The end of an era: Grazie Vale!

How do you sum up this Entertainer, this Role-Model, this Legend?

He has entertained audiences for the past 26 years, winning races and fans throughout the world, bringing new and old supporters to watch the spectacle that is Moto GP. His undying enthusiasm and passion for the sport that he loves has brought smiles and tears to many. His ups and downs shared and felt by all.

The infectious smile. Courtesy of: Autocarindia.

Starting in 125’s (now equivalent to Moto 2) on the Aprilia in 1996:

The young boy from Tavullia, Italy, who entered into the 1996 125cc World Championships didn’t start off lighting the world on fire, but little did we know he soon would. Starting his pattern of one year to watch and learn and second year to win, he went into 1997 with his first championship title, collecting 4 poles and 11 race wins, which would crown him Champion. It was here that we first saw the entertainer that fans would adore, dressing up as Robin Hood at Donington – one particular celebration that stands out and also adopting the iconic Sun and Moon design that he has carried with him through the years.

Winning the 125’s Championship – 1997. Courtesy of: Aprilia website.

Progressing to 250’s (now equivalent to Moto 3) again on the Aprilia:

Rossi took another year to watch and learn and then became champion in 1999. Ditching the name Rossifumi and emerging as Valentinik. He continued to entertain the crowds with his celebrations on track, with the infamous Chicken riding pillion and the porta-loo gag. During the championship winning season he accumulated five poles and nine wins.

The Porta-Loo gag. Courtesy of: MCN

Following the pattern – watch and learn then win the next year, he moved up to the premier class: 500’s (now Moto GP):

With the dominating force of Mick Doohan winning everything in the premier-class, the racing was taking a bit of a lull and audiences were lacking in their numbers but even though the dominating force was due to change no-one was quite prepared for just how much!

Enter: The Doctor.

Another name change for Rossi saw him become The Doctor, a name that has become synonymous with him, just as much as the number 46 has.

Rossi teamed up with Doohan’s ex-crew chief Jeremy Burgess, who proved to be just what he needed. An impressive rookie season saw Rossi take 2nd in the championship and then in 2001 he became the last 500cc (2-stroke) World Champion. Taking 11 wins and 4 poles and along with that Honda’s 500th victory.

Enjoying the win. Courtesy of: Successbod website.

Spectators began to grow in their masses to watch this mesmerizing force that is Valentino Rossi, bringing with them a sea of yellow.

Moto GP – 2002: (the biggest-ever change in technical regulations):

Rossi was on the Repsol Honda – the first year of 990cc (4-stroke) and he pathed his way to glory once again, claiming 11 wins and 7 poles. Remaining with the same team for 2003, but with new team-mate the late Nicky Hayden, Vale again claimed the Moto GP crown with 9 wins and 9 poles.

Victory celebration- issued with a speeding ticket, to poke fun at being told he had the fastest bike on the grid. Courtesy of: Pinterest.

But then when he was on top of the world he did what many people thought was the impossible and decided to do a ‘ridiculous move’. Many times we watched in awe at his talent but nothing more than when he switched teams. Why would he leave a championship winning team, one that had dominated for so long and ride for an under-dog team?

The under-dog team = Yamaha. The reason = A challenge.

The relationship between Rossi and Honda had slowly deteriorated, with Honda claiming that it was all the bike and not much to do with the rider. Rossi taking offence by this lack of respect up and left to prove a point and prove a point he did.

Taking along with him his crew chief and most of his team, they went into the 2004 championship with very little testing during the winter period leaving Rossi to ride his first race on the Yamaha in 2004 at Welkom and incredibly he won! Breaking Yamahas longest losing streak and beating Giacomo Agostini’s record run of 22 consecutive top-three finishers in the process. Finishing the season with 9 wins and 5 poles.

Many people thought it would be too difficult or nearly impossible to win a race let alone the entire championship. But, Valentino is no normal rider. If people weren’t supporting Rossi already then they were now.

The iconic moment. Courtesy of: GP-Inside.com

Staying with Yamaha for 2005, Rossi was joined by another American – Colin Edwards. Vale won for a second year in a row alongside Yamaha and clinched  his 50th premier-class win. At Donington he mesmerized us by winning on water and miming playing a violin over the line. He took a total 11 wins (the highest number of premier class victories in a season on a Yamaha) and 5 poles.

2006 was a close year for the title and went right down to the last race in Valencia to see who would be crowned. It was between the reigning champ – Rossi and old team-mate Hayden. Consistency was key for Hayden and he became the only other rider other than Rossi to win the 990cc era. Rossi finished 2nd overall.

Another hard year for Rossi and Yamaha in 2007, saw them finish 3rd in the championship, only securing 4 race wins. Casey Stoner became another new champion. But, not letting any of this get to him Rossi won back his crown in 2008 becoming the most successful rider in the top-class with 69 wins, overtaking Agostini’s record total of wins. He accumulated 9 wins for the season, 2 poles and another title under a different formula – 800cc. He became the first rider to become champion on four different types of motorcycle and with that – Yamaha’s most successful rider.

8x Champ. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The showman carried on his winning streak and in 2009 remained Moto GP World Champion for the 9th time (in all classes), accumulating his 100th win of his career, 6 wins for the season and 7 poles. In 2010 Rossi announced it would be his final year with Yamaha as he decided he would switch manufactures once again to Ducati. He missed the most races of his whole career during that season after breaking his leg, when he did return though it was like he had never left. He was strong but couldn’t quite catch up.

9x champ – 2009. Courtesy of: GPone.com.

Ducati, as it turned out was not a great career move for the Italian, even though on paper it seemed like the dream team. The Doctor couldn’t produce miracles this time and ended up returning to Yamaha after 2 seasons with Ducati and that is where he remained. He finished 4th in 2013, being a runner-up for the crown in 2014/ 2015 and 2016. What could have been 12 championship wins was never to be. In 2017 Rossi was 5th, then 2018 rose back up to 3rd in the championship. He finished 7th in 2019, 15th in 2020 and for his last year in 2021 he finished 10th.

Even though the last few years he hasn’t been fighting for those wins we are all used to witnessing, it doesn’t matter because he transcended the sport and has become synonymous with Moto GP and can never be replaced. He has made Moto GP what it is today and even though he will leave a hole, we all know the racing will still be just as good as always and of course his VR46 team, with it’s young Italian riders will be there to carry the flag.

Final ride in-front of his yellow sea. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

This living legend, leaves behind a legacy and fantastic memories from fans and riders alike. Ending his illustrious career the way he wanted to, having raced for 26 seasons, finishing 235 times on the podium (more than any other rider in the history of the sport) and accumulating 115 Grand Prix Victories. The stats are truly astounding!

We may never again watch the iconic rituals of The Doctor or the sheer joy of his winning celebrations and the on-track battles but the memories will stay with us forever. Etched in our minds are the fights between him and his rivals – Max Biaggi, Sete Gibernau, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez. Who could forget the moment on the corkscrew at Laguna Seca between Vale and Casey? Which had us all on the edge of our seats, or the last corner at Jerez with Sete? Holding our breath.

Laguna Seca – Cork Screw. Courtesy of: Blogspot.com

He has inspired so many people, not just celebrities like F1 driver Lando Norris or fellow Moto GP champion Fabio Quartararo, but millions of people around the world. You say Valentino Rossi and people just know. He has a natural ability to make people want to support and cheer him on with his charisma and affection for all his fans. The whole Moto GP paddock admire him and it showed with the last race in Valencia 2021. The whole pitlane came out for him and every rider got a private hug – his popularity is unhinged.

For us that have had the joy to watch his incredible career, it has been a privilege. He has become a Titan of Motorbike racing and we all know God-like status’s never fade, his name will be there along with Sheene and Agostini forever.

You have written the most amazing story and you will be missed. But as we all know “it’s not the end, it’s the next chapter” – Rossi.

Thank you Vale for the memories. Courtesy of: Moto GP BT Sport twitter page.

 

 

(Featured image. Courtesy of: Moto GP website).

Images Courtesy: Moto GP website/MCN/ The Guardian/ Blogspot and Daily Star.

Racing Legends: Marc Marquez

There are talented racers in Moto GP and then there are those who seem to be born to race. Ones that stand out from the crowd. Marc Marquez is one of those riders. With his natural ability, his intelligence, understanding of racing and his wonderful family support behind him, culminate to an unstoppable force.

Courtesy of: MichelinMotorsport.com

Born February 1993, in Cerevera, Spain. Marquez has always gravitated towards a career in Motorcycle racing. Thriving from his family’s love and encouragement, Marc has gone on to be a phenomenon in his own right. He has shown audiences worldwide that he has the passion, courage and correct character that all great champions need.

Starting off racing competitively in the Catalan and Spanish National Championships Marquez went on to race in the 125’s. Only six races into his first season he scored his first podium. Learning how to use the bike to his full advantage, he carried on this momentum into his second season in 2009. Finishing in the top 10.

2010 became the first actual taste of Marquez’s true talent. Winning the 125 championship, just 17 years and 263 days old. The second youngest 125 champion after Loris Capirossi, who was just 17 years and 165 days old.

Progressing into the Moto 2 class in 2011, Marquez only took one season to learn, conquering in 2012, becoming the new world champion.

Not wishing to carry on in Moto 2, Marquez then progressed again, this time to the Premier Class. Showing his determination to be a Moto GP champion, he won his first race on the Honda, in only the second race of the season in Texas, a new track for Moto GP. It was here that he also became the youngest ever pole setter, the youngest ever race winner of the top class at just 20 years and 62 days and he completed the full set with the fastest lap, a superb achievement.

He was soon breaking all the youngest ever records and setting new ones. In only his first year he managed the impossible – winning the entire championship, by only 4 points, over Jorge Lorenzo. The first time a rookie had won since 1978 (Kenny Roberts Snr). Becoming the youngest ever World Champion at 20 years and 266 days and the youngest rider to win back-to-back Grand Prix races in the Premier Class at Laguna Seca and Sachsenring.

Putting any doubters to rest, saying that he would only be a one-time champion, he won back-to-back seasons in 2014, securing victory with three races to spare. Setting new records for the most wins in a season as well as most pole positions in a year and beating Mick Doohan’s record of twelve race wins in one season. The same year saw his younger brother Alex also win a title, in Moto 3.

Winning five races and retiring in six, Marquez found himself finishing third overall in 2015, having not been able to match the consistency of Yamaha team-mates Rossi and Lorenzo. Having three collisions on-track with Rossi, controversy about his “aggressive riding style” drew criticism, yet again, from his fellow riders, namely Rossi with whom he had battled numerous times for the championship. Some racing fans turned against Marquez, even booing him on the podium, but things soon settled down again when Rossi and Marquez embraced in parc ferme after the race which followed the tragic death of Moto 2 rider Luis Salom.

Despite not winning the 2015 title, Marquez was still putting himself firmly in the history books. Becoming the first rider to win six consecutive races at one track – Sachsenring – his most successful track.

Courtesy of: Motorsport.com. A seemingly impossible save

However, having this set back in 2015 spurred him on to win in 2016 and once again be crowned Moto GP World Champion, in Japan. The culmination of new Michelin tyres and new bike restriction rules saw audiences witness nine race winners during this season.

Struggling at the start of the 2017 championship, Honda decided they needed to find a suitable set-up for Marc’s personal riding style. They soon found it and he went on to win the races at Germany, Czech Republic, Misano and Australia. Dovizioso, who was his closest rival that year, kept the championship alive up to the final round, but ultimately Marquez held onto his title.

Courtesy of: Asphalt & rubber.com. Soaking up the championship win.

With history repeating itself the following year, Dovizioso seemed to be Marquez’s main on-track rival in 2018, but several crashes ruled out his contention to be Moto GP Champion and Marquez once again won the title. This same year Dani Pedrosa, Marc’s team mate decided to retire, he was replaced by fellow countryman Jorge Lorenzo.

Marquez won eleven races in 2019, sealing victory with an impressive four rounds left until the end of the season. This was now his sixth Premier Class Championship title, having only been in the top-class for the past seven years. He has become the youngest rider in the history of Moto GP to win seven World Championships and the youngest rider to have won five premier-class titles. At the end of 2019 Lorenzo also retired, leading the way for Marquez’s younger brother Alex to partner up with him at Honda.

Courtesy of: Motorsport.com. Celebrating the 2019 win with brother Alex.

This team looked to be the perfect match, with the brothers being so close, they would share everything and hopefully bring both sides of the Honda garage together.

However, this was not to be. Having done so many impossible saves, Marc was unable to save his bike and had a very heavy crash in just the first race of the new season, in Qatar on lap 20 and broke a bone in his arm. This resulted in him having to miss the entire year. Having gone under numerous surgeries since the accident, he is determined to come back strong and fighting again in 2021.

Hopefully we will witness the same Marc Marquez we have grown to admire. With his unique racing style and positive attitude, there surely will be more records set and broken.