Although there seems a certain amount of finality surrounding MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi’s retirement from two-wheeled racing, we have to remember that this, for him, is merely the closing of a chapter. Nevertheless, as Motor Sport columnist Mat Oxley’s detailed, race-by-race assessment of ‘The Doctor’s career in new book All His Races reveals, it has been a lengthy story so far – one that requires in excess of 300 pages and four years’ work to tell.
What Oxley doesn’t know about bike racing probably isn’t worth knowing. The class winner of the 1985 Isle of Man TT and a much-travelled endurance racer in his pomp has been writing about his beloved sport since 1981. His first Rossi treatment was 2002’s MotoGenius, a biography when the Italian was still a slip of a lad in his early twenties, but already with three world championships under his belt. All His Races, with 20 extra years to cover, is not one to take on your commute. This is hefty reference material, yet with the author’s inimitable light and zippy writing style.
The subject is attacked chronologically, from Rossi’s love of karts in the late ’80s and minimoto shortly after, through 125cc, 250cc and MotoGP, picking up nine world titles along the way. Coming from a bike-racing family – father Graziano was a world championship rider – ‘Vale’ was an adaptable soul. “He fully embraced the alien world of staying away from home for weeks, living the gypsy lifestyle,” Oxley writes, next to a colourful image of Rossi dragging his knees through a corner in the 1995 Euro series. But it hasn’t been a smooth ride all the way – and would be pretty dull if it was.
From the cover onwards your eyes are met with a bombardment of vivid imagery. Race reports are short and succinct, so this feels almost like a scrapbook kept by a doting parent rather than a results service. And as the pages are turned, we gradually see the scrappy, fresh-faced youth turn into the man.
Among the race reports there are asides – an explanation of Rossi’s riding technique; words from mechanic Alex Briggs; a look at Rossi’s favourite bike, the Yamaha YZR-M1; the legacy of the VR46 academy; and, of course, speculation of what waits next.
With more than 400 races covered, you’ll need an ample pot of hot beverage to complete this coffee-table leviathan.
May 2022 book reviews in brief
So, you want to be a racing driver?
Funny thing – people used to write to Motor Sport regularly asking how to become a racing driver. They no longer do. What’s changed? It’s a question Fahy tries to answer in this pocket-sized book which runs you through the whole licence and paperwork question and your options as a beginner in karts or cars. Clubs, series, classes, how to enter your first race, simulators and where to find them and dealing with us, the media, all get their space. It’s basic stuff, simply described, but then you need to begin with the basics. GC
Veloce Publishing, £14.99
Secret Fords Volume 2
Ford designer Saxty’s unrivalled access to company archives has produced a second volume of FoMoCo secrets and they’re fascinating. A supercar to beat Ferrari? A luxury saloon to snatch Lagonda customers? Bug-eyed minis, an estate Ka, drop-top Focus, an Aston Escort and the striking GT 90 all feature with the tales of their development, but Saxty has a special love for all the RS variants that did and didn’t hit the road.
There’s a boxed two-book option, while the £89.95 Collectors’ RS Edition comes with two book supplements, one on the RS brand – the ‘new RS200’ proposal was a stonking machine, electric powered and aimed at some sort of one-make challenge rather than rallying – while the second is really all the stuff Saxty couldn’t bear to leave out of the main volume.
His free run of the Ghia archive brings us ‘how to’ photos of building a Fiesta off-road pick-up and the bizarre sight of convincing full-sized rendered cars that turn out to be completely flat when you walk around them, like a film set. A poster of RS wheel styles completes the collector package.
Most publishers would say, “You can’t use all those photos,” but as he’s his own publisher Saxty has done it his way: “Here, have another helping”. GC
Seven Spoke, £39.95
Lunch with... Barrie Williams
The most prolific driver in British motor sport can’t remember how many races he’s done. But Simon Taylor finds Barrie can tell a story about almost every one Photography: James…
Formula Ford festival - In the first of a new series, David Malsher recalls how local knowledge (plus a talented driver) secured the only major win for a small racing-car…
Miscellany, July 2003
I see that David Ogilvy, who used to do flight tests of light aeroplanes for Motor Sport, is doing this for General Aviation. If those who had a fast sportscar…