6 THE CHAMP,
IN ALL HIS NEWLY-CROWNED GLORY
A great picture of the great man from a great season
– the one just ended
8 IN THE BEGINNING
There was a time when the racing world didn’t know
who Valentino Rossi was. Once he arrived, he set
about smashing the record books and redefining what
a motorcycle racer can do.
14 THE RIVALS
One man on his own has nothing to race against. He’s
made a lot of them look easy to beat by comparison,
but here are the rivals who squared up to Rossi and
how they fared. Badly in the most part.
His first full year on the world stage was something of
a marker for what was to come. Young, talented and
with a familiar sun and moon helmet design. Rossi
appears for all to see.
Learning the art of going very fast on a 125cc GP
machine is no small task. Many compete for years in
the tiddler class without mastering it and becoming
World Champion. It took Valentino two seasons to be
Not one to stand still, Valentino made the jump from
125cc bikes to the far more powerful 250cc racebikes.
More power, faster speeds and arguably tougher
riders. How did he fare? How do you think...
If he could win the 250cc title in only his second year
in the class it would be a pretty amazing feat. In fact,
it would be as good as what he managed in the 125cc
class. A familiar pattern was beginning to emerge.
Two GP titles already in the bag, and with so much
talent on tap it’d be almost churlish not to go for the
premier class’ 500cc crown. But this was always going
to be different. These were the nastiest bikes on
earth, nobody tames them quickly, if at all.
Except for Valentino Rossi that is. Not only does he
get on fabulously well with the factory Honda, he
paints it like a Hawaiian shirt and runs amok amongst
the big bike class. A perfect couple of reasons why we
all love his on-track antics so much.
The four-strokes arrive and the defending Champion
finds himself with a new set of challenges, and the
chance to write another significant chapter into the
racing history books. As long as he can keep the
The 990cc four-strokes were the most powerful GP
bikes ever seen, so to win the title on one of them
was a sign of excellence above almost anything else.
Even with the electronic aids onboard.
When he’d won everything he could, Valentino went
looking for another challenge. Bye bye Honda, help
Yamaha. Now, about this M1 motorcycle and how it’s
going to change...
To win on the Aprilia was one thing, to do it again on
the 250 was another. A 500 title on the Honda was
brilliant and the switch to Yamaha was brave. To win
the title for the Japanese manufacturer on the
previously lacking M1 couldn’t be done. Could it?
A year of ups and downs. And when the downs came
they arrived with a thud and a cloud of gravel trap
dust. Tough times for Valentino and his loyal army of
fans during the final year of the 990cc era.
The big bikes were gone and now was the era of the
800s. A real rider’s machine designed to corner fast
and reward consummate skill and bravery. Calling
Valentino, Valentino to the stage please... oh hang on,
some bloke called Stoner’s in the way.
A change of rubber, a new Yamaha and a desire to stand
on top of the world again was the only motivation Rossi
needed to do what he did. And ruffling up a rival or two
en route was crucial to the plan.