"You’re inextricably linked with Ducati, but what was the first one you ever rode or raced? The first bike I ever raced on a track was a Ducati, back in the summer of ’83. It was my dad’s bike. "
Valentino Rossi & Ducati
Photography by Richie Hopson
As the nine times MotoGP World Champion, Valentino Rossi is very much the most recognisable face of motorcycle racing. Throughout his 16-year career, the 32-year-old has amassed the sort of fame and fortune that would have seen others hand up their race suits satisfied long ago. But not Rossi it seems. Having won titles with Yamaha and Honda, he made the switch to Ducati in 2011, setting himself a new challenge to take the title with a new bike. But for Rossi, it seems lies a deeper motivation: the simple taste of victory and a love of riding bikes.
What do you love about motorcycle racing?
I get a lot of enjoyment from simply riding bikes, and also the battles you have with other guys when you race. [..] It’s hard work, you always have to give more than a hundred percent. Physically, I have to train a lot. When you are younger, it’s a lot easier. Season by season, you need more effort and training to stay at the top.
And what keeps you motivated?
For me it’s the taste of the victory. It’s something different from all the other things. It’s like a drug. This is the main reason for me racing. Unfortunately, it’s very short lived – only three or four hours. From the next day, you need more. It never stops.
Considering such fierce competition in MotoGP, how are your relationships with other riders?
I have good relationships with the riders who I think are good men, not just good riders. But when we are on the track, we are enemies. There’s a strong rivalry because you are always fighting for the same thing. You all have a respect for each other. But sometimes relationships become difficult. Rivalries are always amplified by the media as it’s very important for them to have it.
Do you think the younger riders particularly motivated to beat you because of your fame?
The new generation of riders are very strong, like Dani Pedrosa, and Jorge Lorenzo. The results of my career mean that I am a great motivation for them for. When these young people arrive in Moto GP, they want to beat me especially because it’s like they are beating the past.
You’ve always kept the same core team even when you’ve moved to different racing company. How important is it for you to be around people you know?
It’s very important. In the end, motorcycle racing is a team sport. It’s the rider who goes on the track but before that moment, there’s a great amount of work to do together. It’s very important to have people you trust and have good personal relationships with. Also, you’ve got to want to stay together over the racing weekends so I’ve had the same team for the last ten years.
How long do you think you can keep on competing?
If you are lucky, you don’t have a lot of crashes or get injured, you can ride at the top level for a long time. In the superbike races, there are a lot of old riders who are still very fast like Max Biaggi. I want to carry on fighting for the MotoGP for three or four seasons at least. […] There will arrive one moment when I start to be tired and don’t have the same motivation and taste for victory, so that’s the time [for me] to stay at home. I also race cars so I may have a future there.
Who are your heroes?
I like football so in the past it was Diego Maradona, [the Brazilan] Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. I also like basketball and the NBA so also Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki. I like the people who are able to be the number one in their sport, but also stay at the top for a long time. I grew up following supercross and watching Jeremy McGrath win seven championships and a lot with different bikes, so I want to follow him very much.
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