By Atakan Uzun
Nine-time world champion, and motorbiking legend, Valentino Rossi (also known as ‘The Doctor’ or VR46) has completed the last MotoGP race of his career, at the Valencia GP. This comes after finishing in 10th place, in his final race of his career, as he ploughed a struggling final swansong with the customer Petronas Yamaha team, finishing in a lowly 21st place in the championship. However, this was only part of the story of Rossi’s legendary MotoGP career. In total, in grand prix racing, he won 115 races, while he took 235 rostrums, and 65 pole positions, across all classes of racing.
Rossi’s debut in grand prix racing came in 1996 in Malaysia in the 250cc championship, which is the modern equivalent of the Moto3 world championship. He took his first grand prix title in 1997, winning 12 races, taking 15 podiums, and 5 pole positions, in total throughout his 125cc career. The following season, he moved on to the 250cc championship, which is the modern equivalent of the Moto2 world championship. He took the title in 1999 with 14 wins, 21 podiums, and 5 pole positions, across his 250cc career. Then, came the move to the 500cc championship, which became known, as MotoGP. In his maiden season in the championship, VR46 finished in 2nd place in the championship. In the subsequent year, he took his first title in the MotoGP class with Honda.
In the first season of the modern MotoGP class, in 2002, Rossi took the title with four races to go, once again with Honda. In his final season with Honda, in 2003, he took another championship, before making the move to Yamaha. After a great battle with rival, Sete Gibernau, the Doctor won out once again, and took his maiden title with Yamaha in 2004. This was his six championship in total. Rossi continued his dominance with another championship in 2005 with Yamaha. However, in 2006, he was unable to make it, a sixth consecutive championship. In the final race of the season, in Valencia, he lost out to the late American rider, Nicky Hayden. Rossi had a disappointing season in 2007, as Yamaha struggled for pace, compared to the Ducati and Honda of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa. The doctor came back in 2008, with another title, which was his eighth grand prix title. Then came his final grand prix championship, and MotoGP championship. In 2009, Rossi dominated the championship ahead of his Yamaha team-mate, Jorge Lorenzo, as Honda and Ducati struggled to compete with Yamaha.
2010 was arguably one of the toughest seasons that Rossi had with his Yamaha team. In his home race, in Mugello, he broke his leg, and missed several races. In the race, he finished in 3rd place, behind the eventual champion, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa. It also proved to be his final season in his first spell with Yamaha. The Italian made the move to the Bologna-based, Ducati factory. This move to the Italian team, proved to be one of the biggest mistakes of Rossi’s MotoGP career. In the two seasons that he spent with the factory, he finished sixth and seventh, respectively, behind champions, Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo, in both seasons. He made his return to Yamaha in 2013. In his first season in his second spell with Yamaha, he won a single race, and finished fourth in the championship, behind the champion, and rookie Marc Marquez.
In 2014, Rossi finished in second place in the championship, with two victories, behind champion, Marc Marquez. But 2015 was to contain, Rossi’s most controversial moment. After battling with the championship with team-mate, Jorge Lorenzo, for most of the season, it boiled down to the wire in the final two races. After accusing Lorenzo’s compatriot, Marquez, of riding to ‘protect Lorenzo’, in the penultimate race of the season, Rossi reacted angrily to a battling Marquez in the Malaysian grand prix at the Sepang circuit. In the final sector of the track, when battling for position, footage showed Rossi nudging Marquez, off his Honda bike, with his knee. After this unsportsmanlike behaviour, Rossi was sent to the back of the grid for the final race of the season in Valencia. In the end, Lorenzo took the title in the final race, as he won the race, and Rossi finished fourth from the back of the grid. As the years went by, a tenth grand prix title continued to elude him. In his final six grand prix seasons, in the MotoGP championship, he finished second, fifth, third, seventh, fifteen, and twenty-first. Looking back on his career, Rossi can be proud of himself, that he has achieved so much, in a twenty-six year career.