Valentino Rossi, nine times world champion, 302 race starts, 61 pole positions, 112 wins and 5418 points accumulated since he began in the world class in 1996. There is no denying the achievements he has made over the 20 seasons he has competed in and how he has well and truly earned the title of one of the greatest riders in the world.
The 37-year-old has brought a lot to and done a lot for the sport. Whether people are a fan of ‘The Doctor’ or not, he sells Moto GP! His personality attracted fans’ attention from the start of his career. He has dominated the sport since the millennium winning on the 500cc before taking the first Moto GP title in 2002. After all this time he is still up there amongst the front runners using his experience and knowledge to push the other riders and contesting for the win.
The number ‘46’ is seen everywhere. He sells bikes, he sells merchandise, his fans create a sea of yellow at every circuit and produce a roar so loud and overwhelming that it drowns out the sounds from the exhausts of the 1000cc motorbikes. While most riders have retired from the sport at his age, Rossi still has the fight, drive and passion to push for the win… for the Championship.
The success of the YZR- 1 Yamaha is down to him and the efforts of his team developing it over years; teammate Jorge Lorenzo gained a seat on a strong competitive bike and part of his success is down to this.
Heading into the 2016 season there was doubts as to what will happen concerning Rossi’s future. In a recent interview, Rossi said he'll "take part in five or six races," but that he was "fairly convinced I'll spend the next few years with Yamaha." Rossi didn't rule out taking up other motorsport however, stating: "at 39 I could take part in a few auto races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans of the Dakar Rally."
Valentino Rossi opts for contract extension
All the questions have been answered; Rossi has just signed to extend his contract by two years ahead of the first race of the season at Qatar which will take him into the 2018 season.
Rossi and team delighted with extension
Rossi said he was "very happy to announce that Yamaha and I have extended our contract" and that he will continue in the MotoGP for the next two seasons. Rossi told reporters he was "very satisfied with this decision because it has always been my plan to compete in motorsports for as long as I can be competitive and find it enjoyable at the same time."
Since returning to Yamaha in 2013, Rossi has "felt like I am home again," which showed in results. Rossi continued: "I get great enjoyment out of working with my crew and the rest of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team."
Rossi praised the support of his team, before stating how motivated he is for the upcoming season riding his YZR-M.
The Doctor finished: "I also want to say a big ‘thank you’ to my fans who are always behind me every step of the way making the races extra special. I will keep pushing at each and every Grand Prix so we can all keep enjoying MotoGP for years to come!”
Ahead of MotoGP Qatar, crew chief Lin Jarvis told reporters the "confirmation of the extension with Valentino will be music to the ears of Yamaha and MotoGP fans around the world."
Jarvis praised Rossi's career: "From Vale’s side a statement of commitment to the sport he loves and towards the Yamaha brand; from Yamaha’s side a confirmation of the recognition to the rider that has brought us four MotoGP world titles and who remains so passionate about his sport and is still highly competitive as proven by his two second positions in the last two seasons."
The agreement confirms that Rossi will end his motorcycle career with Yamaha, Jarvis finished: "All Yamaha fans can enjoy three full seasons of exciting performances from ‘the Doctor’ as he challenges to win his tenth world title for the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team”.
Rossi who turned 37 recently will be nearing 40 when he finishes this contract extension. The rider who has done so much for the sport may even be reluctant to hang up his leathers then; we can only imagine how big the celebrations may be around then.