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The 31st of March, 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of Valentino Rossi’s World Championship debut, made at the Malaysian GP in 1996.
Valentino Rossi’s impact on the world stage was almost immediate; the young Italian ran an incredible 125cc race from 13th on the grid to seal sixth on his debut. In the process he beat riders such as lightweight class specialist Noboru Ueda and Garry McCoy, the whispers from Italy about the sensational youngster proving true in almost every regard.
This was just the start of his glorious career in the World Championship, ‘The Doctor’ going on to win his first race that same year in Brno before destroying the competition in 1997 to clinch his first title. With the 125cc title in his pocket, he moved to the 250cc class and once again after a year of adapting, his second year was a dominating performance as he won nine races.
The pattern of a year of learning, then a year of winning continued as he stepped into the premier class, taking the final 500cc title in 2001. This started a run of five straight titles in the premier class, three for Honda and two for Yamaha. Truly it was with Yamaha that Rossi saw his greatest success, taking a total of four MotoGP™ World Championships with the Japanese company.
20 years later and Rossi remains largely the same; beaming off the track and deadly focused once the lights go out. His struggles in Qualifying still exist too, but no matter how far down the grid he starts, Rossi can rarely be ruled out of the race, as those in the 125cc race at Shah Alam circuit learned. Each year Rossi pushes himself and his crew to find any new advantage they can; a custom built flat track ranch at his home, a new crew chief, a rider coach, all in the hunt for the top step of the podium.
Across the 20 years Rossi has taken 112 victories, 211 podiums, 61 poles, 92 race fastest laps and nine World Championship titles. There are few records that still exist which Rossi’s name is not a part of.
Even as the oldest rider on the grid, Rossi continues to wow onlookers and get faster and faster each year, improving himself and his riding to remain at the front. The 2015 season proved without a shadow of a doubt that Rossi is truly the Peter Pan of MotoGP™, thriving off the thrill of racing and only getting faster and more aggressive with age.
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