Valentino’s Parents’ Influence On His Career
Valentino was born in 1979 in the small town of Urbino in the Italian region of Marche before moving to the even smaller commune of Tavullia in the same region. His father is Graziano Rossi who also had a career as a motorcycle racer between 1977 and 1982.
While Graziano wouldn’t reach the same peaks as his son, he did become successful in his own right; in 1979 he placed third in the Grand Prix season with Morbidelli, a personal best and fifth in 1980 with Suzuki.
Obviously influenced by his father’s legacy, Valentino started riding at an early age, being drawn to karting. This was due to his mother, Stefania, who was concerned for the safety of their child thus insisted he’d replace his initial interest for the bike with a kart. Graziano obliged but replaced the 60cc motor with a 100cc one despite his son being only five.
The Early Years As a Racer
At 21 Valentino won for the first time a regional kart championship but soon expanded his interest to the minibike as well and before 1991 rolled to an end he had won various races in the region. He would continue to race with the minibike in 1992 and 1993.
At the national kart championship that takes place in Parma, he finished fifth. Valentino and his father became interested in upgrading to the 100cc Italian series and European series. This would have meant that Valentino would start a career in Formula One, but plans were abandoned when they realized they couldn’t afford the costs.
His father would later pull some strings and manage to secure him a 125cc motorcycle. In 1994 he started racing in the Italian championship and by 1995 he managed to win it.
The Official Debut
The 1996 championship marked the official debut of the racer although his success that year was more of an on and off thing being close to the podium in Malaysia and fifth in the German Grand Prix, but not taking part in the French, British and Dutch rounds.
The same year he scored his first top-three position ever at the Austrian Grand Prix. At the Czech Grand Prix, he managed to score his first pole position and also his first race victory in the 125cc class. At the end of his debut season, he placed ninth overall having 111 points.
Valentino would gain more attention starting with the 1997 season where he would occasionally compete being dressed up like Robin Hood and carrying with him a blow-up doll. He managed to secure the 125cc title for 1997 with 11 races won out of 15 and scoring 321 points.
Move to the 250cc World Championship
Valentino started in the 250cc class in 1998, but, again, his season was an on and off affair. He retired in the debut rounds of Japan and Malaysia but returned with three consecutive second places in Spain, Italy, and France, before retiring again at the Madrid Grand Prix round. He won the Dutch TT, but, again, retired from the British Grand Prix.
After a third position in Germany and another break for the Czech Grand Prix he continuously placed high for the remaining races all the way to Argentina finishing second overall with 201 points.
In 1999 he scored big at most Grand Prix competitions across the globe, including the ones in Italy, The Netherlands, Great Britain, South Africa, Brazil, and Argentina. This made him the champion of the 1999 250cc series with 309 points.
Move to the 500cc World Championship
Always wanting more, Valentino moved up to the 500cc class which was then the ultimate class in motorcycle racing. His season started badly as he crashed out during the rounds in South Africa and Malaysia, but would start to recover in Japan. By the time he got to Europe, he did much better, finishing in third place in Spain, France, and Catalonia.
After nine races Valentino finally won on his 500cc Honda in Donington Park. He placed in the top three in Germany, Czechia, Rio (where he won), Pacific and Australian Grand Prix, putting him in second place at the end of the year in 2000 with 209 points.
He came in first during the 2001 season with 11 wins and making it to the podium in all of the other races except for three (such as the seventh place in Germany and only the 11th in Valencia). This was the third title Valentino had won – this time with 325 points, being 106 points ahead of Max Biaggi who was his main rival of the season.
MotoGP World Championship with Honda
As the 500cc models were becoming obsolete, MotoGP motorcycles were introduced in 2002. Valentino followed suit and placed first in his debut race of the season in Japan despite difficult driving conditions because of the wetness. He took part in all races with the Czech round being the only one where he retired this time.
After winning the 2002 round, Valentino placed first in the 2003 round as well. At the end of the season, he parted ways with Honda mostly due to the fact that his wins were attributed by most to the brand’s quality and not his skills.
MotoGP World Championship with Yamaha
Valentino moved to Yamaha who were willing to sign him over for 12 million dollars, more than the highest sum any company was willing to pay. As rumors of his possible lack of skills followed, he was expected to lose the championship to Max Biaggi who now joined Honda.
The first stage of the season was in South Africa where Valentino won – this also made him the only rider in history to win consecutive races while driving models from different producers. After another on and off season, he still managed to win having scored 304 points, while Max Biaggi was third with 217 points.
Valentino would go on to win the 2005 season as well with 367 points but fell to number two for the 2006 season as the result of several incidents he had during the last race in the Valencian Community Grand Prix – he would have needed to finished first or second in this race to be the world champion but he only placed 13th.
The 2007 season placed him only in third place at the end of the season which was his worst performance since 1996. Valentino recovered in the 2008 and 2009 seasons where he won the world title again. 2009 is the last year in which Valentino was a world champion. The 2010 championship placed him in third place.
Move to Ducati
For the 2011 race Valentino signed with Ducati – this was the first time since 1999 that he raced on an Italian motorcycle. His return to Italian manufacturers was highly anticipated since the early 2000s, but soon this proved to be a disaster for the previous world champion.
The first race which was the Qatar one placed him only in seventh place, his second lowest score for the first race of the season since his debut in 1996. He would go on to disappoint throughout the season as he scored only one podium position, in France. He scored seventh overall at the end of the year which was his worst score since 1996.
The 2012 season was also highly disappointing for the racer. This time he placed 10th in the debut Qatar race but managed to reach the podium twice – once in France and once in San Marino. He was placed sixth at the end of the season.
Return to Yamaha
Following his highly disappointing results with Ducati, Valentino returned for the 2013 season to Yamaha where he is still signed to today. The 2013 season already saw an improvement as Valentino placed fourth.
Valentino placed second in the World Championship for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons. He fell to fifth place in 2017 only to return to the podium in third place for the 2018 season. In 2019 he placed seventh and he plans to still race in the years to come.