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When Valentino Rossi crossed the line in third position last weekend in Jerez, the mercurial Italian re-wrote the history books…
With nineteen years of experience reporting on MotoGP™ for Motorcycle News, Matthew Birt knows the championship inside-out. For the 2015 season he joins the motogp.com team to bring you exclusive news and opinion from inside the paddock.
When Valentino Rossi crossed the line in third position last weekend in Jerez, the mercurial Italian re-wrote the history books for the umpteenth time in his career.
Precisely 18 years and nine months since he was third in the Austrian 125cc race at the A1-Ring behind Ivan Goi and Dirk Raudies, Rossi’s third in Jerez was the 200th time he has stood on a World Championship podium.
No other rider is even close to such an astonishing accomplishment, with Italian legend Giacomo Agostini closest on 159 podiums.
Rossi’s latest record-breaking endeavor once again demonstrates his incredible longevity at the pinnacle of the sport.
To put Rossi’s staying power into perspective, the Austrian Grand Prix back in 1996 was one day after my 23rd birthday. Now I’m not far off my 42nd birthday.
There were 6847 days between rostrum number one and him reaching the double century in Jerez, or 978 weeks and one day!
Rossi’s achievement is unique; particularly considering he plies his trade in a sport where danger lurks around every corner and the risk of injury is a constant occupational hazard. He’s not picking up a golf club, tennis racket or snooker cue to keep the bank balance ticking over.
And then there are the mental and physical demands of riding a 260bhp race bred MotoGP bike on the absolute limit for three days over 18 weekends.
That requires super human motivation and dedication to keep the mind and body razor sharp.
For me, it is not only the fact that Rossi is still able to compete and beat the likes of Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo that is most impressive.
It is the fact that he still wants to do it.
He doesn’t do it for the money. Rossi is rich beyond his wildest dreams and is financially secure for life.
He does it because he loves it.
He wants to sit in the Movistar Yamaha garage long after the sun has set, pouring over data with his crew and calculating where he can squeeze even just a thousandth-of-a-second more out of his YZR-M1.
He doesn’t shirk the daily visits to the gym to keep himself in peak physical condition. He thrives on constantly making minute tweaks to his riding style to stay competitive. Even at 36, Rossi is proof you can teach an old dog new tricks.
But most of all he loves the thrill of competition and the buzz of wheel to wheel combat. He relishes testing himself against the fast and fearless younger generation headed by the likes of Marquez.
In Jerez last weekend, he was asked how he has been able to keep so motivated and so driven to continue racing at the top.
His answer was: “You can stay at home because it is enough and also don't risk and stay relaxed. But in my case I like very much the race. I love my life, also going around the world and especially working with Yamaha and my team. And the taste of victory is always special. It is a pleasure to work to find that feeling.”
So there you go. He’s as motivated now standing aside Lorenzo and Marquez on the podium as he was nearly 20 years ago with Goi and Raudies.
It’s a good job too because it looks like his title fight with Lorenzo and Marquez is building up to a classic clash of styles and personalities in 2015.
After Lorenzo’s brilliant return to winning ways in Jerez and Marquez’s pain-defying ride to second, the Spanish pair clawed back precious points on Rossi in the Championship battle.
A 201st podium in Le Mans next weekend, preferably on the top step from Rossi’s point of view, will be just what "The Doctor" ordered.
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