My one year as Rossi’s teammate: “We didn’t expect him to win, but he did”

When Valentino Rossi swapped Honda for Yamaha, he was leaving behind a bike that powered him to three consecutive championships for a team on a 12-year barren run.
Valentino Rossi (ITA), Yamaha Factory Racing Team, Yamaha M1, 46, 2007 MotoGP World Championship,
Round 7, Catalunya,
Valentino Rossi (ITA), Yamaha Factory Racing Team, Yamaha M1, 46, 2007…

It was a colossal risk but one that redefined MotoGP history. Honda dug their heels in, not allowing Rossi to test his new Yamaha bike until the latest possible opportunity before the 2004 season.

It didn’t matter. Rossi became the first rider since Eddie Lawson in the premier class to win consecutive championships on different bikes.

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Carlos Checa was his first teammate at Yamaha. It is a largely forgotten partnership, such is the length of Rossi’s tenure and the volatility he shared with other teammates, notably Jorge Lorenzo.

Checa, who came seventh in 2004 as his new teammate stormed to the title, admits he was stunned that Rossi took a Yamaha bike from obscurity to glory.

“We didn’t believe Valentino was capable of winning with Yamaha, and he did,” Checa told DAZN.

“For me it was also a lesson because I think we fell asleep for a bit when we found limits on the bike.

“Valentino arrived with energy at his best moment.”

Rossi is now synonymous with his time at Yamaha. The size of the risk he took, leaving Honda, is now perhaps overlooked.

Checa said: “I believe it was revenge for him: ‘Do you think I win because I have a Honda?’

“Yamaha had also worked a lot. He started a drastic change.”

Checa is now proud of the small role he held in Rossi’s long list of successes. As his teammate in the same garage for one year, Checa helped develop the bike that Rossi took to new heights.

My one year as Rossi’s teammate: “We didn’t expect him to win, but he did”

“We worked a lot with the bike, I think we did an incredible job with Yamaha, but the satisfaction is that the following year they made a new bike and had to return to the old one, which is the one that we left,” he said.

Rossi demanded a wall separated the Yamaha garage when Lorenzo was his teammate, but there were no such issues with Checa.

“He was very transparent, just like we see him,” the Spaniard recalls. 

“Very competitive. He had enormous skills and, above all, a mental management ability.

“He was a different guy who wanted to learn.

“I have an exceptional relationship with him. It was a great opportunity to share the garage, the experiences, the moments and the work with one of the best riders that has ever existed.”

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