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Last Updated: Monday, 18 October, 2004, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Rossi is in a class of his own

By Steve Parrish
BBC motorbikes commentator

Valentino Rossi's fourth consecutive world crown in motorcycling's elite class confirms him as the greatest rider there has ever been.

Valentino Rossi in action at the Australian MotoGP

Of course, it's hard to compare greats from different eras, but he is certainly the best I've seen in my time in the sport as a rider, team manager and broadcaster.

Former world champion Wayne Gardner was alongside me in the commentary box at Phillip Island as Rossi clinched the title, and he believes the Italian is the greatest.

Other people will make strong cases for the likes of Giacomo Agostini, Mike Hailwood, Kenny Roberts and Mick Doohan.

But I honestly believe if you are able to ask all those guys what they thought of Rossi, they would all say he's the best.

To put this year's achievement into context, Rossi didn't even sit on a Yamaha until January this year.

He made the switch from Honda seeking a fresh challenge, knowing that if he stayed the jibes about being a good rider on a great bike would have continued.

Rossi wanted to prove he could win races - and the title - on a bike that others had said couldn't take a rider to the top of the podium.

Plenty of so-called experts, including myself, just didn't think he would be able to turn Yahama's fortunes around so quickly.

I said beforehand that I thought he could start winning about a third of the way through the season, but Rossi stunned us all by going out and taking the opener in South Africa.

He's since claimed a total of eight victories in 15 races, while Yahama's three other riders have delivered only three podium finishes between them.

Yamaha had been in the doldrums for several years, with Rainey's title in 1992 their most recent success, but they played Rossi's arrival to perfection.

Valentino Rossi and Yamaha technical director Jerry Burgess (right)
Rossi's cause was boosted by the guidance of Burgess (right)
They allowed him to bring his back-up team with him from Honda, including Australian technical director Jerry Burgess, who is vastly experienced.

Basically, they gave Rossi and his team the freedom to get on with doing whatever was necessary for him to challenge for the title.

His supreme talent and ability did the rest, and how his latest achievement must be hurting Honda.

They've been embarrassed, having essentially claimed after his departure that Rossi was great but their bikes were so good that they'd still win without him.

Honda will go away and redouble their efforts to reclaim the title in 2005.

As for Rossi, he's got another year left on his Yamaha deal, but I think he will eventually seek out a completely new challenge, probably away from bikes.

Whenever that happens it will be shame because as well as being a superb rider, he's a real character and a great ambassador for our sport.

For now, though, he'll simply be basking in the glory of another title - at 25, the most significant of his amazing career.




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