Valentino Rossi has had plenty of rivals during his 24-year grand prix career, sparring with the likes of Noby Ueda, Jorge Martinez, Tomomi Manako, Tetsuya Harada, Tohru Ukawa and Loris Capirossi even before reaching the premier-class in 2000.

The Italian then fought his way to second behind Kenny Roberts Jr in his rookie 500cc campaign, before his infamous battles with countryman Max Biaggi reached their peak.

Sete Gibernau took over as a surprise contender in 2003, followed by another Gresini rider Marco Melandri, but it was ultimately Nicky Hayden that ended Rossi's title streak in 2006.

Casey Stoner and Ducati stunned the MotoGP world in 2007, before Rossi was back on top of the world in 2008 and 2009 – by which time a team-mate (Jorge Lorenzo) was The Doctor's main championship rival for the first time.

Another Spaniard, Marc Marquez, then emerged as MotoGP's dominant force. But the rider Rossi would most like to race against is his childhood hero.

"My favourite opponent? I'd like to do a race against Kevin Schwantz," Rossi told SkySport.it. "As a child I watched the golden era of the 500 World Championship, with all the Americans and Australians and he was always my favourite ride. It would be nice to race Schwantz on the Suzuki, with me on the Yamaha 500!"

Rossi never raced the two-stroke Yamaha, winning the final 500cc world championship on a Honda NSR in 2000.

Schwantz meanwhile won 25 grands prix between 1988-1995, all with Suzuki, with which he also claimed the 1993 world championship.

But it was the #34's exuberant riding style and personality, plus an intense rivalry with Yamaha's Wayne Rainey, that made him a truly legendary figure in grand prix motorcycling.

"I think Rossi's the only guy out there that still has fun doing what he's doing. He doesn't take it as a job and I think Marquez has a similar attitude," Schwantz told Crash.net in 2015. "Whether it is the media side of things, the sponsorship side of things or the actual racing you've got to tell yourself, 'I've got a job racing motorcycles that pays me quite well'.

"Every day I was able to get on a motorcycle when I was racing professionally it was like, 'you are kidding me! How much more blessed can I be to have this job?' I think so many riders look at it as work. You know what? Go do a normal job every day and you'll know what the definition of work is."

Quizzed on the favourite race of his career, the Texan replied: "If someone asked me for the best race Kevin Schwantz ever rode, I would say Suzuka in 1991."

"That was the year we used Dunlop tyres because Michelin were only supplying the factory Hondas. We'd been to Laguna, Jerez, and a million different places for testing and were just horrible everywhere. And we weren't great in practice or qualifying for that first round in Japan either.

"In the race I got a good start and got to the front, then went back to sixth or seventh place. But as the second half of the race came around the fuel burnt off, the front quit pushing and we were the best bike at the end when it counted.

"I managed to make a couple of key passes on the last lap to win that race. It was against Rainey and a bunch of other competitors including Doohan, Kocinski and some Japanese riders.

"Wayne and I have a lot of great battles, but that to me is the battle where it was more than just him that I had to beat. It was four or five other guys. And as bad as we'd been in testing, I felt that we did the best that we possibly could as a team.

"Taking what wasn't a great bike at the beginning of the race and by the time it got to the end, when it counted, we were right there battling for a win and managed to pull it off."

The last lap of the 1991 Japanese 500GP can be seen below:

 
 

Comments

Loading Comments...