Valentino Rossi - A Legend of MotoGP!
People who have never heard of MotoGP, have heard of Valentino Rossi. People started following the sport because of ‘The Doctor’, as he is adored by his fans.
Sports, like a community, are a sum of all its parts. All the elements taken together make something special. Individual elements when viewed in isolation are a little different from the ordinary.
Yet, there are exceptions. Once in a lifetime exceptions. Where the individual element is greater than the sum of all its parts. For motorcycle racing that individual is Valentino Rossi. We recount some of the grander aspects, as he announced his retirement from professional motorcycle racing in 2021. There are many things special about this superlative motorcycle racer, yet one transcends them all.
Rossi is bigger than the sport. A niche sport like motorcycle racing is never pitching to the masses. At no point in time do you expect an entire country to be following this sport? That is where his magic lies. People who have never heard of MotoGP, have heard of Valentino Rossi. People started following the sport because of ‘The Doctor’, as he is adored by his fans.
Even in the nondescript small towns of India, we often see scooters and motorcycles with the fluorescent yellow 46, proudly plastered on their machines. These youngsters rarely, if ever, follow the sport. But they do know the legend.
A Career-Spanning a Quarter Century…
Valentino Rossi’s illustrious career is well documented and his longevity is astounding. To put it in perspective. Rossi won his first World Championship in 1997, the same year that reigning MotoGP World Champion Joan Mir was born! Children who idolized him as they grew to love motorcycle racing, would go on to race the legend.
Few motorcycle racers have raced against such a wide range of competitors. Riders who came up through the ranks to challenge Rossi’s peak dominance, ironically retired before him. Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, were all considered the ‘next big thing’ in motorcycle racing. These are 3 of the most decorated motorcycle racers of all time and all retired before Rossi. Besides these three, Rossi has also raced another mercurial talent of the current generation, Marc Marquez. The racer who has been pencilled in to break all of Rossi’s old records accrued over the years.
Always in the News
Rossi’s charisma did not just exist on the saddle of his motorcycle. He was loved for his on-track and off-track antics in equal measure. Some of his post-race celebrations were loved, remembered and even imitated by his competitors and fans.
The Golden Boy of motorcycle racing at one point in time could do no wrong. His legions of followers who would paint the trackside stands yellow supported him through thick and thin. Even when Rossi suffered horrendous results while racing with Ducati, his fans stuck by him.
A testimony to his popularity is easily measured in today’s social media numbers. Valentino Rossi last won a world championship in 2009 onboard a Yamaha YZR-M1, yet he commands the greatest reach among his contemporaries. Rossi has 11.3 million followers on the popular social media platform, Instagram, equivalent to the numbers of the official MotoGP handle. The most dominant racer in recent times Marquez, has half that following, with 5.5 million. While reigning MotoGP Champion Joan Mir has a paltry 478k followers in comparison.
Contribution to the Sport
Though Rossi announced his retirement in 2021, he has long laid the groundwork for it. During his heyday, there was a lot of talent emanating from Italy. Italian youngsters could be seen racing at the pointy end of things in all classes. Post Rossi, there were few and far between Italians who showed promise of doing well at the top.
Giving back to the sport, Rossi set up an Italian training camp. Working with young riders to coach them not just on the bike, but off the bike as well. In 2014, he floated his Moto 3 team, with Italian youngsters Romano Fenati and Francesco Bagnaia. Later the team progressed to Moto 2. In 2021, the team has a single MotoGP rider in the form of Luca Marini. 2022 will see a full-fledged team in the premier class.
Many argue, that Rossi’s greatest contribution to the sport has been to revitalize motorcycle racing in Italy. Now there is a steady stream of young Italian talent, all the way from the CEV series to MotoGP. It is thanks to mostly one man.
After 26 Grand Prix seasons, the curtains fall on Valentino Rossi’s career. In which he has become the only rider in the world to have more than 400 GP starts, with 115 wins to his name and 199 GP podiums.
Rossi is also the only rider to have won championships in the 125, 250, 500 and MotoGP classes. Racking up 7 premier class championships and 9 Grand Prix championships. He is one of the few riders to have raced in the 500cc 2-stroke era, 990cc 4-stroke, 800cc and then finally in the current 1000cc 4-strokes.
Yet, these numbers don’t tell the full story of the man. The rider Valentino Rossi is and will continue to be a MotoGP legend in the hearts of every MotoGP fan. He will be missed sorely by his competitors and fans alike…