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The reigning MotoGP World Champion, Valentino Rossi is the man whom every other rider is aspiring to defeat in 2009.
Rossi's natural skill, charisma and flair has already made him a huge fan favourite, and he is already one of the sport’s true greats. His career has been defined by record breaking achievements, particularly in the premier class.
Conqueror of the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc/MotoGP World Championships in his second season in each category, Rossi became only the second rider in the history of motorcycling to lift all three titles. He is now the only man to win the premier class MotoGP World Championship with 500cc, 990cc and 800cc machinery, returning to the pinnacle after two seasons away with his sixth MotoGP title in 2008. En route to his latest title, the Italian took the record for all-time premier class victories from Giacomo Agostini, incidentally the only other rider to have regained the title after two dry seasons, with a 69th triumph.
Son of Graziano, celebrated rider of the seventies, the charismatic Rossi entered Grand Prix racing with Aprilia in 1996, winning 125cc races in his first season. He went on to win the 125 world title in 1997, and after a move up to 250s with the Italian brand, collected the quarter-litre title in 1999. He then made the leap to the 500cc class in 2000 with Honda, challenging for the title whilst picking up two victories and second in the championship.
After winning the last 500cc World Title in 2001, the following year he dominated once again in the first ever MotoGP four-stroke series onboard the Honda RC211V. He was just as untouchable the following season, before accepting the biggest challenge of his career by leaving the Honda camp and taking a Yamaha ride for 2004.
An historic year for Rossi began in the first race at Welkom, when he became the first rider ever to take consecutive victories for different factories, with a further eight wins sealing Yamaha’s first title in over a decade. He has kept on winning for the Japanese manufacturer, with an additional twenty-nine triumphs since his maiden World Championship for Yamaha.
In 2005 he again achieved nine wins on the road to the title, following which much speculation linked him with a move to Formula 1 racing. Rossi announced that he would stay with Yamaha for another year at Mugello in 2006, and was further spurred on by World Championship wins for rivals Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner.
Signed up for the next two seasons with Fiat Yamaha, Rossi now has his sights set on Agostini’s record of eighth premier class titles and the accolade of the greatest rider of all time. Nine wins in the 2008 season and a return to the MotoGP summit suggest that Rossi might just be able to do so.
Rossi is a very superstitious person and his pre-ride rituals are well known. Prior to riding (whether racing, qualifying, or practice), he will start his personal ritual by stopping at about 2 metres from his bike, bend over and reach his boots (thus the 2004 TV spoiler "Are you ready boots?"). Then, when arriving at his bike, he will crouch down and hold the right-side foot-peg, with his head bowed. It is not known whether he is in silent prayer, if he is getting in the correct frame-of-mind needed to ride, or paying respect to a fellow racer, family member, or friend. He will also be adjusting the fit of his leathers by standing straight up on the foot-pegs, whilst riding the pit-lane before the start of race or practice; this may merely be a matter of comfort, which has become a much-commented upon habit. He also revealed in an interview with MotoGP.com that he always puts one boot on before the other, one glove on before the other, and he always gets on the bike the same way. He also gets off the bike in the same way, swinging his right leg over the front of the bike.