Valentino Rossi commenced his 26th grand prix season and his 22nd in the premier MotoGP class on March 28, thereby extending his record as the sport’s longest-serving rider. Rossi’s career also betters those of Formula 1’s most enduring drivers, Kimi Räikkönen and Rubens Barrichello. This is especially impressive because each time the seven-time MotoGP champion ventures out of the pitlane he’s protected not by an almost indestructible carbon-fibre safety cell but by a suit of kangaroo leather.
Rossi’s career statistics are breathtaking: 413 grand prix starts (before this season’s opening race), 115 victories and 235 podiums across the 125cc, 250cc and MotoGP classes. Those top-three results include 199 in MotoGP. Following his 199th, achieved at Jerez last July, he was frequently asked for his thoughts about the possibility of a 200th MotoGP podium.
The Italian has always found the media’s obsession with milestones tiresome because usually they’re not something that motivate him. “I’m not here for the 200th podium,” he opined on the eve of August’s Czech GP. “I’m here because I like to race motorcycles.”