MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi turns 31 today, February 16, as he prepares for his 15th season in the World Championship.
In 2009 Valentino Rossi took his ninth world title, a seventh in the premier class, as he continued his incredible World Championship career which has so far spanned 14 spectacular seasons. Turning 31 years of age today, Rossi is showing no signs of slowing down in his pursuit of further success.
Taking last year’s title in one of his toughest seasons to date, the Italian enjoyed six wins in a season which saw him and his rivals all make mistakes at times as they pushed each other to unexpectedly great heights. Rossi’s duel with his team-mate Jorge Lorenzo reached epic proportions with the Battle of Barcelona due to go down in history as one of the greatest ever, Rossi triumphing with an audacious last-corner move that saw him win by just thousandths of a second.
His incredible run of Mugello victories came to an end but he made up for it with a perfect performance at his home track of Misano when he also took one of his seven pole positions. His victory in Holland was the 100th win of his career, and he finally secured the title at Sepang and will come out all guns blazing in 2010 as he looks to make it ten.
Born in Urbino, Italy on 16th February 1979, Rossi rode bikes from an early age under the influence of his father Graziano, a former Grand Prix winner. Rossi junior started in go-karts, but before long was riding minimotos and became regional champion in 1992. He quickly rose through the ranks, winning the Italian Sport Production Championship in 1994 and the Italian 125cc Championship in 1995 (alongside third place in the European Championship), and the following year made his World Championship debut.
His first Grand Prix came at Malaysia and Rossi ended the season in ninth place, having won his first race at Brno. The following year he became the youngest ever rider to win the 125cc World Championship, winning eleven races along the way with Aprilia. He repeated the feat in the 250cc class, taking second place in his ﬁrst year in the category before becoming World Champion in 1999, once again with Aprilia.
In 2000 he entered a new phase of his career when he joined forces with Honda in the 500cc class. As he had done in both the 125cc and 250cc classes, it took Rossi just a season to settle, and he finished second in his debut premier class campaign as he won two races and finished on the podium a total of ten times. The following season, Rossi was crowned the last Champion of the 500cc era as he won 11 times throughout the season, starting a run of five consecutive premier class titles as he took his first title at the elite level and engaged in an engrossing battle with rival Max Biaggi.
Taking a dominant hold, Rossi was again World Champion in 2002 as he adapted seamlessly to the 4-stroke bikes, sealing the title with victory in Rio de Janeiro as he won 11 races and finished on the podium in all but one of the 16 races.
In 2003 he completed a fine achievement as he finished on the podium in all 16 races of the campaign, and marked his fourth and final season with Honda with a third straight title. By this stage his entertaining celebrations were becoming widely recognised as his trademark.
Rossi made history by moving to Yamaha in 2004 and in winning the season-opening Grand Prix in South Africa he became the ﬁrst rider in the history of the sport to win back-to-back premier class races for different manufacturers. He went on to win nine out of 16 races, clinching the World Championship title – Yamaha’s ﬁrst for 12 years – with victory at the penultimate Grand Prix in Phillip Island. A ﬁnal win at the Valencia Grand Prix also ensured that the Yamaha Factory Team won the team title.
He dominated the 2005 season, winning 11 races in total, taking ﬁve pole positions and only ﬁnishing off the podium once. In doing so Rossi became one of only ﬁve riders in the history of the sport to win the premier class title on ﬁve occasions. He also helped Yamaha to win the manufacturers and team titles, ensuring Yamaha celebrated its 50th Anniversary with one of its best ever years in Grand Prix.
2006 saw him finish World Champion runner-up for only the second time in his premier class career, having lost the title to Honda’s Nicky Hayden by just ﬁve points following a ﬁnal-race showdown in Valencia. Rossi still managed five race wins and finished on the podium ten times.
Rossi took four race wins in 2007 and several podiums in what was one of his toughest seasons, as he was limited by technical and tyre problems as well as bad luck. The Italian missed out on the runner-up spot in the Championship by just one point after his final race was wrecked by injury, and third place was his lowest Championship finish since his rookie year in 1996.
Rossi returned to winning form in 2008 and recaptured the MotoGP title, winning nine races and standing on the podium at 16 out of 18 rounds. His results included a seventh straight win at Mugello, a titanic duel with Casey Stoner in Laguna Seca (where Rossi had never previously won) and an historic victory at hurricane-struck Indianapolis. Rossi eventually took the title with a victory at Yamaha’s home track in Japan, with three races to go. It was his eighth career title and his third with Yamaha.
As he turns 31 Rossi embarks on his seventh season with Yamaha, and continues to have the support of his long-standing Crew Chief, Jeremy Burgess, who moved from Honda to work with him at Yamaha Factory Racing in 2004.
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