I have this particular record I’d be delighted to lose in the remaining ten Grands Prix of the season. I have commentated on every one of Valentino Rossi’s 89 MotoGP™ wins. From Donington Park in 2000 to Assen in 2017 I was there and the question I get asked more than any other is can he do it again. Of course he can but I’m not the man to ask.
I was at Silverstone at the weekend at the World GP Bike Legends event at the circuit that stages the Go Pro British Grand Prix next month and asked three riders who between them have won 11 World titles and a total of 97 Grands Prix if Vale can stand on the top step of the podium once again. They all agreed that he could but warned don’t leave it too long. Freddie Spencer won three World titles, including the historic 250/500 cc double. Wayne Gardner was the first Australian rider to win the 500cc class and seven times World Champion Phil Read is surely the most underestimated rider in the 70-year history of Grand Prix racing.
“I’m absolutely certain that Valentino can win another Grand Prix but both the conditions and the bike has to be right on the day,” explained Freddie, who incredibly never stood on a Grand Prix podium again after his 27th Grand Prix victory, a 1985 500cc win in Sweden that brought him the historic 250/500 cc World Championship double. “He showed in Malaysia last year when he came so close but the key is he has to be in that leading pack right from the start of the race. I’m sure he can do it.”
The 1987 500cc World Champion Wayne Gardner who won the last of his 18 Grands Prix just three races before he retired in 1992 is also convinced Rossi can win another Grand Prix but warns the Italian that time is running out. “Vale has every chance but as time goes on it gets more difficult. This year we have seen more and more young riders arrive in the MotoGP™ class like Fabio Quartararo and they are only going to get better and so he’s got to do it soon.”
Phil Read knew all about winning Grands Prix. His 52 wins in the 125, 250, 350 and 500cc classes brought him seven World titles. His last Grand Prix win came in the 500cc class when he brought MV Agusta victory in 1975 at Brno in Czechoslovakia and he took a couple of podiums a year later before retiring.
“I think it’s likely because he’s so important to Yamaha but it will not be easy for a 40-year-old, especially against the likes of Marc Marquez who seems to be capable of riding at ten tenths the whole time.”
PS, I’ll let you into a little secret. I actually did not commentate on what many people reckon was Rossi’s greatest ever MotoGP™ win but I was there. Laguna Seca in 2008 and that epic Rossi/Stoner confrontation decided at the Corkscrew and I had completely lost my voice. All I could do was sit in silence at the back of the commentary box and marvel at the battle that raged in the Californian sunshine which was brilliantly described by Gavin Emmett and John Hopkins in my enforced absence.