THE ROOKIE - Dainese's infographic tribute to VR46




Dainese are delighted to reward all the "Doctor's" fans with an infographic celebrating Valentino Rossi's 19 years of World Championship racing (and 9 World Titles) by featuring his biggest rivals, young and old, who are either still competing against him or who gave up some time ago.

The article which accompanies “The Rookie” recounts, generation by generation, all the oddities and several never seen before behind the scene events that involved 10 great rivals of a certain person who races under the number 46 (see @ValeYellow46)!



Rossi and his rivals


The greatness of a champion can be measured in many ways. The most common way is to use results but rivals should never be overlooked.

In 19 World Championship seasons, Valentino Rossi crossed the path of dozens of riders and fought against motorcycling legends like Biaggi and Lorenzo, but also against others who, by now, have almost been forgotten. People forgotten by almost everyone, but not by Valentino who has an incredible memory and remembers every race, every overtaking manoeuvre and especially, every rival. When asked" which rider scared you most on the track”? Rossi replied: “Konishi, a Japanese rider who raced in the 500cc class. He was really fast… in the pit lane, and we all had to be very careful when entering or leaving the box. Every so often he forgot to brake...”.


Now however, we'll have a look at the bigger picture. Twenty years of World Championship racing and rivals...


1997: Noboru Ueda

When Valentino started racing in World Championship 125 races in 1996, Japanese riders were in command. The title went to Haruchika Aoki, ahead of Tokudome and Manako. Behind them were two Spaniards who are now successful managers: Emilio Alzamora, the "inventor” of Marquez and Jorge Martinez, the owner of a MotoGP team.

Rossi became champion in 1997 after beating Noboru Ueda, who was not just a fantastic fighter like almost all his fellow Japanese riders, but also loved Italy thanks to contracts with Italian teams, to Dr. Costa, who rebuilt his hand and ... to tagliatelle! He is now a widely respected talent scout for young Japanese riders.


1998 – 1999: Loris Capirossi

In 1998, Rossi moved to the 250 class with Aprilia but found himself up against a formidable duo who were also riding the Italian bike: Loris Capirossi and Tetsuya Harada. The Italian was the first "baby" rider World Champion (in 1990 and 1991 with the 125), but he was also a tough guy who could ride like the wind and take many risks. He would risk everything in qualifying and this made Loris a force to be reckoned with when fighting for pole position. Harada was "colder", had perfect style and the incredible lines he took had a laser-like quality. The Japanese rider lost the World Championship in 1998 due to a "clash" with Capirossi at the last corner. Rossi won the 250cc title in 1999.

Nowadays, Harada is a good golfer while Loris is a father, a TV commentator and in charge of rider safety.


2000: Kenny Roberts Junior

KR Junior was not the person everyone expected but the one who, in the end, made everybody toe the line. The Californian, son of one of the greatest riders of all time (KR Senior), didn't exactly appear to be a "bolt of lightning" and was riding a Suzuki that was significantly inferior to the Honda and Yamaha machines he was up against. However, making the best of many wet races during the season, of mistakes made by Rossi on the debut of the monstrous Honda NSR 500 and the poor feeling Biaggi had with his Yamaha, he became number one. A working class hero, perhaps, but a consistent and intelligent rider who now lives in California, plays golf and produces fine wines.


2001-2002: Max Biaggi

The rivalry with Max was probably the greatest and was "encouraged" by the media from all over the world. The British press often referred to the "war" between the two Italians with the suggestive use of the words "Spaghetti Duel". Two strong personalities, two great riders and two very different characters. Biaggi is a perfectionist with little inclination to joke, Valentino on the other hand has always been a sort of an Aladdin's cave out of which pops an inflatable doll on a lap of honour or a raised middle finger salute after passing someone... But there was also an ugly argument between them in Barcelona in 2001 with more than a few barbed comments. The two hated each other but we were privileged to have had two great Italian champions in the early years of 2000. Let's put it like this: Italy wasn't big enough for both Vale and Max! Biaggi is now a father, a TV commentator and an Aprilia test rider. Perhaps we'll soon see him racing again. A real highlander.


2003 - 2004: Sete Gibernau

The story of how a tragedy can change you... Sete was a handsome young man from Barcelona, he was rich and from a noble background. He raced with passion (since is also related to the Bultò family from Bultaco motorbike fame) but without much in the way of results. Then, in 2003 at Suzuka, after the fatal accident involving Daijro Kato, Gibernau became the number one rider for the Movistar Honda team. All of a sudden, he became a great rider. He was Rossi's bitterest rival in 2003 and 2004 and was Championship runner up with the Honda in both years. Then, in rapid succession: the move to Ducati, marriage to a top model and the end of his career. He now works on TV and is a celebrity of the Spanish scene. It was in his DNA after all...


2006: Nicky Hayden

Nicky was the only rider to beat Rossi in his moment of glory, in a strange season in which Yamaha made mistakes with the M1 for Valentino and the American drew on his depth of character. “Never give up” was his motto and, when he arrived at the last race in Valencia with the title wide open a miracle took place: Hayden on the podium and Rossi on the ground at the start of the race. For once the pretender to the throne beat the king.


Casey Stoner

A tough but fragile young man, an incredibly fast, talented but also controversial rider. Casey is all of the above, the portrait of a kid who sustained his family winning all the Australian races. Not many smiles, great sacrifices and an long series of falls gave him the somewhat unfair nickname of Rolling Stoner. When he rode two of the best bikes on the scene, (the Ducati in 2007 and the Honda in 2011) he showed his rivals no mercy. Clean cut wins, slaps on the face, a whirlwind. There was however both physical and psychological weakness: at the age of 27 in 2012, he announced his retirement to the world's press. Casey left the circus to go back to Australia to fish, go bow hunting and look after his family. From time to time, he acts as a test rider for Honda. He is still very fast but has sworn never to return.


Jorge Lorenzo

Even from a young age and during his first years of racing in the World Championship series, Jorge was known for his face. Always morose, never smiling: he was a sad young man who had little fun. He improved over the years but, more importantly, he became the most "stylish" rider in MotoGP. Wonderful to watch, perfect in the lines he took, not a great fan of scrapping but when things were going well, he could set an incredible race pace. He was a fearless rival who had Rossi as his team mate from 2010 and with whom, gradually, he started an epic human battle on the track. Lorenzo had one particular characteristic: like many animals, he "marked" his territory. Following a win, he used to plant a flag with his symbol - an X with a circle to mark that now, that was Lorenzo's territory


Dani Pedrosa

Probably the greatest talent ever seen on small to medium sized bikes (he was champion in 125 and 250) with which he could have won at least ten World Titles. Forced to move to MotoGp, he always struggled because of his small, slight frame. He always appeared more like an altar boy on track than a gladiator. His class and talent however stood out and allowed him to always finish among the top riders over the past nine years. Needless to say, this was despite a significant number of accidents. No-one will admit it but, Dani really is a hard man.


Marc Marquez

This amazing young man has already won four World Titles between 125, Moto2 and MotoGP. He can't just be slotted into a category because he really is out of this world. He always seems to be just on the point of flying off the track, never stops attacking, always wants to lead and makes many mistakes only to recover in some unbelievable way. His riding style looks like a video game being played at the most difficult level and is perhaps the most modern and responsive rider ever seen. Honda love him and he is a hard nut for everyone in MotoGP to crack. He only leaves a few crumbs for the others to collect. It is hard to believe but only a few years ago he was just a youngster who asked Rossi for an autograph. At present, he is well ahead of his fellow countrymen fighting for the Championship.

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