Valentino Rossi joined an exclusive list of motorcycling greats at Sepang on Sunday when he took his third consecutive premier-class championship, and his fifth ever world title, with victory number seven of the 2003 season.

Since the 500cc (later MotoGP) world championship began in 1949, only seven other men have taken three or more premier-class titles in a row - with just two of those having done so in the 'modern era' of the sport since 1980.

Those two men are Wayne Rainey and Mick Doohan. Rainey took the title for Yamaha in 1990, '91 and '92 before tragically suffering spinal injuries in an accident while in contention for his fourth world crown, against Kevin Schwantz, in 1993.

Doohan, after overcoming some gruesome injuries of his own, began his five-year run of dominance in 1994, and was firmly in contention for the 1999 crown before suffering a career-ending accident at Jerez.

What all three-times consecutive champions have in common is that they have, like Rainey and Doohan, taken their crowns on one make of machine. Rossi has done likewise, with all his premier-class championships coming for Honda.

However, should the Italian make the rumoured move to Yamaha (or anyone else) next season - and successfully defend his crown - he would not only be ranked alongside Mike Hailwood in terms of having four consecutive titles, but would be unique in history in having taken those titles with more than one marque.

Indeed, at present, only Eddie Lawson has taken consecutive titles (two) with different manufacturers: 'Steady Eddie' won the 1988 crown for Yamaha, then defended it the following season with Honda.

The full list of those who have achieved three or more consecutive premier-class crowns can be seen below:

Riders with most consecutive 500cc/MotoGP world championships:

1.Giacomo Agostini (7) - 1966, '67, '68, '69, '70, '71 and '72. MV Augusta
2.Mick Doohan (5) - 1994, '95, '96, '97 and '98. Honda
3.Mike Hailwood (4) - 1962, '63, '64 and '65. MV Augusta
=4.Geoff Duke (3) - 1953, '54 and '55. Gilera
=4. John Surtees (3) - 1958, '59 and '60. MV Augusta
=4.Kenny Roberts (3) - 1978, '79 and '80. Yamaha
=4.Wayne Rainey (3) - 1990, '91 and '92. Yamaha
=4.Valentino Rossi (3) - 2001, '02 and '03. Honda



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