Many years ago I got the MotoGP fever. To be precise, we’re talking about 2001, when the MotoGP class was still called 500cc. He was already there. And he inspired me. His duels and the way he would take on his opponent. Others would say how he studied the opponent and forced him into a mistake. His unforgettable victories and his special way of celebrating them. I can remember so many moments with many wigs, skittles, a convict outfit, Snow White and an egg. They were pictures that went around the world and made him immortal for everyone.
He is Valentino Rossi. The figurehead of MotoGP. The representative for the motorcycle world championship. Not because he has collected the most world titles as a rider, that is still Giacomo Agostini. Or because he has won the most victories. No. Valentino Rossi stands for MotoGP because he has shaped it. Not only with his duels or world championship titles, but with a very special incomparable manner. Rossi, even if it may sound a bit thick, is a shining light.
No matter how bad things are going, and things were really bad at Ducati, he didn’t disappear into oblivion. He has fought his way back, although perhaps not as successfully. His popularity has not been diminished. On the contrary. The merchandise trucks at the racetracks of this world are the biggest and they are always well attended. Rossi is a smart businessman. He knows how to market himself. With his Academy, he has also built a monument to himself. He is seen as a role model by most of the young riders or even the pilots currently racing in MotoGP. Over the years, many have shared fan pictures on Instagram in which they themselves were still children and Valentino Rossi was already a MotoGP rider. Many of these young talents are now on the grid with him.
It was considered not so far-fetched to found a motorcycle academy. The academy quickly became a team. 2014 saw the entry of Racing Team VR46 in Moto3. Over the years came the experience and the jump to Moto2. In the meantime there is a successful Moto2 team and since this year also a MotoGP team. Valentino Rossi promotes young talents, that has always been close to his heart. He has been a good teacher and mentor for so many riders in the past. We all remember the pictures of him standing in the pitlane congratulating Marco Simoncelli on his 250cc title. Rossi was not only a friend and mentor, but also a big brother to Simoncelli. In October 2011, I actually thought Valentino Rossi was ending his career after everything that had happened in Malaysia. He didn’t. He kept going. For 10 years.
Even though the rumors were piling up that 2021 would be the last season for Valentino Rossi to race, we all seemed surprised. Well maybe we didn’t want it to be true. Because with Valentino Rossi ends an era. A great sportsman and an impressive personality leaves the big stage. After 25 years, he makes an end to motorcycle racing. Last Thursday, the MotoGP world stopped. It is still incredible.
But questions remain. Who will follow in his footsteps? Will there be a worthy successor? Can there? Currently, I would say no. Valentino Rossi’s footsteps are too big. But what will remain? That is 46. We will continue to see it. On the stands. On the shirts. The flags. And Rossi will stay. Maybe not in MotoGP, but in some other motorsport class.
Grazie Vale per l’indimenticabile vittoria. Grazie per 25 anni!