After another season of drama on the track, Valentino Rossi defended his MotoGP World Championship with one round to spare in Malaysia, but he will quite possibly mark the title win as one of his toughest yet. Under concerted pressure throughout from his team-mate Jorge Lorenzo as well as the constant threat of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, the man many believe to be the greatest motorcycle racer of all time once again rose above the rest to claim a ninth world crown (seventh in MotoGP).
Son of Graziano, celebrated rider of the seventies, the charismatic Rossi entered Grand Prix racing with Aprilia in 1996, winning 125cc races in his first season. He went on to win the 125 world title in 1997, and after a move up to 250s with the Italian brand, collected the quarter-litre title in 1999. He then made the leap to the 500cc class in 2000 with Honda, challenging for the title in his rookie year whilst picking up two victories and second in the championship.
He became only the second rider to win in all three GP classes when he won the last 500cc World Title in 2001 (as with his other titles, at the second attempt), and the following year he dominated once again in the first ever MotoGP four-stroke series onboard the Honda RC211V. He was just as untouchable in 2003, before accepting the biggest challenge of his career by leaving the Honda camp and taking a Yamaha ride for 2004.
His legend was sealed with the season that followed, on a bike which many believed would simply not be competitive enough. The historic year for Rossi began in the first race at Welkom, when he became the first rider ever to take consecutive victories for different factories, with a further eight wins sealing Yamaha’s first title in over a decade. He has kept on winning for the transformed Japanese manufacturer, with an additional thirty-five triumphs since his maiden World Championship for Yamaha.
In 2005 he achieved eleven wins on the road to the title, following which much speculation linked him with a move out of the sport. Rossi announced that he would stay with MotoGP and Yamaha for at least another year at Mugello in 2006, but was further spurred on to continue in the sport by World Championship wins for rivals Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner.
He bounced back last season with another nine wins and the crown yet again, signing up to the end of next season with Fiat Yamaha. Now after a seventh MotoGP crown, Rossi has his sights set on Giacomo Agostini’s record of eight premier class titles having already surpassed his record for all-time premier class victories.
If he were to match Ago in premier class titles he would challenge for the accolade of the greatest rider of all time. Another six wins in this year’s campaign and hints he may well continue beyond 2010 suggest that Rossi might just be able to do so.
Date of birth: 16/02/79 (29 years)
Place of birth: Urbino (Italy)
Some facts about Valentino Rossi’s achievement
• This is Rossi’s ninth world championship, which equals the number of world titles achieved by Mike Hailwood and Carlo Ubbiali. The only riders with more world titles are Giacomo Agostini with 15 and Angel Nieto with 13.
• Rossi has never missed a GP since making his debut in the 125cc class at Shah Alam in Malaysia in March 1996. Following the Malaysian Grand Prix he has started 226 successive GP races across all classes; 166 of which have been in the premier-class. Both of these are records.
• When he won the 500cc world title in 2001 he became only the third rider to win championships in three different classes, after Phil Read (125, 250 and 500) and Mike Hailwood (250, 350 and 500).
• Rossi and Giacomo Agostini are the only two riders to have won premier-class titles on both 2-stroke and 4-stroke machinery.
• His win at the 2004 season-opening GP in South Africa made him the first rider to take back-to-back premier-class victories on different makes of bike.
• In 2004 he became only the second rider to win back-to-back premier-class titles on different makes of machinery. Eddie Lawson was the first, winning on a Yamaha in 1988 and a Honda in 1989.
• Rossi is the only rider to have scored five successive premier-class victories on a Yamaha.
• His eleven wins in 2005 is the highest number of premier-class victories in a single season by a Yamaha rider.
• He is the only rider in history to have won five or more successive races on two different makes of bike.
• He holds the record for successive premier-class podiums, scoring 23 successive top-three results from the Portuguese GP in 2002 to the South Africa GP in 2004.
• Rossi had the honour of scoring the 500th victory for Honda when he won the Japanese 500cc GP in April 2001.
• He finished on the podium at all 16 races in 2003, a record for number of podiums in a single season which he equalled in 2005 and 2008.
• Rossi’s 373 points total in 2008 is the most points ever scored in a single season.
• He is the only rider to win the premier-class title on four different types of motorcycle: 500cc 2-stroke Honda, 990cc 4-stroke Honda, 990cc 4-stroke Yamaha, 800cc 4-stroke Yamaha.
• He is Yamaha’s most successful rider of all-time with 44 race victories on their bikes.
• His 77 race victories in the premier-class is more than any other rider in the 61-year history of Grand Prix racing.
• He is the only rider to have stood on the podium in the premier-class on more than 100 occasions.
• He has been on the podium 163 times across all classes, which is more than any other rider.
• Valentino Rossi is the only rider to have won at least one GP in 14 successive seasons.
First Grand Prix: RSA – 2000
First Pole Position: RSA – 2001
First Podium: SPA – 2000
First GP Victory: GBR – 2000
Grand Prix Starts: 226 (166 in MotoGP)
Grand Prix Victories: 103 (77 in MotoGP)
Podiums: 163 (127 in MotoGP)
Pole Positions: 58 (48 in MotoGP)
Race Fastest Laps: 83 (63 in MotoGP)
World Championship Wins: 9 (7 in MotoGP)