Valentino Rossi holds the all-time record of 89 500cc/MotoGP race wins, but he was left empty handed on his premier-class debut in the 2000 Africa's Grand Prix.

The young Honda rider had qualified a competitive fifth and, after dropping to 13th on the opening lap, began carving his way up the order.

Rossi set what would be the fastest lap of the race on lap 5 and had climbed to sixth position - just ahead of reigning champion Alex Criville, pictured - by lap 11 of 28, with the leaders in sight.

But Rossi never reached them…

"My first [premier-class] race was in South Africa with the 500," Rossi recalled.

"I made a bad start but after I did the fastest lap of the race with the Honda 500 two-stroke.

"When I arrived to the group in front and I thought, 'why are they going so slow?' And I crashed!

"So at that moment I understand maybe they have the good pace and I was a bit too fast."

Rossi also crashed out of the next round at Sepang, before finally reaching the chequered flag with an eleventh place in Japan.

"For me, [the main difficulty with the 500] was managing the power and acceleration, which was a lot more than the 250," Rossi explained. "And also understanding the limit of the front, because the bike was a lot more heavy.

"It was difficult to understand how much you can push."

But Rossi soon turned it around: His first premier-class podium came at Jerez (round four) and first win at Donington Park (round nine).

The rest, as they say, is history....






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