until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


How Valentino Rossi shaped our MotoGP lives

by Josh Suttill
11 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

As Valentino Rossi prepares for his final MotoGP race, we’re continuing to revisit some of our favourite Rossi articles from The Race’s archive so far.

This one was first published in August, on the momentous day he announced his retirement – prompting our writers to share not just their favourite memories, but how Rossi had shaped our own passions for MotoGP

It’s long been anticipated and debated, but on the eve of the Styrian Grand Prix, Valentino Rossi has announced that he will step away from riding in MotoGP at the end of this 2021 season.

The seven-time champion has had a tricky last two years with just one podium and he’s down in 19th place in the riders’ championship this year at the halfway stage in the season.

But regardless of the form he’s likely to end on, Rossi will inevitably leave a huge hole in MotoGP and in the hearts of his fans. Our writers share what Rossi means to them.

He began my obsession with MotoGP

Simon Patterson

Rossi Celebrates Win, South African Motogp, 2004

Growing up, I was always a production bike fan rather than a grand prix lover. Coming from a family steeped in Irish and Manx road racing, it was superbikes that drew me in initially, and I was far more likely to spend my Sundays as a child watching Carl Fogarty battle it out with Troy Bayliss than I was watching Mick Doohan ride an exotic 500cc bike to yet another win.

The rider that changed all that, like he did for many others of my generation, was Rossi. Not just an incredible talent on track, he’s a charismatic showman as well, and his crazy victory celebrations, special liveries and mad hairstyles paired well with an aggressive riding style built in part off the basis of high-profile feuds with other riders.

I still remember as if it was yesterday that Yamaha debut win at Welkom in 2004, watching Rossi sitting alone trackside sobbing his heart out at what he had achieved. I remember the 2003 Phillip Island victory, where he was handed a 10-second penalty for passing under a yellow flag and just rode 10 seconds faster for the rest of the race. I remember the epic 2006 season, with the highs and lows of his incredible (and ultimately unsuccessful) title battle with Nicky Hayden.

Seemingly through pure force of will, he converted me from a World Superbike fan into a MotoGP fan. I’m far from the only one, and that will more than anything he achieved on track his legacy to the sport that he loves. He set me on a career path that has led me to a place where I was in the room today when he announced his future plans, but he also made MotoGP what it is today.

I never saw him at his best but he was still brilliant

Valentin Khorounzhiy

A relative latecomer to MotoGP for my age, I only really began to follow the series in 2011 – which meant that the Rossi I got to know was first the Ducati spec (struggling to assert himself over Hayden on what was an obviously limited Desmosedici) and then the second Yamaha spec (a frontrunner but never the standout rider in a given season).

The closest he came to a title in my time was 2015, which was outrageous amounts of fun, but leaving aside the exact circumstances of how it played out it was Jorge Lorenzo, not Rossi, who was the fastest in your average race).

What Rossi was to those watching MotoGP in the 2000s, Marc Marquez has been for me – a ridiculous generational talent, towering above the competition and making it look second-rate. But I’m not enough of a fool to ignore that Rossi at his peak was every bit as dominant if not more so and that the numbers he put up are jaw-dropping.

And he did what Marquez is yet to attempt – swap bikes and keep winning anyway, even if the trick didn’t come off the second time.

It was a privilege to have been there

Toby Moody

Rossi, Rio 125cc Gp 1996

March 1996 and I went to my first motorcycle grand prix. It was the other side of the world and things were all new for this 23-year-old. Myself and Dennis Noyes did the commentary and unbeknown to all of us it was the start of Valentino Rossi’s career on a world level at that Shah Alam racetrack that’s now a housing estate outside Kuala Lumpur.

I first got to really know him the year after at Assen only a few hours before he won a bonkers 125cc race and celebrated with an inflatable medieval mace. Don’t ask…

He went on to win the championship that year. I went to find him after the 500cc race at Brno but the garage was utterly trashed and he was already asleep in the back of the truck; by 3.15 in the afternoon the champagne had hit him like a bus. I closed the door and let him be but I had some idea of what this guy was.

We saw that the celebrations were then almost bigger and better than the win itself – Snow White and the seven dwarfs, the ball and chain and my favourite, the Municipale Police doing him for speeding as soon as he crossed the finish line at Mugello.

It was these classy celebrations that drew a new generation into the sport amid the four stroke 990cc revolution, as the championship got away from the two-stroke rut that it was stuck in.

People were glued to this fabulous series that was all of a sudden cool, live on TV in countries where before it was a specialist subject. It was Rossi who did more than his fair share of causing that – to the degree I still have a laugh with Lin Jarvis saying it should be Dorna that pays Rossi’s wages to keep him in MotoGP and not Yamaha paying him…

But nothing lasts forever. It was one hell of a ride to have been at the track and been lucky enough to commentate on the Rossi era and say exactly what I thought of the moment there and then without any filter whatsoever.

Valentino made it fun and at times just unbelievable with what he could do on a motorcycle (Australia 2003, for instance) but it’s been his personality that has been the draw and the personality we will miss.

There are the stories of the pool party after Brno and the FIM Awards in Dubai but that’s for down the pub!

Even after his titles, Rossi meant magic

Fatema Chowdhury


I sadly didn’t watch MotoGP straight out of the womb in 1995, so it actually wasn’t until 2013 that I discovered what would soon be my favourite motorsport series. I obviously missed out on the fierce Rossi championship rivalries with the likes of Biaggi, Gibernau, Stoner and Lorenzo.

I was aware of his legendary status, having read many an article, watched many a video but you never quite build the same affinity until you watch it first hand.

I witnessed moments of brilliance in his first two years back at Yamaha but it wasn’t until 2015 that I fully got to appreciate just how special he was, or rather is.

Marc Marquez’s jaw-dropping debut put MotoGP on my radar but it was his intensely fearsome rivalry with Rossi in 2015 that cemented my love for the series, and pretty much sealed my career plans as a then confused university student.

I finally got a proper old-school motorsport rivalry, heated press conference exchanges, tetchy moves on track, overtakes and fateful crashes galore. The 2015 Argentinian GP ranks as one of my all-time favourite races just for the sheer intensity and insanity.

Then the rest of the season pretty much followed suit, including that mad incident at the Malaysian GP and the penalty that undid Rossi’s championship hopes.

My social life took something of a dive, as I devoted most of my weekends to watching this insane series, and I don’t regret that one bit.

While it was special to see a young Marquez flourish so quickly, watching the veteran Rossi rattle him and consistently deliver served as a crucial reminder for me that you can never just write off Valentino Rossi. He is the greatest of all time for a reason, and no young gun is going to erase that in a hurry.

I took a career break from motorsport journalism a couple of years ago to become a rather sensible and dull civil servant but the allure of covering immensely entertaining MotoGP races has tempted me back in.

Rossi, his showmanship on and off track, his commitment to delivering a new roster of talented riders have all played a part in that and God help me if I ever decide to leave again!

Rossi’s MotoGP career is age-defying

Scott Mitchell

Formula 1 Grand Prix Race Day.

Rossi’s an era-defining, age-defying giant of sport. And I can’t help but reflect on his MotoGP career by trying to put into context what an utterly mad period of time 20 years is in motorsport.

Everything I’ve witnessed in 20-odd years of following racing – first as a fan, then as a journalist – is spanned by Rossi’s top-tier MotoGP career. That’s…insane.

Mar 31 : How Rossi and Yamaha defied the odds in 2004

Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari domination of F1 and the rise of Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen. Fifteen consecutive years of the World Rally Championship being won by Sebastiens. The advent of Formula E. Jason Plato winning 90 races in British Touring Cars. Countless generational changes in car and bike regulations.

All of those stories and countless other examples have occurred between Rossi’s first and last race at the top level of grand prix motorcycle racing.

Sure, the decline’s been sad. But it was inevitable. Let’s celebrate all he was, gave, and achieved, rather than see him for ‘what he used to be’.

The 2009 Catalan GP was one of his greatest

Rob Hansford


Whenever I think of Rossi’s greatest on-track battles I always arrive at the 2009 Catalan Grand Prix.

Sat at home watching the race with my Nan, we were left discussing Rossi’s final lap battle with his then Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo for weeks afterwards.

Apr 21 : MotoGP's incredible 2006 season

Rossi was leading as he started that final lap, but a great move from Lorenzo into the first corner meant he held the advantage. The pair closely diced with each other as the lap went on, with Rossi momentarily getting in front before Lorenzo snatched it back, and it looked like Lorenzo would hold on until Rossi threw himself up the inside of his team-mate on the final corner to clinch the victory.

The Doctor had many brilliant battles throughout his career against a number of riders, but for me, that was one of the greatest one lap battles I had seen Rossi produce. Lorenzo thought he had the win covered – so did we – but Rossi’s late lunge, standing the bike up early to prevent Lorenzo getting the switchback, demonstrated why he was the best rider on the grid at that time and why, at the peak of his career, you could never count him out.

He brought the car fans to bikes

Katy Fairman – WTF1 editor


Even as someone who came from a family whose obsession was very much racing on four wheels, we all knew who Valentino Rosso was. Even if you knew nothing about MotoGP or motor racing in general, you knew the name and that he was a total legend. The GOAT, as he’s known.

Having that status and respect from those who don’t even watch motorbike racing is no easy task. In fact, it’s incredibly rare. There are just a handful of individuals in motorsport who are household names; Sheene, Schumacher, Senna, Hamilton, and Rossi are those who come to mind. Gods among us mere mortals.

When I got into MotoGP in 2016, Rossi was the only name I knew on the grid. Even at 37 years old back then, his skills on the Yamaha were outstanding. He was taking competition up to the youngsters like Marc Marquez and still giving them a run for their money. It was hypnotic, and you couldn’t not respect his efforts.

A glance at Rossi’s grand prix career tells you all you need to know about the man. 235 podium finishes, 115 of them wins, across all classes he’s competed in. Over 5000 championship points in his MotoGP career and he has even travelled the circumference of the world on different MotoGP circuits.

His absence from the grid will not only be a loss to MotoGP but sport in general.

It’s not all been japery and brilliance

Matt Beer


When my then employer announced very close to the start of the 2007 season that we’d be covering MotoGP too and that I’d be leading the newsdesk for many of those weekends, I had to rapidly upgrade my interest in it from roughly where Premier League football sits on my radar right now (interested enough to read about it often-ish) to proper obsession.

Rossi certainly helped that. Like probably every other general sports fan, I’d watched Estoril and Valencia 2006 so had a slight headstart. And while I definitely unfairly underrated Stoner at the time, the narrative of the less affable upstart only beating the more talented Rossi because of a Ducati power advantage gave 2007 a storyline for my fan side to latch onto.

I didn’t really stay a Rossi fan. Over that decade and a half there have been too many ‘you’re too good to need to do that’ moments for me. Whether that was the wall in the Yamaha garage when Lorenzo came along (and the insistence on changing tyre supplier), his handling of late-2015 events or even how long past his best he’s hung on.

But weighed against that there have been so many magic moments on track, the fun of watching my mum become a massive MotoGP fan purely through the tale of Rossi’s return from Ducati for a Yamaha renaissance in the mid-2010s, my huge admiration for what Rossi’s done with the VR46 Academy.

He’s a more complex, and sometimes darker, character than those exuberant win celebrations in the early days might’ve suggested. But that’s been a big part of the fun of covering his antics too.

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