Valentino Rossi’s 25 years of MotoGP at Mugello


From victory lane to memory lane – Sunday’s Italian GP was Valentino Rossi’s 25th international race at Mugello. Time to look back at all 25 and ask the inevitable question: was it his last?

Valentino Rossi leads at the 2008 MotoGP Italian Grand Prix at Mugello

Rossi and his best-ever helmet design lead Stoner and Pedrosa in 2008, his last Mugello win

Studio Milagro/DPPI

Valentino Rossi rode his first international race at Mugello in June 1995 and may have ridden his last on Sunday. During those 27 years he has twice not raced at Mugello – in 2010 when he broke a leg in practice and last year when Covid-19 cancelled the Italian GP.

Last weekend Rossi confirmed that he will decide his future during MotoGP’s summer break, which starts following the Dutch TT on June 27 and ends with the Styrian GP on August 8.

At Mugello – where he qualified 19th and finished tenth (not his worst result at the track) – there were more rumours that he will hang up his leathers at the end of 2021. But they were only rumours – people looking at his grim results and making up his mind for him. My hunch, however, is that they’re correct. But only one man knows which way he will decide next month…

Italian 125cc European championship round
June 11, 1995

Rossi rode his first international season in 1995. This was also his first year as a contracted rider, to Aprilia. Mugello was the third round and Rossi had high hopes of winning his first big race, after finishing second at the first two. But it wasn’t to be. He ran into rear-tyre problems (not for the last time!) and finished 16th. The winner was LCR team boss Lucio Cecchinello.


Italian 125cc GP
May 26, 1996

Rossi led a GP for the first time and spent most of the race battling for the podium with a gang of riders including world champ Haruchika Aoki. They were all so close that at one point he leaned over and tapped the world champ’s visor. He crossed the line fourth, missing the podium by just seven hundredths.


Italian 125cc GP
May 18, 1997

His fourth GP win and his first at Mugello. This time Rossi did what Fabio Quartararo did last weekend – got his head down and made the break with two super-fast laps, so that his rivals couldn’t use Mugello’s fast, flowing layout to chase his slipstream. He won the race by 3.4 seconds from four-time world champion Jorge Martinez.


Italian 250cc GP
May 17, 1998

Rossi thought he was going to win his first 250 GP, so he had a typically theatrical celebration planned. Instead the rain came down and he got beaten into second by veteran Aprilia test rider Marcellino Lucchi. He did the celebration anyway, riding the slowdown lap wearing flip-flops, shorts and shades.


Italian 250cc GP
June 6, 1999

Weirdly, he didn’t think he would win this one but he did. He qualified sixth, then hunted down his rivals one by one, finally beating Ralf Waldmann’s Aprilia. The slowdown lap was wild. He was engulfed by fans and crashed his RSW, painted in special Valentinikpeace&love livery. “The Italians went crazy, it was a nightmare, I thought I was going to die.”

Valentino Rossi at Mugello with Capirossi and Biaggi in 2000

Fighting with Capirossi and Biaggi in 2000 – Capirossi was the only one who didn’t crash

Michael Cooper /Allsport via Getty Images

Italian 500cc GP
May 28, 2000

Rossi battled for his first 500cc victory with countrymen Max Biaggi and Loris Capirossi and a bunch of other riders. He finally took the lead on the penultimate lap and almost immediately slid off. He remounted to finish 12th. Biaggi also crashed, after colliding with Capirossi, leaving Capirossi the winner.


Italian 500cc GP
June 3, 2001

This was supposed to be a weekend for the homecoming hero. Rossi was marching towards the 500 title and the Mugello hillsides were yellower than ever. Wearing eye-popping Hawaiian livery he crashed on the rain-soaked sighting lap, took his spare bike for the warm-up lap, then crashed out of second place on the final lap.


Italian MotoGP race
June 2, 2002

Rossi mania was in full flow and he didn’t disappoint his legions of fans thronging the Tuscan hillsides. Aboard Honda’s epic RC211V he took pole by more than half a second, then barely seemed to break into a sweat during the race, blasting past Biaggi in front of his fan club at Casanova Savelli to win by 2.4 seconds.


Italian MotoGP race
June 8, 2003

Pole and another win aboard the RC211V. Once again Biaggi and Capirossi were his main rivals. This time he dealt with them effortlessly, beating Capirossi and Ducati’s first Desmosedici by a second. “With ten laps to go I started to try hard and gained some advantage,” he said. How different things were back then.


Italian MotoGP race
June 6, 2004

Now on a Yamaha and beaten into fourth by the Hondas at the previous two races, Rossi qualified third. The rain saved him. The restarted race was run over six laps, the shortest in history. Rossi won by three tenths. “You’ve got to hand it to Valentino,” said fourth-placed Troy Bayliss. “He was going like a maniac!”


Italian MotoGP race
June 5, 2005

Rossi mania was so out of control that the circuit posted armed guards at the back of his pit, in case things got out of control. They did, of course, with the by-now-traditional track invasion and podium mayhem, but it all went off happily. Rossi fought like a man possessed to beat Biaggi for his 46th premier-class victory.


Italian MotoGP race
June 4, 2006

This time he had to fight harder than ever, racing with Ducati’s Loris Capirossi and Honda’s Nicky Hayden, both on faster bikes. He nearly crashed trying to escape in the early stages and only got the better of Capirossi – by 0.198 seconds – because he had more traction during the final laps.

Valentino Rossi celebrates victory in front of a home crowd at the 2007 MotoGP Italian Grand Prix

Rossi greets his adoring fans in 2007, after his fifth consecutive Mugello victory

Studio Milagro/DPPI

Italian MotoGP race
June 3, 2007

Casey Stoner was running away with the world championship aboard his Ducati and Rossi was “very, very scared” about the Aussie’s speed. But race day went like a dream – he beat Honda’s Dani Pedrosa by three seconds for his sixth successive Mugello victory.


Italian MotoGP race
June 1, 2008

This was an unforgettable race – on race day Rossi wore his best Mugello lid – his eyes popping as he tackled Mugello’s 205mph/330kmh straight kink – and (incredibly but true) scored what will almost certainly be his last-ever Mugello victory, 2.2 seconds ahead of Stoner’s Ducati.


Italian MotoGP race
May 31, 2009

For the first time in eight years Rossi got beaten at Mugello. He finished third behind Stoner and team-mate Jorge Lorenzo in a flag-to-flag race that started on a wet track, with riders switching to slicks at around half-distance. At least the 16 points helped him to his last world title.


Italian MotoGP race
June 6, 2011

His first season with Ducati was a nightmare and nowhere more so than at Mugello, where he qualified 1.8 seconds off pole. “I still don’t feel the front, so I’m slow entering the corners,” he said. He finished the race in sixth, just ahead of Hector Barbera on a year-old Desmosedici.


Italian MotoGP race
July 15, 2012

From tenth on the grid he finished fifth on the slightly improved 2012 Ducati, a second behind third-placed Andrea Dovizioso’s Yamaha but 11 seconds behind winner Lorenzo. He was already planning his return to Yamaha. “When you are in this situation it’s very difficult because you lose the joy of going racing… it becomes difficult to sleep… you are in a tunnel.”


Italian MotoGP race
June 2, 2013

There was much optimism for Rossi’s Yamaha return but his shortest Mugello GP ended at Turn Three, where he was taken out by Alvaro Bautista. Qualifying didn’t go too well either – he was seventh fastest because he was struggling with MotoGP’s new 15-minute qualifying format.


Italian MotoGP race
June 1, 2014

Rossi was getting back into his stride on the Yamaha and although he qualified badly he fought through to third, behind Lorenzo and world champion Marc Márquez. However, his fourth-row start made victory impossible. This was his 300th GP start.

Valentino Rossi fans at Mugello in 2019

Yellow fever – Rossi fans do their thing during the 2019 Mugello GP

Studio Milagro/DPPI

Italian MotoGP race
May 31, 2015

Mugello had been Rossi City since the late 1990s, but this time the fervour was madder than ever because he was leading the world championship. Once again qualifying did for him. He did his best but third, behind Lorenzo and Andrea Iannone’s Ducati, was as good as it got from the fourth row.


Italian MotoGP race
May 22, 2016

This was the cruellest blow. After his first Mugello pole since 2008 Rossi was set on his first Mugello win since that year. Lorenzo led, Rossi looking for a way past. Then on lap eight he slowed and ran off the track. Half a lap later his engine let go, billowing smoke. The rev-limiter in MotoGP’s new spec software hadn’t been set up right.


Italian MotoGP race
June 4, 2017

The Mugello paddock was in sombre mood, following the death of Hayden in a cycling accident. And Rossi wasn’t in great shape after a motocross crash that had put him in hospital. Nevertheless he battled for the podium until his injuries slowed him. He finished fourth, a second behind third-placed Danilo Petrucci.


Italian MotoGP race
June 3, 2018

The place erupted when Rossi grabbed pole. His fastest-ever lap at Mugello was followed by his slowest. “I rode the cooldown lap very, very slowly – I wanted to enjoy the moment because I don’t know how many more poles I can get in my career,” he said. He risked everything to beat Iannone for third. “Ten minutes on the podium at Mugello in front of the crowd repays all the effort,” he added.


Italian MotoGP race
June 2, 2019

A horrible weekend. He qualified 18th, his lowest grid slot from a dry qualifying session in more than decade and then crashed out of last place, after running off the track. But you have to hand it to him – on his last lap before he went flying at Arrabbiata he was lapping faster than the race leaders.


Italian MotoGP race
May 30, 2021

This was one of Rossi’s toughest races – just one hour after hearing of the death of Moto3 rookie Jason Dupasquier. He buckled down anyway, racing through from 19th on the grid to snatch tenth place from Spanish youngster Iker Lecuona. And no fans to cheer him in what may be his last MotoGP outing at his spiritual home.