Have a look at these riders one by one in the photo by Gigi Soldano. They are the protagonists of the 2000 world championship. Twenty-one riders, do you recognize them all?
That year the championship was run over 16 Grands Prix and had eight different winners: Garry McCoy (Yamaha, 3 wins), Kenny Roberts Jr. (Suzuki, 4), Noriyuki Abe (Yamaha, 1), Alex Criville (Honda, 1), Loris Capirossi (Honda, 1), Alex Barros (Honda, 2), Valentino Rossi (Honda, 2), Max Biaggi (Yamaha , 2).
The year before the world championship was left orphan by Mick Doohan who had been injured, coincidentally, at Jerez and the title went to the number 2 of the team, Alex Criville, who picked up the legacy of the great Mick by winning six Grands Prix.
It was the following year, however, that the world championship found itself without a master and the title deservedly went to a Suzuki which, reinforced by some men from the former Roberts Senior team, helped Junior to the world title.
But we didn’t unearth this old image to make a comparison with this season, which has started with four different winners - Quartararo, Binder, Dovizioso and Oliveira, moreover three out of four rookies…
Assuming that you have recognized all the protagonists of the photo, we want to point out that only one of them is still on the track. He is there up on the right, with unpresentable golden yellow hair: Valentino Rossi.
He was, at that time, a rookie as well and even if he came with two world titles behind him, he could never have imagined - not necessarily the career he would have gone on to have - but that today, after a long time, he would still be swimming with sharks.
In two weeks, MotoGP will return to Italy, for the double-header at Misano, and we have a premonition that right there, in front of only 10,000 spectators, the Phenomenon will announce his decision to continue racing.
In these 20 years, more than being amazed by the 7 titles, 89 victories, 199 podiums and 55 poles obtained in 347 race starts, we are admiring the fact that he is still here…
You can admire him yourself as well, because even if victories and titles have eluded him for a few years, the fact that he is still able to line up at the start with young guys who in some cases in 2000s had just been born, does him honour.
Burdened with glory, full of money - he made us smile at his embarrassment when, last week, they asked him if he knew how much he had in the bank - Valentino at every Grand Prix is giving away his legend so that today's young riders can say, “I raced and won against Valentino Rossi”.
A long time ago, in a private conversation he confessed to us that he would have liked to retire undefeated. He didn't succeed but, frankly, we think that the passion he still puts into it today is his best medal he can proudly wear on his chest.
Seeing him still in the centre of the ring and showing no sign of wanting to lower his arms, is a great sign of sportsmanship. It should be applauded.