The MotoGP.com website has put together a collection of unique and emotional images to mark the anniversary of Valentino Rossi’s world championship debut in 1996. Twenty-five years have passed since that first race in Malaysia, but the Doctor continues to compete today with as much passion and tenaciousness as ever.
As we await to see him on track this weekend, here’s how Vale recalls his debut.
“Yesterday's friends were idols to me”
“Coming to race in the 125 world championship was a dream come true – explains Valentino - It was 1996, a lifetime ago! I had a lot of rider friends because my dad Graziano was also a rider and I would spend a lot of time with Luca Cadalora, Loris Reggiani, Doriano Romboni, Loris Capirossi. They were idols to me”.
Yesterday’s champions appear in the video, together with a long-haired Rossi who was always up for a laugh.
Battling with Aspar Martinez in the first race
Valentino looks back at the first race of the 1996 season, which ran at Shah Alam: “The first race was in Malaysia – recalls the Doctor – I was really happy and my first start was unforgettable. I was strong right from the outset, because I finished sixth and remember fighting with Jorge (Aspar) Martinez and Dirk Raudies, there was a little confusion, some aggressive contact. When we got to Europe for the Jerez race, I started to fight for the podium, and I came close at Mugello. After the first part of the season I realised I could win and this was amazing because I thought I’d need more time to be competitive”.
The first unforgettable win
And then came victory, at Brno: “My first podium came in Austria, where I finished third, and the next weekend I scored my first pole position as well as my first win at Brno after a close battle with Martinez on the last lap”. A unique feeling that Rossi tries to put into words: “To be honest I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t believe such a thing was possible. I didn’t believe it but I was very happy. I remember those days as being very positive, it was an unforgettable time in my life and career because I love this kind of life and I love riding bikes. I had the right motivation”.
25 years later, and despite being happy to look back at key episodes, Valentino is now focused on the upcoming season: “I’ll try to be strong again this year!”
Translated by Heather Watson