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
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.