Valentino Rossi

Valentino Rossi
The Doctor
Birth Date: 
16 February, 1979
Birth Place: 
Urbino, Italy

Valentino Rossi Biography

After 26 seasons of grand prix racing and nine world championships, Valentino Rossi hung up his MotoGP leathers at the end of the 2021 season.

The news was officially confirmed during a special press conference at the Styrian MotoGP in August 2021.

True to his word, Rossi said his future would be decided by results and, with a best of tenth place during the opening half of his debut season with Petronas Yamaha, the decision was effectively made for him.

Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Saud bin AbdulAziz Al Saud had been openly pushing for Rossi to continue his career by joining brother Luca Marini at the new Aramco-backed VR46 Ducati team in 2022 (a sponsorship deal that later collapsed).

But Rossi had warned that would be 'very difficult' and the most famous motorcycle racer in history instead ecided to bow out at the end of the season.

"I've decided to stop at the end of this season so unfortunately this will be my last half-season as a MotoGP rider," Rossi said.

"It’s difficult. It's a sad moment, because it's difficult to say and to know that next year I will not race with a motorcycle. I've done this for more-or-less 30 years! So next year my life will change.

"But anyway it was great. I enjoyed it very much. It was a long, long journey. Really funny. 26 years in the world championship. I've had unforgettable moments with all my team and all my guys that worked for me.

"In all sports, results make the difference, so at the end it's the right way. I had the chance to race for my team in MotoGP together with my brother next year, something that for sure I like. But anyway it's okay like this I think… I can't complain about my career!"

Rossi picked out the 2001 (final 500cc title), 2004 (debut Yamaha title) and 2008 ("when some people thought I was already too old") world championships as his personal highlights. He has no real regrets over the disappointing Ducati years but does rue missing out on a tenth world title, which he felt he deserved, twice losing at the final round.

On paper, Rossi's results have gradually faded since finishing title runner-up to team-mate Jorge Lorenzo in a bitter end to the 2015 season.

Although the Italian again finished title runner-up (for a third time in a row and fifth time in his premier-class career) at the start of the Michelin era in 2016, his race wins were reduced from four to two.

Rossi's final win came at Assen 2017, a record 89th in the premier-class, with his podium tally then descending from 5 to 2 to 1 over the subsequent seasons.

Absent from the rostrum since Jerez in July 2020, Rossi didn't compete at the front of a race after Catalunya in September (or, coincidentally or not, since being diagnosed with Covid in October).

However, he was far from the only rider to struggle on the 2021 Yamaha.

Only his factory team replacement Fabio Quartararo was consistently competitive on the 2021 M1 and, of the six races Rossi finished during the first half of 2021, he was classified ahead of at least one other Yamaha on four occasions.

While the final chapter for Rossi as a rider ended in 2021, another era will start in 2022 when his VR46 MotoGP team makes its debut. But while bearing his name, Rossi has indicated he won't take on a formal position in the running of the team.

Instead, Rossi is likely to be seen indulging his passion for four-wheel racing, particularly GT cars.

"When I finish with the MotoGP I want to race with the cars," Rossi said. "I’m a rally fanatic and did a world championship event, but for me rallying is difficult, it’s very demanding and I want to race on a circuit because I like it more.

"I have experience racing with GT3 (sports cars) which is an important and interesting category because it has a lot of different factory cars from Ferrari, Porsche, Bentley, Aston Martin and everything.

"So I think I will race with that type of car when I stop with MotoGP.

"But I don’t know in which championship – there's the Endurance championship, the (Le Mans) 24 hours - but I hope to race somewhere there."

Valentino Rossi's Place In Grand Prix History

Rossi was the only rider on the 2021 grid to have raced in the now defunct 125cc, 250cc and 500cc two-stroke classes and the only person in the 2021 line-up to have finished above a fully-fit Marc Marquez in the MotoGP World Championship.

That came during the heated 2015 campaign, when Lorenzo and Rossi were one-two in the standings, inflicting Marquez's only 'on-track' title defeat to date. The Spaniard then missed most of 2020 and the start of 2021 due to arm injuries.

Rossi has won 115 times across all grand prix classes, putting him second only to compatriot Giacomo Agostini (122), while Rossi's nine titles places him joint third in the history books behind Agostini (15) and Angel Nieto (13).

In terms of the premier 500cc/MotoGP class, Rossi's seven championships may be one less than Agostini, but his 89 race wins is comfortably clear of the 68 for 'Ago'. Six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez is currently third on 57 wins. Rossi has also taken 199 podiums.

Those are bare statistics, but Rossi was also a natural born entertainer, his huge popularity playing a pivotal role in the growth of MotoGP itself.

Despite dwindling success in recent years, Rossi fans still outnumber all others at most venues around the world and it remains to be seen what impact his departure will have on the sport in general.

"The difference between me and all the other great riders in MotoGP history is this," Rossi said. "Because, sincerely I don’t know why, but for some reason I was able to bring a lot of people close to motorcycle racing. That without me they wouldn’t know MotoGP or 125, 250. Especially in Italy. I did something in my early career that switched on the emotion of normal people. I’m proud of this. It’s something really special."

Rossi made his grand prix debut back in the 125cc class in 1996, winning the title the following season, followed by the 250cc crown in 1999, again with Aprilia. That propelled the #46, son of former racer Graziano Rossi, into the premier-class with Honda in 2000, racing the likes of Kenny Roberts on 500cc machinery.

The early years of his MotoGP career, with Honda and then Yamaha, were characterised by famous and sometimes bitter battles with Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau, then the 'new generation' of Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and finally Marc Marquez.

All but Marquez have long since retired, while Rossi continued to challenge rivals that, in many cases, were not even born when he began grand prix racing.

Rossi's premier-class career can be divided into many chapters, each of which would normally consume an entire career, including:

Winning the last 500cc title and first MotoGP crowns with Honda. A sensational switch and instant success at Yamaha in 2004. Fighting back after defeat at the hands of Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner in 2006 and 2007 to be world champion in 2008 and 2009. The doomed Ducati years in 2011 and 2012, then a triumphant return to Yamaha and final title assault in 2015.

In the process he has won races with 500cc two-strokes, 990cc, 800cc and 1000cc four-strokes, Michelin and Bridgestone tyres, open and control electronics.

Valentino Rossi's career: 1996-2021

Born in Urbino, Italy on 16th February 1979, Valentino Rossi was riding bikes from an early age thanks to the influence of his father Graziano, himself a former Grand Prix winner.

Following an early start in go-karts, Rossi junior progressed to minimotos and quickly showed a talent for two-wheels, becoming regional champion in 1992. The next few years saw him quickly rise up through ranks of junior road racing, claiming the Italian Sport Production Championship in 1994 and the Italian 125cc Championship in 1995. The latter, twinned with an impressive 3rd place in the 125cc European Championship, was enough to secure him a ride in the World Championship the following year.

Rossi's World Championship debut came at the Malaysian Grand Prix in 1996 and he finished his first international season in 9th place with one race win. The following year he became the youngest ever rider to win the 125cc World Championship, winning eleven races along the way with Aprilia. The pattern continued when he moved into the 250cc class, taking second place in his first year before becoming World Champion in 1999, once again with Aprilia.

In 2000 he entered a new phase of his career when he joined forces with Honda in the 500cc class. He proved his worth once again by finishing second, before becoming the last ever 500cc World Champion in 2001. Rossi subsequently took the MotoGP World title in 2002 and 2003, before moving to Yamaha and winning it again in 2004 and 2005.

Rossi made history by moving to Yamaha in 2004 and winning the season-opening Grand Prix in South Africa, becoming the first rider in the history of the sport to win back-to-back premier class races for different manufacturers. He went on to win nine out of 16 races, finally clinching the World Championship title, Yamaha`s first for 12 years, with victory at the penultimate Grand Prix in Phillip Island. A final win at the Valencia Grand Prix also ensured that the Yamaha Factory Team won the team title.

He dominated the 2005 season, winning eleven races in total, taking five pole positions and only finishing off the podium once. In doing he became one of only five riders in the history of the sport to win the premier-class title on five occasions. He also helped Yamaha to win the Manufacturers’ and Team titles, ensuring Yamaha celebrated its 50th Anniversary with one of its best ever years in Grand Prix.

2006 saw him finish World Champion runner-up for only the second time in his premier-class career, having lost the title to Honda’s Nicky Hayden by just five points following a final-race showdown in Valencia. Despite this, Rossi still took five race wins and five pole positions in 2006, more than any other rider, and stood on the podium ten times.

2007 was undoubtedly one of the hardest seasons of his career. Rossi took four race wins in 2007 and several podiums, but his prodigious talents were limited by technical and tyre problems as well as plain bad luck. The Italian missed out on the runner-up spot in the championship by just one point after his final race was wrecked by injury and third place was his lowest championship finish since his rookie year in 1996.

After a torrid two seasons, Valentino Rossi returned to winning form in 2008 and recaptured the MotoGP title. The Italian won nine races equal to his first season with Yamaha in 2004 and stood on the podium at 16 out of 18 rounds. Notable highlights in an exceptional year included a seventh straight win at Mugello, a titanic duel with Casey Stoner in Laguna Seca, where Rossi had never previously won, and a historic victory at hurricane-struck Indianapolis. Rossi eventually took the title in the best possible way, with a victory at Yamaha’s home track in Japan, with three races to go. It was his eighth career title and his third with Yamaha.

The 2009 season saw Valentino Rossi cross more milestones in his incredible career and take a ninth world championship title, his fourth with Yamaha. He showed that after fourteen years of racing in the World Championship he is still the best rider of his generation and worthy of his crown.

The Italian hero took six wins in a season which saw him and his rivals all make mistakes at times as they pushed each other to unexpectedly great heights. Rossi’s battle with his team-mate Jorge Lorenzo reached epic proportions with the Battle of Barcelona due to go down in history as one of the greatest ever, Rossi triumphing with an audacious last-corner move that saw him win by just thousandths of a second.

His incredible run of Mugello victories came to an end but he made up for it with a perfect performance at his home track of Misano when he also took one of his seven pole positions. His victory in Holland was the 100th win of his career, further proof, if any is needed, that he truly is one of the greats. Rossi finally secured the title at Sepang, setting himself up for an opportunity to make it ten in 2010.

Victory in the opening round at Qatar proved a perfect start, but wins for team-mate Lorenzo in the following two events suggested the rivalry forged in 2009 would intensify for 2010. As it happens, the tantalising Yamaha inter-team tussle wouldn’t materialise after Rossi’s season was brought to a sudden stop at Mugello when a practice crash left him nursing a broken leg.

A bitter blow for the Italian and his fans -, though Rossi defied expectations by returning sooner than expected, he was still sidelined for four events, while he remained in recovery as he raced during the second-half of the season.

Returning to the winners’ circle at Sepang, Rossi did enough to claim third in the overall standings, but it was arch-rival Lorenzo that was celebrating a dominant title victory.

Nonetheless, even if his on-track exploits weren’t grabbing the headlines, Rossi was certainly the subject of column inches off the track as rumours of an impending deal with Ducati continued to persist. Though speculation of the two Italian giants joining forces had been rife for some years, the rumours gained traction in 2010, particularly in the midst of Casey Stoner’s imminent switch to Honda.

After much silence on the subject, it was eventually announced that Rossi would be leaving Yamaha after seven successful seasons together, creating a huge buzz ahead of the new season.

Indeed, all eyes were on Rossi to see whether he could revive Ducati’s fortunes, the manufacturer having been unable to repeat the highs of its 2007 title win, despite Stoner’s best efforts on what he labelled a difficult bike to ride.

With Rossi having raised the stakes with a series of jibes towards Stoner who suffered several high profile crashes whilst racing Rossi -, reputation was most certainly on the line in 2011.

And yet, while Stoner went on to utterly dominate on the Repsol Honda, the 2011 season would prove something of a career nadir for Rossi as he struggled to get to grips the GP11.

Complaining of a lack of feel from the bike, Rossi raced hard on the bike, but he was never capable of breaching the Yamahas and Hondas ahead, while he was frequently out-qualified by the Ducati privateers. Ducati attempted to resolve the situation with the updated GP11.1, but it signalled no noticeable improvements, leaving Rossi with just one fairly fortuitous podium to show for in seventh overall.

Despite this, Rossi persevered for 2012, pinning his hopes on the upcoming return to 1000cc machinery to revive his fortunes. However, despite significant changes to the bike over the winter, the results would prove much the same for Rossi as he spent much of his year chasing his key rivals.

Highlights included podiums at Le Mans and Misano (both hard fought second place finishes), but rewards throughout the year were relatively scant. Going on to finish the year sixth overall, with little progress having been made in two years, few were surprised when Rossi confirmed persistent rumours that he would be ending an unhappy Ducati tenure after just two seasons in favour of a return to Yamaha.

A feisty ride to the podium during the 2013 season opener proved Rossi had lost none of his fighting spirit, but thereafter he often struggled to get on terms with the ‘top three’, finding himself as the bridge in the gap between the leaders and the chasers.

A fine return to the top step of the podium at Assen aside, Rossi’s eventual tally of six podiums in 18 races saw him end the season almost 100 points shy of team-mate Jorge Lorenzo in a distant fourth overall.

But the Italian would make a resurgence in 2014, producing his best on-track results since 2009. Spurred on by a shock change of crew chief, the oldest rider on the grid (after Colin Edwards’s mid-season retirement) more than doubled his podium tally relative to 2013 and racked up 58 more points. Although Rossi only scored two wins, he was runner-up on six further occasions.

Rossi’s main weakness this season was in qualifying, with just three front row starts (including a first pole since 2010), but the Saturday struggles often made his race results more praiseworthy.

While 2014 proved Rossi was still a force to be reckoned with, even his stanchest supporters would have struggled to predict that the oldest rider on the grid - and five years after his last title challenge - would hold the points lead for an amazing 17 of the 18 rounds in 2015.

Indeed, some believe it may have been Rossi’s best ever season, even if the record books show the Italian losing out to team-mate Jorge Lorenzo by just five points in a caustic season finale.

The highlights of Rossi’s year included race wins in Qatar, Argentina, Holland and Great Britain while incredible consistency saw the Italian megastar stand on the podium an unparalleled 15 times and finish every race, as his exploits helped pack grandstands around the world.

Two of Rossi’s wins came after a clash with reigning double world champion Marc Marquez, the old master finally turning the tables on the young apprentice, but a third incident - at Sepang - would prove the talking point of the season.

Rossi’s fearsome ability to disrupt rivals through carefully chosen comments in the media is well known. But the decision to publicly attack Marquez (out of the championship fight), rather than try and destabilise Lorenzo, left many puzzled - and the outcome could barely have been worse for Rossi.

Perhaps the most shocking part of their Sepang showdown was that Rossi - the king of hard racing and brilliant overtakes - resorted to such an extreme move to end the kind of battle he usually revels in. Of course, unlike Marquez, Rossi had a title to think about and had spent the second half of the season unable to match Lorenzo’s dry pace, then became convinced Marquez was plotting to help his fellow Spaniard.

Throw in some uncharacteristic late defeats in battles with Dani Pedrosa (Aragon) and Andrea Iannone (Phillip Island) and it’s easy to understand the amount of pressure Rossi was under to save his world championship dream. Ultimately it didn’t happen, and - regardless of who was to blame - fans were denied a fitting title showdown by Rossi’s back of the grid start at Valencia.

Nevertheless, Rossi’s performances were the main reason why 2015 was such a standout season - until Sepang anyway.

Re-grouping after a bitter title defeat, Rossi began the 2016 season with solid points in the opening two rounds, but then fell in Texas - his first race mistake since Aragon 2014. Team-mate Jorge Lorenzo made a similar error the week before in Argentina, allowing Honda's Marc Marquez to build an early buffer over the Movistar Yamaha riders he would hold until the end of the season.

But that doesn’t mean Rossi's 2016 season was not without its memorable moments, including his first win of the new Michelin era with a dominant performance at Jerez, followed by victory over Marquez in Catalunya (after which the pair shook hands for the first time since Sepang 2015).

In-between, Rossi suffered a devastating engine failure while fighting for the lead of his home Italian round, then further DNFs due to falls at Assen and Motegi. Such non-scores vetoed any chance of putting pressure on Marquez, but Rossi did have the personal honour of beating Lorenzo for title runner-up in their final season as team-mates.

A strong start to 2017 with a hat-trick of podiums made Rossi an early MotoGP world title contender but his charge was stalled by a crash at Le Mans while fighting new Yamaha team-mate Maverick Vinales for victory. But the Italian rider fought back with victory at Assen - his first win in over a year - to surge up to third place in the standings.

Rossi suffered a broken leg while motocross training ahead of the Misano round, ruling him out of the San Marino Grand Prix, and effectively ending his title hopes. The Italian made an incredible comeback less than one month later at Aragon, taking a gritty fifth place, before returning to the rostrum in Japan with second place. But a low-key end to the season saw Rossi drift to fifth place in the final standings.

2018 started in the same way as 2017 with a podium in Qatar but in a wet and wild Argentina Grand Prix the Italian was shoved off track by Marc Marquez to ignite another chapter in their rivalry. A trio of podiums between Le Mans, Mugello and Catalunya, including a surprise podium at his home round to mark his first pole since Japan 2016, plus Rossi back into title contention but ultimately an uncompetitive Yamaha package saw him end the year without a podium to his name across the final nine races.

For 2019 Rossi made his customary strong start thanks to a pair of podiums in Argentina and the United States - just missing out on victory to Alex Rins at Circuit of the Americas, but a trio of falls between Mugello, Catalunya and Assen ended his slim title hopes for another year. Rossi went on to endure his worst run of results since his Ducati days without a single podium appearance for the remainder of the season.

In January of 2020, Yamaha announced both the re-signing of Maverick Vinales and a new deal with Petronas star Fabio Quartararo to form its factory team line-up for the 2021-2022 seasons. That meant there would be no place for Rossi, but Yamaha emphasised that it would supply factory-spec machinery for the Italian at its satelllite team if he wished to continue.

An engine failure in the Covid delayed 2020 season-opener at Jerez pointed to valve problems that would dog Yamaha for the rest of the year but Rossi was back on the podium the following weekend of the back-to-back Spanish rounds. It would be his final podium in grand prix racing, but he came within one lap of a rostrom at Misano and fell at Catalunya, while keeping pressure on eventual race winner Quartararo.

Coincidentally or not, Rossi form never recovered from a Covid diagnosis that forced him to miss both Aragon rounds, although by then he had already commited to accepting Yamaha's offer of a 2021 seat at the Petronas SRT team.

Petronas had won more races than the factory squad in 2020 (six wins, divided equally between title runner-up Morbidelli, on the A Spec, and Quartararo, on the more fickle Factory Spec) but Rossi would never threaten the frontrunners at the Malaysian team. The performance highlight of his year was probably qualifying fourth at Qatar, but he wasn't higher than eighth place by the finish of a race and - true to his word of letting results decide his future - announced his retirement as the second half of the season began in Austria.

While his results were nothing memorable, the remaining rounds were filled with plenty of emotional moments, not least his final home races at Misano and the Valencia finale, where he was proud to achieve his goal of going out with a competitive ride - qualifying and finishing the race in tenth place, 13-seconds behind VR46 protegee and race winner Francesco Bagnaia. 

That was the same margin to victory as Rossi had achieved in the 2017 Valencia race, when he had been classified fifth, showing how the MotoGP field has got tighter at the top in recent years.

Although Rossi had the option to ride for his ow VR46 team with Ducati machinery in 2022, after finishing the season just 18th in the world championship, most felt he had made the right call. The Doctor now turns his attention to sportscar racing and helping his VR46 Academy riders - led by Bagnaia and Morbidelli - in their pursuit of a MotoGP title.

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