner him a fanbase.
In 1998 he moved up to the 250cc championship and finished second, only 23 points behind Loris Capirossi, with whom he had a rivalry throughout his early career. Rossi made a habit of falling during the season but righted his wrongs in 1999 to take the title by 48 points.
These performances netted him a ride for Honda in the premier class for the first season of the new millennium. His start in the top tier was a double retirement, followed by 11th place. Rossi managed to pick up some podiums in the early part of the year, but he got into the swing of things at the British Grand Prix, winning it and taking another victory to end the season second in the title.
He stayed with Honda in 2001, and comfortably took his first premier class title. Winning 11 of the 16 races, Rossi was over 100 points clear of his nearest challenger in the title, scoring 325 points to Max Biaggi’s 219.
In 2002, the premier class had a name change, going from 500cc to MotoGP. The bikes changed too, from two to four-stroke, but Rossi’s domination did not. Again, winning 11 races including 7 in a row, Rossi won the title by 140 points. He backed it up in 2003, winning 9 of the 16 races, and not finishing lower than third. Every race he finished from the 2001 Pacific Grand Prix to the 2004 South African Grand Prix was on the podium, and he only crashed out of the 2002 Czech Grand Prix.
For 2004, Rossi wanted a different challenge and moved to Yamaha. Many people thought this to be a bad career choice, but his nine wins over the season begged to differ. He won premier class title number four and joined a select group of riders to do it on two manufacturers. He won in 2005 too, with a whopping 367 points out of 425 possible.
Rossi was beaten to the title for the first time since 2000 in 2006. He was out of the race one too many times, setting up a dream title for the late Nicky Hayden, who won it by just 5 points from Rossi. 2007 was an even worse year for The Doctor, finishing 3rd behind Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa.
Rossi got back to his winning ways in 2008 though. Still, with Yamaha, he won nine races and took the title by 93 points from Stoner. His only blip in the season was 11th place in the Netherlands, but he was on the podium for every other race except the season opener. He took the 2009 title too, this time much more hard-fought, with the gap to Jorge Lorenzo only being 45 points in the end.
2010 started off well, but then at the Italian Grand Prix, he had a crash and was out for the next four rounds. That was his championship over, but he fought back to third in the title, only a few points off second-placed Pedrosa.
After seven years with Yamaha, Rossi wanted a new challenge, and he signed with Ducati for two years. Those years were very unsuccessful, with the Italian not taking a single victory with the team. His best finish was second in the French and San Marino Grands Prix of 2012, with sixth in the title all he could muster.
This meant Rossi went back to Yamaha for 2013, where he would stay for the rest of his career. He won the Dutch Grand Prix that year but generally could not compete with the new talent which was Marc Marquez. The two got close on occasion during their on-track rivalry, but Rossi could not topple him in the title. He got awfully close to taking an eighth world championship in 2015, only being five points behind Lorenzo, but it was not to be.
After being on a downhill slope since 2016, Rossi announced ahead of the Styrian Grand Prix that he would retire from MotoGP. 89 wins and 199 podiums are only the numbers, but Rossi’s time in MotoGP will be remembered not just for his success, but his post-race antics, and fierce rivalries with riders on track.