Issue # 5

Every Monday


Climbed every mountain

Name any great rider in the history of premier class motorcycle racing and Valentino Rossi has either been in their mirrors or had them in his. All of them. Agostini, Hailwood, Sheene, Roberts, Doohan, Spencer ... the lot.


Let's take a look at The Doctor ...


Valentino Rossi


Sports Annual uses a formula that allows us to compare track results across history to find out who was the best of all time. The result is a list of winners ... like a fantasy world championship that started in 1949 (when the motorcycle world championship began) right up until today. But there's no fantasy involved. It's just track results. We measure starts per win ... so how many races a rider started per win. Ayrton Senna, for example, won 1 race from every four starts. We call this 4.000 rpw. We also measure how many points a rider scored per start (based on the 10 - 6 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 point scoring system). This means we can accurately compare (to nine decimal points) win and point scoring  - pound for pound - across history. Nothing subjective. Just wins and points per start.

Let's see who Rossi's historical peers were. 


Rossi started very strong. Two wins from 16 starts during his first season in the premier division saw him ranked inside the top 30 riders of all time at debut on the Sports Annual table. He was 21 years old. By the end of 2001 he had climbed into the top 10 and by the end of his third season, 2002, he was at the start of a ten year residency at the very top of history's rankings fighting Hailwood and Agostini ... topping them both for the first time in 2005.


Highest score. Rossi scored his best Sports Annual score after winning the the Czech GP on August 28, 2005.

He earned an almost unrivalled ...

1.784 race per win / 7.120 points per race.

In the history of the sport, going all the way back to 1949, only John Surtees had a better Sports Annual result. To better understand these numbers ... Ayrton Senna's Sports Annual score was 4 and 4. In other words he won a race from every four starts and scored on average four points per race. Not even Juan Manuel Fangio, history's greatest F1 race driver here at Sports Annual, had results as definitive as Rossi's best at any point in his exceptional F1 career. 

Rossi's top score is, among racers in every discipline we rank, astonishing.

At seasons end 2005 he was in 2nd place at Sports Annual. Only Surtees was a more successful race winner and point scorer pound for pound. He held the lead over Agostini and Hailwood for two full seasons until about mid way into 2007 ... a year in which he won only four races. Any other rider would be thrilled to win four races but at this stage of his career, in the company he was keeping, it wasn't good enough to lead Agostini. 


He was still doing enough to stay with the leaders for four more seasons, holding down fifth position until about mid way through his poor 2010. 

Rossi's peers until 2011 ... Agostini and Hailwood


1st. John Surtees (GB) tops the motorcycle table at Sports Annual with a score of 1.454 races per win and  7.243 points per race. The perfect SA score is 1 race per win and 10 points per race. John Surtees's score here is peerless. The only man to win world titles on two and four wheels ... he was very fast and brave and has no peers winning races and scoring points (pound for pound) in any of the championships we've looked at so far. 


2nd. Giacomo Agostini (ITA) retired from top class motorcycle racing with 1.720 races per win and 6.888 points per race. It has yet to be confirmed but we don't believe any racers, in WRC or F1 or sports cars etc ... have career scores that match the motorcycle racers. It could be the machinery and nature of bike racing    accentuates the inherent qualities of one rider over another. Or it could just mean bikers have bigger balls  than everyone else. 


3rd. Gary Hocking (Rho) retired from motorcycle  racing in 1962 after just 14 starts but he won eight of them. At Sports Annual a rider must be a contender in a Championship to be ranked ... one off winners do not qualify. Gary meets our criteria for ranking. His career was short because he thought motorcycle racing was too dangerous so he switched to car racing. He was killed driving a Lotus F1 car aged just 25 the year he retired from bikes.


4th. Mike Hailwood (GB) retired from top class racing with 1.756 races per win and 6.769 points per race. His track battle was with Agostini and so it is here at Sports Annual. The battle between the great Italian and Mike Hailwood is decided, as you can see, in tenths.

The gap between them is one of the tightest on the motorcycle table across the entirety of the sport's history back to '49. He was World Champion four times ... one of the earliest Honda champions.

Valentino Rossi. Ducati to now ...

Put simply ... Rossi's results since the heights of 2005 have gradually seen him passed by the top ten. He is in 16th position ahead of Eddie Lawson. A word of caution on expectations. Here at Sports Annual we rank pound for pound. How many wins PER START is how we rank riders. It means when you have loads of starts you get stuck in position. When you get old at Sports Annual it gets harder to move around. Even if he won every race of 2021 his position on the table would hardly move. Statistically he doesn't so much have feet of clay as feet of Fort Knox. And good luck to him.

Finally some context after an extraordinarily long career. He still, to this day, shares an almost identical win rate with Ayrton Senna. Not so bad. 

PIX Monster Energy, Jac de Nijs, Wikipedia, Yamaha Racing 

eddie lawson.jpg

15. Phil Read  '61 - '76

3.818 rpw / 5.667 ppr

16. Valentino Rossi (active)

3.932 rpw / 4.600 ppr

17. Eddie Lawson '83 - '92 4.422 rpw / 4.624 ppr

Pix by Monster Energy, Jac de Nils and Joop van Bilsen, Wikipedia