Happy Birthday Grandad Valentino (Rossi)

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Today, on the 16th February 2021, nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi celebrates his 42nd birthday. For the last 20 years, he’s been ‘Mr MotoGP’, winning titles in the 125cc, 250cc, 500cc and MotoGP category. Many men have come to try and best The Doctor. Very few have succeeded. But Valentino Rossi isn’t getting any younger, and his recent results would suggest he isn’t getting any faster either. So is it time Grandad Valentino stepped aside and left the bike racing to the young kids? Or is age just a number? Perhaps VR46 has got plenty left in the tank. This is what I think…

Some say you’re as young as you feel. Others say you’re as young as the woman you feel. In Valentino Rossi’s case, that woman is a smoking hot 27 year old. Fair play. Maybe Rossi feels as though he’s still in his twenties. I don’t know. He’s certainly not enjoying the wins he enjoyed in his twenties. But in amongst a grid full of twenty-somethings (and a few thirty somethings), the old boy doesn’t embarrass himself.

Perhaps one of the reasons Valentino Rossi still manages to ride like someone half his age is because of how well he’s looked after his body. Most 40 year old bike racers are physically fucked. If they aren’t riddled with osteoarthritis, covered in scar tissue and packed full of pins and plates, they’re doing pretty well. Either through luck or judgement, Valentino Rossi has managed to completely avoid smashing himself to bits. Throughout his illustrious career as a motorcycle racer, he has of course, crashed. But his crashes are rare. And when he does crash, he tends to pick himself up and dust himself down. He certainly doesn’t frequent A&E in the same way that some of his rivals do. Cough, MM93, cough.

And even if he doesn’t have the same supersharp fitness as the rest of the boys, he more than makes up for it with experience. There’s nobody else on the MotoGP grid that has been in the premier class for even half the time Valentino Rossi has. He knows the circuits, he knows the bikes. And more importantly, he knows how to develop a bike to get the very best out of it.

So has something happened in the last few years then? Why have his results gone downhill? Is there an argument to say that something has divided his attention? Running the Sky Racing VR46 team (racing in Moto2 and Moto3), is no mean feat as it is. But when you are doing that whilst you’re racing yourself, for the factory Yamaha MotoGP squad, it’s going to take some serious doing.

Or maybe the apparent struggle isn’t anything to do with that. Perhaps Valentino Rossi is just as good as he’s always been, but the rest of the field have upped their game. There’s no doubt that the dominance of Marc Marquez has forced everyone to rethink the way they ride motorbikes. Perhaps the new way of riding is one trick too many for the old dog.

I don’t know. But what I do know is that growing up watching Valentino Rossi race motorbikes has been an absolute joy. From the devastating speed and calculated racecraft, to the weird and wonderful post-race celebrations and wacky helmets. I feel privileged to have been able to watch the master at work, and I know I’m not the only one.

So to all that say it’s time for Valentino Rossi to hang his leathers up, I’m going to have to disagree. He might not be the bookies favourite to take the championship any more, but he’s still the peoples favourite. And he’s still my favourite. He’s still more than fit enough, fast enough and determined enough to race motorbikes at the highest possible level. I say crack on. He’s not doing it for the money, the trophies, the experience. The man’s got more than enough of all that stuff. He’s doing it for the sheer love of it.

Please don’t stop.


8 Responses

  1. Boothy you’re so right. I remember the Doohan/Schwantz/Rainey era in 500 GP’s, and this young, skinny Italian in 125’s then 250’s gradually getting everyone’s attention with his skills but also his crazy antics with the headshaving (mickey-take of one of his crew chiefs if I remember), the Robin Hood hat, bow & arrows, the lobbing kit into the crowd post-race, the general upping of bike racing’s profile around the world. His charm & good nature in interviews, that hid a steel hand in a velvet glove on the track. The sea of yellow in the crowds. That move on Stoner at Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew had me laugh out loud watching it live. Brilliant though Marquez is, I doubt he’ll be in MotoGP at 42.

  2. I echo all that, i am 54 now and watched the back end of Sheene and the perennial disappointments of Haslam, McElnea and Mackenzie at GP level, good riders but just lacked at the highest level.
    The UK wanted a Hero and they got it in Foggy, so WSB became the series to watch, just look at the crowds they used to get, great times.
    But what Rossi did was reignite GP racing after dull dull dominance of Doohan, and even though Rossi wasn’t from our nation he became our and the worlds Hero, long may he continue, in my opinion

  3. “Physically fucked”, what a great diagnosis, you should be on the first line!
    Happy birthday to Vale, most likely – the GOAT! Cheers!

  4. Last year was the biggest flop in Vale’s career. 15th in the standings, with his worst before this being 7th both in 2011 and 2019, with the 20 years he has been in the premier class. I really do hope this move to Petronas is the hard reset he needs. A consistent year full of battles for the podium and maybe the odd trip to the top step would be the high to go out on. I’m probably dreaming. It’s highly likely we will get a press conference full of tears mid way through the season. Happy Birthday Vale.

    1. True, but I would not write the old dog off just yet. 2020 was a bad year for Valentino for sure, but you do need to take into account he missed two races due to covid, was unfortunately involved in a couple of incidents and (I am open to being corrected here) was running the 2020 Yamaha which I believe had issues all season, Morbidelli I think was running the 2019 bike. So onwards and hopefully upwards this year with the new team.

  5. Amen to all of that, Boothy.
    As someone of 67 who has never raced, and gets queasy at the thought of going right on a wet mini roundabout, all racers are heros. But he is something more. Formula 1 would give its teeth away for a character like him.

    I’ve heard comment that his presence has held back younger riders. Honestly, kids! You have to catch him and pass him – that’s the whole idea.

    Another great season approaches, so Vale, keep on keeping on!

  6. I have to agree, Vale’s in it for the love of racing. Who knows how it will all fall, don’t matter the man is that rarity that is a legend in his own time – whatever he decides it will be the right thing. Keep going or manage a team, really doesn’t matter as long as we still have that talent in the paddock!

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