Rossi remained with Aprilia for the following season’s graduation to the 250cc class when Rossi finished as runner-up behind team-mate Loris Caprirossi after winning five times, including the last four GPs of the season. As before, Rossi won the World Championship in his second season in the class.
500cc World Champion for Honda
Rossi moved to the dominant Honda team for his maiden season in the 500cc World Championship, riding a two-stroke Honda V4 to victory in Great Britain and Brazil. Runner-up behind Kenny Roberts Jr that year, Rossi won the opening three races of 2001 and reeled off another seven victories, clinching the 500cc crown with two races to go thanks to a last-gasp success in Australia when just 2.832sec covered the top nine riders. That run included an altercation with Max Biagi before the podium in Catalunya as their rivalry grew ever-more tense.
Continued success in MotoGP
New four-stroke 990cc bikes were introduced in 2002 and Rossi scored another 11 victories as he scorched to the inaugural MotoGP title. His 2003 title defence was slow to materialise at first and Rossi was challenged by Sete Gibernau during the early months. He won six of the last seven races of the year to clinch a third senior title in succession.
Further titles for Yamaha
Unhappy with the atmosphere within the team, Rossi switched to the previously unfancied Yamaha outfit in 2004 when joined by long-standing Team Manager Jerry Burgess and many of his Honda crew. He beat Biagi by 0.21sec on his debut in South Africa but only finished the next two races in fourth position. He recovered to score another eight wins and overhaul Gibernau in the standings. Rossi dominated proceedings in 2005, again winning 11 times to secure motorcycling’s premier title for the fifth year in a row.
Ferrari Formula 1 tests
Rossi tested a Ferrari F2004 at Valencia before the 2006 Formula 1 season and rumours of an intriguing switch were never fulfilled. His previous consistency deserted him during the 2006 MotoGP season. He retired too often and injured his wrist when he crashed during practice in Holland although he won five times nonetheless and entered the final race with a narrow advantage over Nicky Hayden. He made a rare error during the race and surrendered the championship to the Honda rider. Yamaha struggled to adapt to 800cc rules in 2007 and Rossi was beaten by Casey Stoner (Ducati) and Dani Pedrosa (Honda) despite his four victories.
Yamaha switched from Michelin to Bridgestone tyres in 2008 and that helped re-establish Rossi’s dominance in the final year before the championship adopted a single tyre supplier. He won nine times and withstood Stoner’s challenge to regain his world title with three races to spare. He beat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo to the 2009 title – his seventh senior success – but could not match the Spaniard’s consistency or speed in 2010. Rossi won twice and was third overall in his last season with Yamaha.
Switch to Ducati and return to Yamaha
The popular veteran switched to Ducati in 2011 but he returned to Yamaha in 2013 after the first winless campaigns of his career. The 2013 Dutch TT at Assen was Rossi’s first victory since 2010 but Yamaha could not match the Repsol Hondas. Rossi finished as championship runner-up for the next three years and he led the standings for most of 2015 but was penalised following a confrontation with reigning champion Marc Márquez during the Malaysian GP. That relegated Rossi to the back of the grid for the championship decider in Valencia and he eventually lost the title to Lorenzo when could finish no higher than fourth. Runner-up in 2016 after winning in Spain and Catalunya, Rossi scored an 89th MotoGP success in the 2017 Assen TT as he slipped to fifth overall.