Valentino Rossi’s MotoGP Rituals

Inside the Yamaha Racing garage at COTA.

VR46 at the 2017 Americas GP in Austin
Are you surprised to learn that The Doctor has some strange rituals?Photo: MotoGP

Like most racers, Valentino Rossi is superstitious—where the Italian differs from other riders is his desire (or maybe need) to prepare his machine and himself for competing in MotoGP. He famously crouches down next to his bike before he climbs on board and adjusts his skivvies as he rolls down pit lane. He's also fanatical about his stickers. Rossi applies his own personalized stickers to his bike, by hand, because he wants them to be just so.

Rossi's MotoGP YZR-M1
Valentino Rossi’s “registration” sticker for his M1. Why? Maybe only he knows.Photo: Zack Courts

At this year’s Grand Prix of the Americas, I was able to get close to Valentino’s bike and one in particular sticker stood out. A registration badge, a Yamaha employee told me. An Italian scooter registration, to be specific. Why? Because, “a bike isn’t really a bike if it’s not registered,” said the man with the tuning forks on his shirt.

Rossi YZR-M1 cockpit
Rossi’s office—unobtainable parts and instrumentation dripping with technology.Photo: Zack Courts

Eccentric? Unquestionably. Downright weird? Maybe. Whether you’re a fan of Valentino Rossi or not, it’s interesting. If nothing else, perhaps it offers a glimpse at how and why Rossi has become such a phenomenon in the world of global motorsport. Picking wedgies, muttering to himself before he rides, and putting stickers on his bike that nobody else cares about—plenty of motorcyclists can relate to that.

YZR-M1 front
The face of a champion: Yamaha’s M1. If only we knew how much the stickers have helped over the years.Photo: Zack Courts
Rossi on the CPTA grid
The Doctor on the grid just prior to the start of the Austin GP.Photo: MotoGP