Rookie Rossi on the Rise

Henny Ray Abrams photo

A shot of Valentino Rossi at Jerez in 2000, his first season of racing in the premier 500cc Motorcycle Grand Prix Championship (now MotoGP) riding his Nastro Azzurro Honda NSR500. In spite of being a rookie in the class, Rossi scored a pair of victories and finished runner up in the final standings. Kenny Roberts Jr. won the World Championship that year, but even at that time, Roberts said he knew Rossi was a special talent.

“We had a wet race in Donington, where Valentino won his first race,” Roberts recalled. “My dad and I talked and it’s like, ‘Hey this may be the only shot, because Valentino is going to start running the table with this bike and this team.’”

Roberts could see the writing on the wall with Rossi being a very strong rider on the best team. “It’s very hard to find a weakness in that.”

Their predictions on Rossi proved correct and Roberts, as they say, got while the gettin’ was good.
Of course, we know now that Rossi went on to earn seven world championships in 500cc/MotoGP with 89 premier class wins making him one of the true elites in the history of the sport.

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