Valentino Rossi Through the Years

Cal­cu­lat­ing Valentino Rossi’s av­er­age points score, year by year, tells us more than we’ve ever known about his best and his worst sea­sons. For starters, 2017 was his worst ever as a ti­tle chal­lenger

Bike India - - CONTENTS - STORY: MAT OXLEY PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: DPPI

Valentino Rossi will most prob­a­bly de­cide within the next few months whether to keep rac­ing into 2019, when he will be 40 years old. Much will de­pend on the re­sults he achieves at the first few races, when he will be try­ing to erase the mem­o­ries of his worst-ever Mo­toGP sea­son, apart from his two years in the Du­cati dol­drums.

An anal­y­sis of Rossi’s pointss­cor­ing per­for­mance dur­ing his 18 sea­sons on 500s and Mo­toGP bikes pro­vides a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into the ups and downs of his ca­reer. Cal­cu­lat­ing his av­er­age points haul for each race shows ex­actly how strong or how weak he was dur­ing each cham­pi­onship.

His best year was 2003, when he scored an av­er­age 22.31 points at each race, an amaz­ing per­for­mance con­sid­er­ing a vic­tory nets 25 points. His worst year was 2011, when he could only man­age an av­er­age 8.17 points.

In­tro­duc­ing Rossi’s crash sta­tis­tics adds an­other fas­ci­nat­ing an­gle, high­light­ing when he felt at one with his mo­tor­cy­cle and when he felt noth­ing from his mo­tor­cy­cle. In 2003, Rossi crashed just once dur­ing the en­tire cham­pi­onship. In 2011, he suf­fered 12 crashes, two or three times more ac­ci­dents that he suf­fered in most sea­sons. To­gether, these two sta­tis­tics un­der­line how strong he was on Honda’s RC211V and how weak he was on Du­cati’s Des­mosedici.

2003: BEST YEAR Av­er­age points score: 22.31 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 1st Vic­to­ries: 9 Other podi­ums: 7 DNFs: 0 Crash to­tal: 1 Ma­chine: Rep­sol Honda RC211V

It is 15 years since Rossi’s great­est GP sea­son. This was the sec­ond year of the fourstrokes, so Honda’s RC211V was even bet­ter than it had been in 2002. The bike had trac­tion con­trol for the first time, help­ing Rossi to fin­ish ev­ery race on the podium, the only time he’s man­aged that. This was also the first time he had com­pleted a sea­son with no DNFs. Of course, the com­pe­ti­tion wasn’t so tough back then. Sete Giber­nau and Max Bi­aggi were Rossi’s clos­est ri­vals, both on Hon­das, but they weren’t that close, end­ing the year 80 points and 129 points down.

2002: 2nd BEST YEAR Av­er­age points score: 22.18 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 1st Vic­to­ries: 11 Other podi­ums: 4 DNFs: 1 Crash to­tal: 4 Ma­chine: Rep­sol Honda RC211V

It’s amaz­ing that Rossi’s sec­ond-best sea­son was his first on a four-stroke. But, per­haps, not that sur­pris­ing. Honda’s RC211V was by far the best bike in 2002, win­ning 14 of the 16 races. Rossi won 11 races, his equal-best vic­tory score, along with 2001 and 2005. In 2002 he faced less op­po­si­tion than in any other year, with only team-mate Tohru Ukawa armed with an RCV all year. His av­er­age score would have eclipsed 2003 if his rear tyre hadn’t de­lam­i­nated when he was lead­ing Brno. As it was, he was first or sec­ond in ev­ery race he fin­ished.

2005: 3rd BEST YEAR Av­er­age points score: 21.58 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 1st Vic­to­ries: 11 Other podi­ums: 5 DNFs: 1 Crash to­tal: 5 Ma­chine: Gauloises Yamaha YZR-M1

Rossi’s sec­ond year with Yamaha. Dur­ing 2004 his M1 had been bodged to do what he needed it to do. By 2005 Yamaha had fin­ished what they started, so for the first time they had a bet­ter Mo­toGP bike than Honda. Rossi re­sponded by ut­terly dom­i­nat­ing, win­ning 11 races, stand­ing on the podium in five and DNFing only once, when he went fly­ing up the road with Marco Me­landri at Motegi. Once again, he stood on the podium at ev­ery race he fin­ished. He was in a class of his own, scor­ing 367 points, to run­ner-up Me­landri’s 220.

2008: 4th BEST YEAR Av­er­age points score: 20.72 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 1st Vic­to­ries: 9 Other podi­ums: 7 DNFs: 0 Crash to­tal: 4 Ma­chine: FIAT Yamaha YZR-M1

Yamaha were in a spin in 2007, but they bounced back in 2008, with their big­gest Mo­toGP re­design. They im­proved en­gine and chas­sis per­for­mance and de­signed all­new elec­tron­ics soft­ware that adapted torque de­liv­ery as the race went on, ac­cord­ing to the grip avail­able. But this was Rossi’s first year with Bridge­stone tyres, so it took him a while to get up to full speed. He dom­i­nated the sec­ond half of the sea­son af­ter de­feat­ing Casey Stoner at La­guna Seca. He fin­ished off the podium only once, at the sea­son-open­ing Qatar GP.

2001: 5th BEST YEAR Av­er­age points score: 20.31 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 1st Vic­to­ries: 11 Other podi­ums: 2 DNFs: 1 Crash to­tal: 4 Ma­chine: Nas­tro Az­zurro Honda NSR500

This was the year Rossi con­quered bike rac­ing’s high­est heights and be­came a global su­per­star. But 2001 wasn’t an easy sea­son. He dis­puted the his­toric fi­nal 500-cc cham­pi­onship with arch-enemy Max Bi­aggi, who rode a Yamaha YZR500. Rossi was con­test­ing his sec­ond sea­son of 500s, Bi­aggi his fourth, but the young­ster rode bet­ter, ad­just­ing his tech­nique from 250s to 500s; some­thing Bi­aggi never man­aged to do. His only DNF hap­pened at Mugello, where he crashed out of the rain-lashed race, dis­ap­point­ing the hill­sides of Rossi fans.

2004: 6th BEST YEAR Av­er­age points score: 19.00 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 1st Vic­to­ries: 9 Other podi­ums: 2 DNFs: 2 Crash to­tal: 4 Ma­chine: Gauloises Yamaha YZR-M1

Few peo­ple thought Rossi would win the 2004 Mo­toGP ti­tle. Even the man him­self said, “Maybe, I’m a lit­tle bit crazy,” when he quit Honda to ride Yamaha’s M1, which had scored just one podium the pre­vi­ous sea­son. But those peo­ple hadn’t ac­counted for Yamaha’s new big-bang en­gine and a chas­sis quick-fix un­der­taken by Jeremy Burgess. Be­sides, Rossi was in no mood to be beaten. This was the year he had a point to prove, to show Honda that the man mat­ters more than the ma­chine. He crashed out of two races, at Rio and Qatar.

2015: 7th BEST YEAR Av­er­age points score: 18.05 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 2nd Vic­to­ries: 4 Other podi­ums: 11 DNFs: 0 Crash to­tal: 2 Ma­chine: Mo­vis­tar Yamaha YZR-M1

You could ar­gue that 2015 was Rossi’s best year, even though he didn’t win the cham­pi­onship and even though his av­er­age points haul wasn’t so great. The com­pe­ti­tion had been build­ing ever since Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo ar­rived, but in 2015 the com­pe­ti­tion was prob­a­bly the tough­est ever, and yet he was fully com­pet­i­tive. He didn’t have one DNF and he fin­ished on the podium at all 18 races, apart from Misano, Phillip Is­land and Va­len­cia, where he started from the back of the grid, fol­low­ing the in­fa­mous Sepang in­ci­dent.

2009: 8th BEST YEAR Av­er­age points score: 18.00 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 1st Vic­to­ries: 6 Other podi­ums: 7 DNFs: 1 Crash to­tal: 4 Ma­chine: FIAT Yamaha YZR-M1

The com­pe­ti­tion stepped up a gear in 2009, with Jorge Lorenzo in his sec­ond Mo­toGP sea­son and fully up to speed. How­ever, Rossi was lucky that both Lorenzo and Stoner had their prob­lems. Lorenzo pushed Rossi hard and forced him into his only DNF, at Indy, where the champ fell while chas­ing his young team-mate, but the Spaniard crashed out of four races, ru­in­ing his ti­tle tilt. Stoner, mean­while, was laid low by his lac­tose in­tol­er­ance and missed three races. This was Mo­toGP’s first year as a con­troltyre cham­pi­onship.

2014: 9th BEST YEAR Av­er­age points score: 16.38 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 2nd Vic­to­ries: 2 Other podi­ums: 11 DNFs: 1 Crash to­tal: 5 Ma­chine: Mo­vis­tar Yamaha YZR-M1

Rossi was back to his best in his sec­ond year back with Yamaha. There was only one prob­lem: a young­ster by the name of Marc Mar­quez, who won 13 of the 18 races. Apart from Mar­quez, Rossi was the best rider of the cham­pi­onship, bet­ter­ing team-mate Lorenzo in more than half the races. Rossi was prob­a­bly the only man who wasn’t sur­prised by his come­back fol­low­ing his lack­lus­tre 2013 sea­son. Once again, this was Rossi out to prove a point: that he wasn’t all washed up. This was his first year with new crew chief Sil­vano Gal­busera.

2006: 10th BEST YEAR Av­er­age points score: 14.20 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 2nd Vic­to­ries: 5 Other podi­ums: 5 DNFs: 3 Crash to­tal: 4 Ma­chine: Camel Yamaha YZR-M1

Rossi won five con­sec­u­tive premier-class ti­tles be­tween 2001 and 2005, so 2006 was the year re­al­ity struck: the man isn’t in­vin­ci­ble. Bankrolled by Camel in the fi­nal year of to­bacco spon­sor­ship, Yamaha’s M1 suf­fered en­gine blow-ups, chas­sis woes and tyre prob­lems. Dur­ing prac­tice at Assen Rossi sus­tained his worst in­juries yet — a bro­ken wrist and an­kle — which didn’t stop him rac­ing. He did re­gain the ti­tle lead at the penul­ti­mate race, but lost the fi­nal show­down to Nicky Hay­den. As he said af­ter the last race: “This isn’t the movies.”

2016: 11th BEST YEAR Av­er­age points score: 13.83 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 2nd Vic­to­ries: 2 Other podi­ums: 8 DNFs: 4 Crash to­tal: 4 Ma­chine: Mo­vis­tar Yamaha YZR-M1

Rossi should have chal­lenged for the ti­tle in 2016. He had come so close in 2015, plus he had a point to prove, and we all know what he’s like when he’s in that frame of mind. Through no fault of his own, it wasn’t to be. In 2016 Mo­toGP un­der­went its big­gest tech­ni­cal shake-up since the switch from 500-cc twostrokes to 990-cc four-strokes. The in­tro­duc­tion of con­trol soft­ware and Miche­lin tyres changed every­thing. Rossi had a record num­ber of DNFs: three crashes and an en­gine blow-up, which ham­mered his points av­er­age.

2007: 12th BEST YEAR Av­er­age points score: 13.38 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 3rd Vic­to­ries: 4 Other podi­ums: 4 DNFs: 3 Crash to­tal: 6 Ma­chine: FIAT Yamaha YZR-M1

This was the first year of the 800s, when Yamaha got it very wrong or, per­haps, Du­cati got it very right. A bit of both, in fact. The up­shot was a mostly grim year. Rossi slipped to third, the first time he had fin­ished a premier-class sea­son out­side the top two. His prob­lem was three-fold: his en­gine was too slow and he was us­ing Miche­lins, while Casey Stoner’s Du­cati ran Bridge­stones. Yamaha tried to fix the horse­power prob­lem by in­tro­duc­ing a pneu­mat­ic­valve-spring en­gine, which broke in two of the last six races.

2013: 13th BEST YEAR Av­er­age points score: 13.16 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 4th Vic­to­ries: 1 Other podi­ums: 5 DNFs: 1 Crash to­tal: 4 Ma­chine: Yamaha YZR-M1

No sur­prise that this wasn’t a great year. Rossi re­turned to Yamaha, lick­ing his wounds af­ter two painful sea­sons — phys­i­cally and psy­cho­log­i­cally — with Du­cati, dur­ing which time he had learnt not to trust the front end. It took him a while to learn how to trust the front again be­fore he could get back to full speed. There­fore, this was a mostly steady sea­son, with a sin­gle vic­tory at Assen. At the end of the year he sacked crew-chief Jeremy Burgess. They had worked to­gether for 14 sea­sons.

2000: 14th BEST YEAR Av­er­age points score: 13.06 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 2nd Vic­to­ries: 2 Other podi­ums: 8 DNFs: 3 Crash to­tal: 5 Ma­chine: Nas­tro Az­zurro Honda NSR500

Rossi didn’t have the eas­i­est of starts to his premier-class ca­reer. He crashed out of his first two races, but that was to be ex­pected, since he had made sim­i­larly tor­rid en­tries into the 125- and 250-cc classes. Also, the 500 two-strokes were bru­tal ma­chines, with tricky power de­liv­ery and no trac­tion con­trol. How­ever, Rossi soon got the hang of things, scor­ing his first podium at the fourth race and his first win at the ninth round. He even chal­lenged for the ti­tle, un­til he crashed at Va­len­cia.

2010: 15th BEST YEAR Av­er­age points score: 12.94 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 3rd Vic­to­ries: 2 Other podi­ums: 8 DNFs: 0 Crash to­tal: 5 Ma­chine: FIAT Yamaha YZR-M1

Rossi should’ve been gun­ning for an­other ti­tle in 2010, but this was his most in­jury-blighted year. He hurt a shoul­der in a mo­tocross ac­ci­dent, then broke a leg dur­ing prac­tice at Mugello. That forced him to miss four races — his long­est ab­sence from rac­ing — which dam­aged his cham­pi­onship points haul. He was quickly back up to speed af­ter his come­back, scor­ing a podium sec­ond time out (us­ing crutches on the podium) and he beat newly crowned champ Lorenzo to win at Sepang.

2017: 16th BEST YEAR

Av­er­age points score: 11.55 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 5th Vic­to­ries: 1 Other podi­ums: 5 DNFs: 2

Crash to­tal: 4 Ma­chine: Mo­vis­tar Yamaha YZR-M1

The last sea­son was Rossi’s worst, apart from his Du­cati years. Honda and a re­vi­talised Du­cati dom­i­nated, while Yamaha again bat­tled chas­sis and elec­tron­ics prob­lems. Re­cent vic­tory sta­tis­tics high­light their strug­gles with con­trol soft­ware and new tyres: Yamaha won more races in 2015 than in 2016 and 2017 com­bined. Rossi crashed out of two races and missed an­other due to a dirt-bike in­jury. His only win came at a treach­er­ously damp Assen, prov­ing he is still as brave as ever.

2012: 17th BEST YEAR

Av­er­age points score: 9.05 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 6th Vic­to­ries: 0 Other podi­ums: 2 DNFs: 1

Crash to­tal: 6 Ma­chine: Du­cati Des­mosedici GP12

Du­cati over­hauled the Des­mosedici for 2012, fi­nally con­sign­ing its car­bon-fi­bre chas­sis to their mu­seum and re­plac­ing it with an alu­minium chas­sis, as favoured by ri­val man­u­fac­tur­ers. The GP12 was bet­ter, but there was still plenty wrong with it. Rossi was hap­pier in his sec­ond year with Du­cati, scor­ing two podi­ums, in­clud­ing an ex­cel­lent sec­ond place at Misano, just four sec­onds be­hind the win­ner. He also halved his ac­ci­dent rate, partly be­cause he had de­cided to take fewer risks af­ter so many falls in 2011.

2011: 18th BEST YEAR Av­er­age points score: 8.17 World cham­pi­onship po­si­tion: 7th Vic­to­ries: 0 Other podi­ums: 1 DNFs: 3 Crash to­tal: 12 Ma­chine: Du­cati Des­mosedici GP11

Rossi has never suf­fered as he did in 2011. He im­me­di­ately knew he had made a big mis­take in quit­ting Yamaha for Du­cati. The Des­mosedici was a night­mare, of­fer­ing lit­tle feel from the front, so he could never lo­cate the limit, which is why he fell 12 times, more than dou­bling his 2010 ac­ci­dent rate. He crashed mostly in prac­tice, only fail­ing to fin­ish three races (the same DNF rate as 2000, 2006, and 2007). His sin­gle podium (his worstever podium count, in­clud­ing 125s and 250s) was achieved at Le Mans.

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