MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Rossi at 40: so many memories
Recounting memories of Valentino Rossi, who turns 40 on Saturday
Valentino Rossi celebrates his 40th birthday on Saturday, hoping against hope to become the first forty-something to win a world title since the 1950s, when grand prix racing was ruled by older riders who’d had their careers interrupted by the Second World War.
To give you some idea of Rossi’s advancing years, Britain had its first £1million footballer in February 1979, when Trevor Francis signed to Nottingham Forest. When he won his first grand prix in August 1996 the Spice Girls were number one.
The big four-oh isn’t the only major life landmark that Rossi reaches this year, because three weeks later, on 10th March, he commences his 24th world championship season. Only two riders have got close to that, Aussie great Jack Findlay, who raced 20 and a bit seasons from 1958 to 1978 and Brazilian Alex Barros, who raced 22 seasons from 1986 to 2007, having lied about his age to get his first grand prix licence to race in the 50cc class.
What can be said about Rossi that hasn’t already been said? Nothing, really. Rossi may not have won a race for the last year and a half, but he’s still the most successful premier-class racer of all time and has contested a total of 383 grands prix, which is not that far off half of the 876 GP events staged since the very first world-championship race June 1949! That is an astonishing statistic.
I’ve already written enough Rossi plaudits over the past two-and-a-bit decades (although not so many recently) to fill a book or two, so I’ll try and spare you anymore. Instead, here are a few memories.
The first time I saw Rossi ride was in May 1990 at a go-kart track in Rimini. The last time was last week at Sepang. That’s almost three decades of watching someone going around in circles, making a tidy living out of him along the way. Thanks!
The 1990 Italian Grand Prix was staged at Misano. I took advantage of that trip to check out a new craze that was sweeping the nation and – although I didn’t know it at the time – would create a whole new generation of Italian GP riders. Minimoto was huge on the Adriatic seaside coast, in Misano, Rimini and Cattolica. Gangs of kids would descend on go-kart tracks, rent minimotos and race around until they collapsed in agony or in a fit of giggles.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.