Photo: Monster Energy

VALENTINO ROSSI

Forever young

One of the world’s best motorcycle racers, also known as Il Dottore, has won nine World Championships in his career wearing the legendary number 46.

Regardless of whether a World MotoGP Championship race is run in Italy, Spain, Japan or the heartland of Argentina, one thing is certain – the greatest number of fans in the stands are Valentino Rossi’s. Despite the fact that Rossi has been nicknamed Il Dottore for quite some time now and that the latest of his nine championship titles was won ten years ago, two-wheel racing enthusiasts have not forgotten his spectacular manoeuvres and imaginative celebrations, which were a cherry on the cake of his dazzling sports career. But even though Rossi is pushing 41, he is not ready to retire yet. The eternal young man who made his World Championship debut in 1996, when he was widely known as the son of Graziano Rossi – a former racer who had competed in world championships for six seasons and had his greatest success 40 years ago, winning the 250cc GP at Grobnik near Rijeka – very soon became a star and quickly outshone his father.

In his very beginnings, he was strongly reminiscent of his father. He didn’t train or go to the gym and all he did was instinctive and natural to him, but his talent was infinitely bigger than his father’s. Despite his age, he has remained playful and extroverted, but his meticulousness and precision regarding the technical aspects, as well as everything else pertaining to racing and the motorcycle he rides, are the reason why his rivals still hold him in high esteem. Every detail, even the graphic design on the armour, has to be approved by him, and he pastes the stickers, the personal ones, himself. The engineers who work or who worked with him in the past often say that he is more accurate than telemetry in identifying engine problems.

In the 24 years full of success and magical manoeuvres on the track, Valentino has gained an army of admirers all over the world. But his impressive results aren’t the only reason there is no corner of the world that does not fly 46, the number that he would not take off his motorcycle even when he was the champion (he wore number 1 on his shoulder instead). His legendary celebrations have also been the thing that has inspired millions of kids, as well as grown-ups. However, Il Dottore (a nickname he has given himself) has his own heroes and he was glad to mention them at the start of our conversation.

– As a driver, I’ve always been a great admirer of Kevin Schwantz. I had his posters on the wall when I was growing up. He’s one of my heroes, but I also admired Jeremy McGrath, the legend of the American Supercross, famous for his spectacular riding style. In everyday life, away from the track and competing, I find role models and support in my family. I inherited a lot from my father, who was also a racer, but when it comes to my character, I’m a lot more like mum. On the eve of my first official race, when I was ten years old and driving minibikes, mum gave me a bunch of hugs and a turtle soft toy, which I still have. It’s a kind of a lucky charm I always carry with me to races; it means a lot to me.
His family and friends, especially the ones he made before becoming famous, are an important piece of the puzzle for Valentino, but, as he himself admits, races are his life, and the reason that even after twenty years he still does not think about retirement is the fact that he still enjoys them.

– My life is focused on racing, and results are the most important thing to me. When I do a good practice run or a race, when my times are good and I have achieved the goals I have set myself, I’m happy, but if my times are bad or the results aren’t there, then it’s a somewhat different story. In general, I can still say that I have a lot of reasons for satisfaction. I have a lot of good friends I grew up with and I’m surrounded by them both in business and my private life. I have a good relationship with my family, including two younger brothers. I like spending time with them. There’s a life off the track as well, but right now I’m still living for the results.

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