In just 12 years Valentino Rossi has gone from pocket bikes to the debut winner of the MotoGP crown. The question is: Is he the best rider the world has ever seen?
The case for the 23-year-old Italian superstar is a convincing one. At every level of competition since he contested the Italian Sports Production Championship in 1993, Rossi has won the title, typically at only the second attempt.
His CV includes the world 1997 125cc title, the 1999 world 250cc, title, the 2001 world 500cc title and on Saturday in Rio he added the 2002 MotoGP title with a win in the Brazilian GP.
Only Phil Read and Mike Hailwood can compete strictly in terms of championship wins across the classes. Read taking the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc titles in a career spanning 27 years, the legendary Hailwood taking world titles in three different classes and a string of TT victories. Rossi is second only to Hailwood as the youngest ever top class world champion, both at 23.
Mick Doohan utterly dominated the 500cc class with an incredible five consecutive years as champion, but would the Aussie hard man have had it his own way against Rossi?
Our own Carl Fogarty, winner of four World Superbike titles, two World Endurance titles and the FIM Formula 1 World Cup in 1990 and a massive 59 victories in WSB, surely he would have offered Rossi a stern challenge?
There are of course others, notably Giacaomo Agostini, Freddie Spencer (250 AND 500cc world champion in 1985), the mighty Barry Sheene, John Surtees (solo holder of both 500cc and Formula One titles), Geoff Duke…the list is long and distinguished.
But, all things being equal – could any of them beaten Valentino Rossi over a season? Or is he, simply, the best? Click on the link on the right and tell us…