Valentino Rossi is said to be the most prolific and successful motorcycle racer in the history of the sport. With 7 GP World Championships to his name, he is stated to be the 7th highest earning sports personality by Sports Illustrated magazine.
Valentino Rossi was born to a Racer-dad in Graziano Rossi. He started racing at an extremely young age but his initial love was in Karting. Mainly for his mother’s concern, for Valentino’s safety, he was given a Kart as a first vehicle and not a motorbike. But the innate need to go quicker meant that Graziano replaced the 60cc motor of the cart with a 100cc national Kart motor for his 5 year old son. Graziano went to the extent of forging Valentino’s documents in order to get him a junior Kart license a year earlier, at the age of 9, but it didn’t happen.
Rossi won the regional Kart Championships in 1990 and he followed it with mini motocross before the end of 1991. MiniMoto was interesting for Rossi but his main interest was in racing Karts. He participated at the national Karting championships and finished in 5th place. The Rossi father and son duo were mainly looking at moving into the Italian 100cc series along with the European version of the series. The direction Valentino was heading into was leading him to Formula One but unfortunately for him, Kart racing was expensive and thus, he was forced to race in the MiniMoto series only. So Valentino Rossi was a MiniMoto racer throughout 1992 and 1993.
But by ’93, Rossi had outgrown MiniMoto and needed a proper motorcycle for further progress. So in 1993, Rossi got a 125cc Cagiva Mito motorcycle that was damaged on a crash in a crash 100 meters from the pit lane. He came ninth on the damaged bike. Rossi had moved to Italian Sport Production Championships in late ’93. His performance there was nothing great and he just managed a podium finish on the last race of the season. But the second season was different as he got a factory Mito provided to him, specially, by the Cagiva team’s manager, Claudio Lusuardi. Rossi proved the difference between a factory bike and an off-the-rack one by winning the title.
Rossi was crazy about Colin McRae, a former WRC champion, and McRae offered to teach Rossi the basics of driving a Rally Car. The duo competed against each other at Monza where McRae drove a Skoda Fabia WRC while a Subaru Impreza was the chosen ride for the Italian.
In 1994, Aprilia took Rossi on to improve the RS125R and Rossi grasped the finer nuances of the 125cc bike. A Sandroni in the 1994 Italian championships helped him see the 1995 season through as well, in the European and Italian Championships. In 1996, Rossi ventured into the World Championship season but failed to finish quite a few races and crashed a number of times. Despite his problems, he won his first race at Czech Republic. He rode his AGV Aprilia RS125R to ninth place in the championships. Although he wasn’t competitive in his first year in the championships, he used it to gain further experience. And he made his presence felt in 1997 dominating the entire season by winning 11 of the 15 races.