Valentino Rossi is acknowledged as the Greatest Road Racer of all time (GOAT). The Italian Superstar is already an 8 time World Champion with 6 of those coming from the premier 500/MotoGP class and he is on track for a 9th win this year. However despite his status the record books continue to show that the numerical GOAT remains another Italian, one Giacomo Agostini and Rossi is determined to end his career as the unarguable best ever. In this two part series, I will argue why he will do it on a Ducati. Part I is after the jump.
Part I – The First GOAT
Giacomo Agostini is a road racing hero. The Italian holds the record for the most Grand Prix victories ever at 122 and also the most World Championship titles at an astounding 15!! Of these victories, 68 wins and 8 titles came from the premier 500cc class with the remainder in the long defunct 350 class. Agostini raced at a time when the Isle of Mann TT was part of the World 500cc Championship and also was the first ever 2-stroke 500cc World Champion (on a Yamaha in 1975). However ‘Ago’ as his fans referred to him is intimately associated with the famous Italian MV Augusta brand and won many of his championships when he had a decided machinery advantage – racing the fire engine, multi-cylinder red MV’s against underpowered British single cylinder competition.
It seemed likely that no-one would ever be able to surpass Ago’s achievements in the modern era. For example the most successful racer before Rossi, Australian Mick Doohan took 5, 500cc titles in his career and amassed 54 victories in that class still short of Ago’s 68 in 500 (let alone his 122 total).
The New Aspirant
Enter Valentino Rossi. Rossi has been a racing sensation taking two seasons to move to the top of each of the 125, 250 and 500cc championships. He won the first 2, four-stroke, 990cc MotoGP championships on the mighty V5 Honda RC211V before shocking everyone by switching to the inline 4 Yamaha that had taken only 2 victories (at the hands of Max Biaggi) in the previous 2 seasons.
In typical Vale style, he won the opening race of the 2004 season despite clearly being out-powered on the straights. His team, which included Jeremy Burgess (who had partnered so successfully with Rossi at Honda and with Doohan before him), got the Yamaha into shape and Rossi took the 2004 and 2005 seasons on the Yamaha putting him up with Eddie Lawson as a rider who could win back to back championships on different brands (Lawson won on a Yamaha in 1988 and then won on a Honda the following year).
2006 and 2007 were difficult years for Rossi as he lost the title chase both years so that Nicky Hayden was the last champion of the 990 era and Casey Stoner on the Ducati, the first of the 800cc one.
A Sense of his Place in History
Despite these setbacks, Rossi has been very much aware of how he is systematically replacing one of his heros, Ago, at the top of the record books one category at a time. Last year at his home track of Misano he took his 68th premier class win to match Agostini’s record which of course he has now surpassed.
Valentino Rossi:- “Today is a truly fantastic day and I can’t believe that I have matched Agostini’s record! He was one of my heroes so it’s quite incredible to have made it to 68 wins.”
This year he achieved another milestone, surpassing Ago’s record of 159 career podiums with his victory at Brno.
Valentino Rossi:- “Today I arrived at the top of the all-time podium list and I’m very proud of this, especially here at Brno where I took my first victory 13 years ago.”
How much further could Rossi go? Well he isn’t going to break Ago’s record of total World Championships but he could become number 1 for premier class championships. Afterall, Rossi is looking strong to win this year to make it 7 titles in 500/MotoGP and 2 more would move him ahead of Ago. Does Vale have two more championships in him? Few would argue against it. Will he stick with Yamaha to the end? I think not.
Continue on to Part II of Why Valentino Rossi will Finish his Career on a Ducati.