I have been following Moto GP since the late 80’s; this was when cable TV was introduced in India, I was very fascinated with the sport and pretty much watched all the races back then. Ace riders like Wayne Rayney, Michael Doohan, Kevin Shwantz dominated the races then, it was during this era that a young man by the name of Valentino Rossi entered and completely changed the face of the sport.
Valentino Rossi, fondly known as the ‘The Doctor’ (this has been attributed to his “cold and clinical dismantling of his opponents”) is to Moto GP what Michael Jordan was to Basketball. He is one of the most successful motorcycle racers of all time, with nine Grand Prix World Championships to his name – seven of which are in the premier class. Rossi is a super racer; someone like him graces the sport once in a millennium. Rossi’s achievements are spectacular but what is even more astonishing is the speed at which he has achieved them; Valentino started racing in Grand Prix in 1996 for Aprilia in the 125cc category and won his first World Championship the following year. From there, he moved up to the 250cc category with Aprilia and won the 250cc World Championship in 1999. He won the 500cc World Championship with Honda in 2001, the MotoGP World Championships (also with Honda) in 2002 and 2003, and continued his streak of back-to-back championships by winning the 2004 and 2005 titles after leaving Honda to join Yamaha, before regaining the title in 2008 and retaining it in 2009. (Would like to thank Wikipedia for this information, I am a fan but it’s impossible to accurately follow the same year by year).
So beyond the crazy 9 world championships and 103 victories that he has accumulated, what sets this rider apart from his fellow racers? To start with, it’s the sheer pace that Rossi rides at, once he is in the lead, there is a good probability that he will end up lapping the last few riders. Next is his approach of methodically breaking down other riders during the last few laps of races; I have witnessed this many times over the years, Max Biaggi, Sete Gibernau in the past and now Jorge Lorenzo should be able to give you fist hand accounts of the same. His biggest secret to success was his relationship with the bike, he understood the machine, was familiar with every nook and cranny, knew when he could exploit the most from it and when to hold back. In his own words “To being a great racing driver, but the most important thing is to have a good relationship with the bike … you have to understand what she wants. I think of a motorcycle as a woman and I know that sounds silly, but its true” – This is what most riders miss out on; they believe an awesome pit crew will ensure the bike is at its peak.
It would unfair if I did not mention Max Biaggi in this post, he probably had the ugliest rivalry with the ‘The Doctor’ somehow the rivalry started even before they started racing together, at one point in time Rossi would not acknowledge Biaggi’s presence, putting up XXXXXXXXX on his website and so on, eventually the rivalry died out based purely on Rossi’s success. While on rivalries Rossi Vs Doohan is always going to be a debate amongst purist, there is no concrete winner there, both had different styles and enjoyed success at the highest possible level in different eras, you may not have had a chance to watch Doohan, but make an effort watch the Moto GP and watch the ‘The Doctor’ in action rest assured you will not be disappointed.