You will certainly still have in your eyes the inauspicious outcome – at least for Valentino Rossi – of the 2015 MotoGP. of a controversial penalty given to him in the last race. A sad ending for his fans, who, however, for the last race, in Valencia, crowded in front of the television hoping for the feat.
And in fact, in his career, Valentino Rossi has made many businesses. Since the beginning, twenty years ago, he has accustomed his audience to expect everything. And even if the years have partly undermined his physical form, surprises are always around the corner, as he has shown this last season. On the other hand, his numbers are legendary. At the moment he boasts 9 world titles, 112 races won, and 61 pole positions. It is unlikely that anyone will be able to do better in the short term.
But let’s stick to those 112 wins. Some were relatively quiet, with Rossi able to manage the lead. Others were heart-pounding, with sensational overtaking even at the last corner. Many of the latter, if you are passionate about motorcycling, you probably still remember them, many years later. We have tried to group the five most epic of the Tavullia driver’s career. Here they are.
Table of Contents
- 1 Phillip Island 2001
- 2 Welkom 2004
- 3 Jerez 2005
- 4 Laguna Seca 2008
- 5 Catalonia 2009
Phillip Island 2001
The rivalry with Max Biaggi and the first title in the highest category
We are starting from a race that was not actually held in MotoGP, a category that did not yet exist in 2001. As you will remember, after two seasons in 125 and two in 250 (both ended with a world title), Rossi landed in 2000 in the premier class, which for two seasons was still the 500. In the first year he had to sell to the American Kenny Roberts jr ., still managing to overtake compatriot Max Biaggi. In the second – and the last one before the move to MotoGP – he seemed to have a smooth road, however.
The championship began in fact in the best way. In the first three races – in Japan, South Africa, and Spain – Rossi always climbed the top step, while his most fearsome rivals, namely Max Biaggi and Loris Capirossi, struggled to compete for the top positions. Things partly changed around the middle of the season, when Biaggi began to get under and dangerously close to Rossi’s points.
The best race of that year was probably the Phillip Island Grand Prix, which took place on October 14, 2001. The pole position had been for Biaggi, who had practically the last chance to reopen the World Championship. Even the fastest lap in the race was the prerogative of the Roman driver, who was in the lead at the last “lap”. Valentino, however, gradually approached, and at one of the final curves, he placed his paw. It was a risky move because in the world rankings the man from the Marches had an advantage that should have advised him to settle for a second place rather than risk a crash. But even then, at 22, Rossi was made of another pasta.
A sensational start to the season, again against Max Biaggi
In 2001 the first World Championship in the premier class also arrived, followed by the titles of 2002 and 2003, obtained with impressive ease. Suffice it to say that in the second of these two seasons Rossi finished on the podium in all the races, collecting 9 first places, 5-second places, and 2 third places. But even the year before, the victories had been 11 out of 16 races available.
In 2004, Valentino Rossi was therefore the obligatory favorite. After three consecutive championships opened in Japan, the World Championship restarted from South Africa, from Welkom, on April 18, 2004. Once again the main contenders were Valentino Rossi and Max Biaggi, two riders whose rivalry, in those years, was at the highest levels. And the opening race certainly did not help to ease the spirits. Pole ended up in Valentino’s hands, but in the race, Biaggi immediately showed that he could show a better pace, and thus gained the lead position.
For a few laps, between the two, Sete Gibernau intervened, who, as we will see, was already a formidable rival for Rossi. But in the end, the race was a two-man race, under the Italian colors. The overtaking among the drivers was many, often very tight. Both wanted to make it clear that they wouldn’t have spared the effort to win the title that season, and they challenged each other corner after corner. In the end, Rossi won, but – and certainly not every day – after crossing the finish line he and Biaggi said goodbye, paying homage to each other.
The overtaking of the controversy over Sete Gibernau
One of the rivalries that perhaps, by far, has remained most etched in the memory of Valentino Rossi’s fans, however, is that with Sete Gibernau. A rivalry that reached its peak in Jerez de la Frontera in 2005. The day was April 10, and even then it was the opening race of the new World Championship. Biaggi was still there, but in that season he turned out to be less competitive than in previous years. On the other hand, no one in the final standings really managed to bother Rossi, with Marco Melandri finishing in second place overall but with 147 points behind.
The most popular rival, at least on the eve, was Sete Gibernau. In the two previous championships, he had finished in second place, also taking home some Grand Prix. Aware of the fact that his age was advancing, he was determined to give the younger Valentino a hard time, perhaps playing the last card of his career. And the fact of starting from one of the home Grand Prix certainly had to be a further stimulus. So in Jerez, despite Rossi having conquered the pole position, the Spaniard immediately tried to undermine the first position.
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The last lap, on the contrary, opened with Gibernau in the lead, after a very tight race that had seen the two contenders duel with no holds barred. The confrontation became even more intense and during a curve, Rossi ventured one of his overtaking, those in which he slipped into the only hole left free by the opponent. In doing so, however, he found himself flanked by Gibernau just as he was setting the curve. The contact between the two was inevitable and the Spaniard ended up off the track, returning soon after but not being able to cross the finish line first. At the award ceremony, the two scowled at each other and the controversy raged for a few days.
Laguna Seca 2008
The duel with Casey Stoner
It was already known that Rossi was capable of overtaking the impossible. In 2008, however, he proved it in an unforgettable way. In a race that, among other things, was important for several reasons. After five world championships won consecutively between 2001 and 2005, the first crisis of the Urbino career had arrived. In 2006 he had lost the World Championship in the last race, to Nicky Hayden. In 2007, however, nothing could have been against the arrogance of Casey Stoner, who had led an extraordinary championship.
Someone was already beginning to talk about a closed cycle. Rossi, on the other hand, proved that it was too early to put an end to his victories. In 2008 he did not start very well, but from the Shanghai race onwards he began to put his mark on the competition again. Stoner, of course, wasn’t just watching. And so in the middle of the championship, the two riders had set up a very similar path. The turning point came, as mentioned, in Laguna Seca, in the Grand Prix that was held on 20 July.
Stoner was in extraordinary shape. He had won the three previous Grands Prix and had entered the stars and stripes circuit with a pole position, which was then confirmed by the fastest lap in the race. Rossi, however, was not prepared to give up the victory. The two overcame each other several times, in some cases even in a risky way. Not surprisingly, Rossi’s overtaking in the “corkscrew” generated some controversy. But the race was decided by Stoner’s off-the-track, who effectively gave the Italian the green light. From that moment on, Rossi won another 5 of the following 7 races and went on to take the world title.
The impossible overtaking Jorge Lorenzo
We conclude with a challenge that is not very recent, but which allows us to introduce the figure of Jorge Lorenzo, current world champion and teammate of Valentino. It was in 2009. As mentioned, Rossi had just won the 2008 World Cup and obviously wanted to do an encore (a feat that he succeeded in, even if that – to this day – is his last world title). On his way he found three riders: Jorge Lorenzo, on a Yamaha; Dani Pedrosa, on Honda; Casey Stoner again, on Ducati.
In the first few races, the situation remained rather uncertain. Rossi won the Jerez de la Frontera race, but for example, in France, he was unable to go beyond sixteenth place. Stoner and Lorenzo, on the other hand, seemed very aggressive. So in Catalonia Rossi did not arrive as a favorite; not surprisingly, the pole went to Lorenzo while the fastest lap in the race was recorded by Stoner.
In the last two laps, Rossi and Lorenzo found themselves leading the race alone. Lorenzo seemed to have more and, despite the two having overtaken each other at least three times, at the last corners, the Spaniard found himself in the lead and closed all the gates, driving very well. A normal driver would have given up and contented himself with second place, but when even the fiercest fans were desperate, Rossi pulled a rabbit out of his hat. In fact, at the very last corner, he came out from behind, surprising even the commentators, and took off towards victory.