Valentino Rossi celebrated his 38th birthday Thursday doing what he loves – thrashing the hell out of a Grand Prix motorcycle at the Phillip Island test.
The Doctor has been part of the MotoGP furniture for so long that it’s easy to take him for granted. We tend to glaze over when writing or talking about his statistics – nine World Championships, including seven in the premier class. One-hundred and 14 wins, including 88 in the premier class.
And so on.
But perhaps the most incredible stat surrounding Rossi on his birthday has nothing to do with number of victories or championships.
Digest this: Valentino Rossi is entering the 22nd of the 38 years of his life as a competitor in the motorcycle Grand Prix World Championship. He has spent nearly 58 percent of his breathing days on this planet as a Grand Prix motorcycle rider, starting in 1996 as the 16-year-old Italian kid with the goofy pageboy haircut to the elder statesman and supernova of the sport in 2017.
Bill Clinton was in his first term as president of the United States when Rossi made his Grand Prix debut. Oasis ruled the rock airwaves. America Online floppy discs and CD-ROMs polluted mailboxes weekly across the country. Facebook? Hell, Mark Zuckerberg was 11 when Rossi debuted in 125cc.
Rossi is the only active rider to race 500cc, 990cc, 800cc and now 1000cc machinery in the premier class. And he has won on ALL of them.
Longevity is one thing. But sustained excellence is another. And Rossi has defined that like few others in global sport.
He has won at least one race in every year of his career except for the two barren, wasted seasons with Ducati in MotoGP in 2011 and 2012.
There are almost no comparisons in Grand Prix motorcycle racing. World Champions Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson and Kevin Schwantz were gone from the sport in their early 30s. Casey Stoner quit at age 27.
Fifteen-time World Champion Giacomo Agostini, the only rider ahead of Rossi on the victory and title charts, competed in the World Championship until he was 35.
Meanwhile, Rossi won two races last season at age 37 and probably is an even-money bet to stand on top of the box at least once this season.
Remarkable. Happy birthday, Vale.