Sporting Legends: Valentino Rossi

The first instalment of the Sporting Legends series...

Valentino Compilation to 'Valentino' by Diane Birch
Valentino Rossi was born on 16th February 1979, in Urbino, in Italy. Rossi's father, Graziano Rossi, also had a career in Grand Prix motorcycle racing from 1978 until 1982, and encouraged his son to become involved in the sport of motorbike racing.
Valentino raced his first motorcycle race in 1993 at the age of 14, on-board a Cagiva Mito 125, and finished ninth. He claimed his first pole-position and podium finish during the last race of the 1993 Italian Sport Production Championship season at Misano in San Marino, and he won the Italian title a year later.
In 1996, Rossi entered the 125cc World Championship with Aprilia. He won his first World Championship race in August 1996 at Brno, in the Czech Republic, and he finished the 1996 season ninth in the Championship. However, Valentino dominated the 125cc Championship in 1997, winning 11 of the 15 races. In total, Rossi accumulated a total of 321 points on his way to winning the Championship.
A year after winning the 125cc Championship, Rossi moved-up a class into the 250cc category. He rode upon an Aprilia RS250 for the Nastro Azzurro team, and finished second in his first season in the 250cc category, three points behind his team-mate, Loris Capirossi. It didn't take long for Rossi to become the 250cc World Champion though as he won the title the following year, in 1999.
Then in the year 2000, Valentino moved to a different class and a different team. Rossi moved up to the 500cc class and switched from Aprilia to ride a Honda NSR500. During his first season with Honda, Rossi rode in sixteen races, winning two, and recording ten podium finishes. 'The Doctor' finished second in his first 500cc Championship season with 209 points, only being beaten by Kenny Roberts Jr.
The year 2001 was the final year of the 500cc class, as in 2002, the 990cc Moto GP class was introduced. However, Rossi dominated the season winning eleven of the sixteen races, on his way to collecting a total of 325 points.
So in 2002, Rossi rode for Repsol Honda in Moto GP. Unlike many of his rivals, Valentino adapted to the new Moto GP machines very quickly, and he roared to victory in eight of the first nine races of the season. In the seven remaining races, Rossi was victorious three times, and by the end of the season, he had compiled a formidable total of 355 points, giving him his fourth World Title.
During 2003, Rossi continued to ride for Honda as he claimed his third consecutive World Championship. The 26 year-old Italian won nine races and achieved the same number of pole positions on his way to amassing 357 points. Many of his fans feel that the 2003 Australian GP was the best race of 'The Doctor's' illustrious career as he over-turned a ten-second penalty by winning the race by a fifteen second margin.
After the 2003 season had finished, Rossi completed a shock move to Yamaha. The Japanese based team seemed to be less competitive than its rivals, but (with the help of crew chief Jeremy Burgess) Rossi was sure that his YZR-M1 could be a force in the 2004 Moto GP Championship. The season started well for Rossi (and Yamaha) as he powered to victory by two-tenths of a second over fellow Italian, Max Biaggi, at Welkom, South Africa. Valentino followed this up by winning a further eight races that year, on his way to being named World Champion for the fourth successive season, his sixth Championship in total.
Rossi started the 2005 season as he started the 2004 season, by winning the first race. Rossi won the first race (at Jerez, Spain) with over eight seconds separating him and second-place finisher, Sete Gibernau. In total, during the season, Rossi was victorious in eleven races, second in three races, third in two races, but he did retire once, during the Japanese GP. This tally of results resulted in Rossi winning the Championship by 147 points over nearest rival, Marco Melandri.
However, Rossi's title-winning streak was ended by Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden. The Championship was decided during the last race of the season, in Valencia. Rossi crashed early but managed to get back onto his Yamaha. However, with Hayden finishing in third position, Rossi's three points were not enough to beat 'the Kentucky Kid' to the title.
The situation did not improve for Valentino Rossi in 2007, which was the first year that 800cc machines were used. Casey Stoner and Ducati dominated the season, with the Australian winning ten of the eighteen races, and claiming his first World Title with a 125 point gap back to second-placed Dani Pedrosa, who pushed Rossi into third by just one point.
During the 2009 season, Rossi's team-mate (Jorge Lorenzo) put pressure on 'The Doctor'. When the Championship reached the sixth round in Catalunya, Lorenzo held a five-point advantage over Rossi, but Valentino masterfully overtook his less experienced team-mate at the final corner of the Catalunyan GP. This race changed the momentum of the Championship, and a round later (at Assen), Rossi recorded his 100th Grand Prix victory. In the end, the Italian won his ninth World Championship with considerable ease, due to the fact that Lorenzo failed to finish four of the eighteen races.
Things also looked promising for Rossi early in the 2010 season. He won the first race in Qatar, and after three rounds, was nine-points behind Lorenzo. However, during qualifying at one of his home races (Mugello in this case) Rossi had a 120mph crash, and fractured his right tibia. He returned at the German GP, but has not seemed too competitive since his return.
There has been some big drama since his return though, as after the Czech GP, the Italian confirmed he would be riding for the Italian manufacturer, Ducati, in 2011.
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