This could have been a simplistic book. Some nice pictures, a quick summary of each race, job done. But there’s more to it than that.
How many sportspeople can you say have truly transcended their sport, to become an icon outside of their chosen field? Ali, Pelé, Bolt, Jordan, Woods, Federer… Rossi.
Even before the peak of his powers, Valentino Rossi became a global hero outside of motorcycle racing. In personality as well as achievement, he captivated crowds like no other, bringing millions to bike racing outside of the sport’s normal sphere.
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MotoGP now enters the post-Rossi era; something that for a long time seemed like it might never come, and the championship’s Dorna commercial rights holder might have hoped would be postponed a little longer. Rossi rode his first Grand Prix in 1996, and stepped up to the top class in 2000; he wouldn’t stop until the end of the 2021 season. A few things happened along the way.
So, to put a full stop to the career by writing an account of each and every one of those races seems at once a no-brainer and a daunting task: a definitive resume of perhaps the finest CV in motorsport history.
It’s hard to think of a writer more qualified than journalist Mat Oxley to write it. He wrote the first English-language biography of Rossi, has an established rapport with him, and having raced himself, can identify with a rider’s point of view (a picture of him leaping over Ballaugh Bridge in the TT in 1987 the ‘about the author’ section is as succinct a biography as one needs). Oxley began work on the book long before Rossi’s final Grand Prix, and it’s edited by F1 journalist and publishing director Mark Hughes.
Aside from a succinct bite-sized account of each of Rossi’s 432 grands prix starts (he scored points in 372 of them…), there are separate chapters delving deeper into his career, with an analysis of how Rossis’ riding style changed over the years, his forays into car racing (and how he nearly stood in for Felipe Massa in the 2009 Italian F1 Grand Prix for Ferrari) and his beginnings in karts and minimotos.
The warts are there too; the barren years with Ducati and the feud with Marc Marquez and the cloud the 2015 season ended under are examined in detail.
Even down to the insightful captions, it’s a book with real attention to detail. And the aforementioned nice pictures, too, with hundreds of stunning images by photographer Henk Keulemans who took his first picture of Rossi as an infant on his father’s shoulder.
At £50 RRP, it is not cheap. But it’s a commensurately weighty tome, with a quality feel. As a reference book and a portrait of the entire arc of Rossi’s singular career, plus much more besides, it’s a definitive work.