Who Is The Greatest Motorcycle Racer of All Time? Valentino Rossi States His Case In the Twillight of His Career
Everyone who loves motorcycle racing can come up with a name when the “who is the greatest motorcycle racer of all time” argument pops up at happy hour.
When it comes to being one of the most successful, there’s no doubt 32-year-old legend Valentino Rossi of Italy belongs on the list.
Rossi, who hails from Urbino, Italy learned how to race at an early age and was influenced greatly by his father Graziano, who was also a Grand Prix winner. He started out on go-karts before progressing to mini-motos. It didn’t take long for his legend to grow he got used to riding on just two wheels as he was a regional sport champion by the time he was 13 years old.
He was a quick study and won the 1994 Italian Sport Production Championship as a junior road racer and followed it up the next year with his country’s 125cc championship and a third-place finish in the European Championship.
The young Italian debuted in the World Championship in 1996 at the Malaysian Grand Prix. He finished the year with one win and placed ninth in the standings. He became the youngest rider to capture a 125cc world title by winning 11 races in 1997 with Aprilia when he was just 16 years old. Rossi moved to the 250cc class in 1998, coming in second for the season and then taking the championship with Aprilia again in 1999 when he was 19 years old.
Rossi changed directions in 2000 and joined up with Honda to race in the premier 500cc class. He placed second in his first year in the competition and won the title the next season. The wins made him the youngest champion ever in all three MotoGP classes. He took the world title again in 2002 and 03 on a Honda RC211V and then took two more titles in 2004 and 05 with Yamaha, riding an M1.
His move to Yamaha back in 2004 allowed him to become the first racer in history to win consecutive bike races with different manufacturers. He did this by winning the final event in 2003 with Honda and the first in 2004 on his Yamaha. He won nine of 16 races in 2004, becoming Yamaha’s first champion in 12 years. He was just as dominant in 2005 by taking 11 races and five pole positions. He reached the pinnacle of the sport and only missed the podium once all season. His 2005 title meant he was one of just five racers to capture the premier-class championship five times. Yamaha also won the team and manufacturers’ titles that year.
Rossi’s title-winning streak was broken in 2006 when American Nicky Hayden of Honda took the title on the last day of the season in Valencia, Spain. Rossi entered the race with a slim lead in the standings, but crashed during the fifth lap of final event. He ended up five points behind Hayden for the season, finishing second place for just the second time during his premier-class racing career. However, he ended the season with five wins and pole positions, which were tops in the competition and finished on the podium 10 times.
He finished a career-low third place in 2007 when Ducati’s Casey Stoner of Australia claimed the title. No one was betting against him to come back. Sure enough, he did bounce back in 2008 after changing to Bridgestone tires and reclaimed his title. He defended it in 2009, with his biggest challenge coming from Spanish teammate Jorge Lorenzo.
Rossi suffered a broken leg in 2010 during a practice run in Mugello and missed several races. When he returned to action Lorenzo had a sizeable lead which he couldn’t make up and Rossi placed third on the season behind his teammate and Stoner. Rossi surprised a lot of people after the 2010 season by leaving Yamaha to join Stoner at Ducati.
Rossi has been as smooth as his name and has been the most dominating racer in the modern motorcycle era by winning nine titles in all classes, matching Carlo Ubialli and Mike Hailwood, but he’s still six short of Giacomo Agostini’s record of 15. However, Rossi beat Agostini’s record of premier-class race wins of 68 back in 2008, but is still behind his fellow countryman’s mark of 122 overall wins.
In 2009, Rossi stood on the podium for the 160th time in all classes to set a new record and is the only rider to have reached the podium over 100 times in the premier-class. He’s the only man to have won at least one GP race in 14 straight seasons. He became the second rider ever to win the 125, 250, and 500cc crowns in 2001.
Rossi’s record of 14 straight years with a win is in jeopardy so far in 2011 as his best finish has been third after 11 races.
Current 2011 MotoGP Standings
|17||Randy DE PUNIET||Ducati||FRA||19|
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