While the term legend can often be easily used, six-time WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea believes there is no better description for nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi.
Rossi, who ended his incredible 26-year Grand Prix career in last month’s MotoGP season finale in Valencia, will leave a void that no rider can fill.
The overall effect and fan support Rossi has been able to generate over those 26 seasons has without doubt placed the Italian among the greatest sportsmen as he begins the next chapter of his career in 2022.
Although he never had the opportunity to fully test himself against Rossi during their career – Rea only had two MotoGP appearances for Honda in 2012 (Misano and Aragon), the Kawasaki rider is a great admirer of what Rossi has been able to accomplish, especially after understanding what it takes to consistently win in WorldSBK.
“Today I think everyone uses the word legend freely, but he’s a motorcycle legend,” Rea told Crash.net. “It’s funny because when I was a kid [Mick] Doohan was dominating and you didn’t really respect him, you didn’t really understand his dominance because you were so young and stupid.
“I was riding motocross back then as with Rossi he raced when I was a fan of the sport and I watched him dominate for so long.
“Nine world championships is crazy. You know, being the benchmark is difficult. Winning a world championship is so difficult, it’s so much work to do since your childhood, your family and the search for sponsors.
“But to do it year after year and dominate a series like MotoGP is amazing. I can only speak from a Superbike point of view, but it’s a sport as tough and tough as injury or confidence, like a lack of confidence is all too easy.
“So to see what he’s done at the top level is awesome. He looks like an amazing guy and he will text me after a race if I did it right and it was awesome to do a headset swap with him a few months ago.
“Just a big thumbs up for his career, and it will be exciting to see what he does. He is not done with motorsport and has invested a lot in it with his academic program which I can only admire. . “
With Rea focused on resuming the WorldSBK Championship in 2022 after losing to Yamaha’s Toprak Razgatlioglu this season, Rossi will move on to motor racing, although it remains to be seen in which championship.