Valentino Rossi – The Doctor – is considered by many to be the best-ever MotoGP rider. He has excelled in a number of motorsports in a variety of classifications, but it is MotoGP where he was considered to be at his best. There are other more successful riders in MotoGP history – and other names that will come up when the conversation comes around to who is the greatest of all time (GOAT). But Rossi is definitely up there with the best of them.
Now retired from MotoGP, he has remained heavily involved as a team owner and still enjoys a huge fan following for his various professional exploits. It has been a while since he featured on the MotoGP betting markets, but he is still an important figure in the sport.
After making such an impression on MotoGP – and being credited with introducing the sport to the masses – it is unlikely that we will ever see his like again. There are some riders that may challenge his success record, but Rossi’s personality and charisma will be tough to match. Will anyone ever be as good as Rossi? And is it fair to argue that he is the GOAT?
Second only to the great Giacomo Agostini regarding MotoGP championship titles, Valentino Rossi’s record backs up claims that he is, at least, one of the best of all time. Like some of the other riders we will talk about here, Rossi dominated the sport for a number of years and was able to win premier-class championships with both Honda and Yamaha.
With nine world titles and 89 race wins – the most of any rider in history – his legacy is secured. The fact that he propelled the sport into the public domain makes Rossi stand out. In the 2000s, when sports media was changing, Rossi’s personality ensured that MotoGP received its fair share of the general public’s attention and became widely known and respected.
Better Than Agostini?
We are asking whether anyone in the present or future will ever be as good as Valentino Rossi. But it is still important to look back to compare him with the true greats of the sport – and you don’t get much greater than Giacomo Agostini. Ago won more titles than anyone else and also did his part in raising awareness of MotoGP.
Agostini won eight premier class championships – one more than Rossi – and seven other world titles, finishing with a record of 122 race wins. He also competed in an era when races were still run on actual roads. Any claim of Rossi being the greatest of all time should first be compared to this great man.
Marc Márquez – The Modern Champion
For a while, it looked like we might have a modern champion who would usurp Valentino Rossi’s achievements and stake a claim to be one of the greatest. The Spanish rider looked like he would be the only rider in the modern era to win more world titles than Rossi.
After winning his six premier class championships in seven years, Márquez looked like he would take up Rossi’s mantle. But that serious injury at the beginning of the 2020 season seriously derailed his ambitions, and he has only won three races in the years since. Hopefully, his move to Gresini Racing, alongside his brother, will catalyze a return to success.
Another Italian, Francesco Bagnaia, has now won the last two riders’ championships and is the new hope of MotoGP. He has a way to go before he rivals the records of Rossi and Agostini – or even Márquez – but Rossi enjoyed a few rivalries while still competing.
When Rossi first began in MotoGP, fellow Italian Max Biaggi gave him the most trouble. A series of incidents heated up their rivalry, but, as would happen with opponents throughout his career, the Doctor was victorious and kept winning after his rival retired.
The story resembled Sete Gibernaeau, Casey Stoner, and Jorge Lorenzo. All those riders tried to take the crown from Rossi, but he outrode them all. Only Lorenzo could claim multiple championships, but Rossi’s career continued after the Spaniards’ retirement.
Marc Márquez was the up-and-coming rider who eventually struck up a rivalry with Rossi – and went on to challenge his record, too. But now it seems Rossi’s title wins will stay ahead of Márquez forever.
Rossi the Legend
MotoGP has always created characters and exceptional riders. But few ever had as much impact on the wider world – on behalf of the sport – than Valentino Rossi. We will see if the likes of Max Bagnaia can emulate Rossi’s success, but it seems unlikely that the Italian will leave the same kind of impression after he hangs up his helmet.
Although he never surpassed Giacomo Agostini at the top of the world titles rankings, Valentino Rossi is a giant of MotoGP and continues to command respect in other motorsports. It is unlikely that we will ever see his like again.