You will have seen it, Valentino Rossi on his last ever MotoGP race in Valencia, surrounded by 9 of his championship-winning bikes – a beautiful moment.
But there was one bike in that crowd that invoked a bit more of a reaction for the Doctor. One that he can’t quite get his hands on…
We’re talking the Honda NSR500 from his 2001 championship-winning season with Honda. The last two-stroke MotoGP winning bike Rossi ever rode on. Sitting on it in Valencia reportedly reignited the desire to add the 2001-winning machine to his collection – a collection that is reportedly rather vast.
That 2001 NSR500 holds a dear place in Rossi’s heart, he kicked off his second season with Honda in the top tier of racing (then the 500cc class) with a championship win. There’s none other like it, and it’s quite literally a money-can’t-buy machine.
Famously completing a trilogy of wins with Honda, he then made an audacious switch to rivals Yamaha in 2004… which, in part, is one of the reasons Honda seems to be holding onto this NSR500.
Valentino Rossi – ‘that 500 is my 500’
Rossi even had a place warmed and ready for its arrival, as he was under the assumption it would be joining his other machines in his ‘secret archive’ – but it never arrived!
Speaking to Autosport, Rossi said:
“I speak with Alberto and I asked for – minimum – the 500, also because that 500 is my 500,”
“It’s the bike that Honda was supposed to give to me, and I was ready to take, I had already the place at home [for it]…but for some reason, the bike never arrived. I’m happy if Honda change the idea and gave me that one.
“For sure, the bike will stay well, at a good temperature, and have a good place at my house.”
Despite being (arguably) one of the most popular MotoGP riders ever, some of his detractors may be part of the Big Red Wing, particularly after his alleged kick-out at Marquez on track in 2015.
Honda team boss Alberto Puig had this to say regarding the NSR500:
“Well, it’s a tricky story… so I cannot answer, but this bike is also very important for us because we have it in a museum. Honda is very proud of the titles that we got, and also with the titles that Valentino got for us together…so, I’m sure we want to have this as a very important trophy in our house to show to our fans that we were capable of winning that title with that bike.”
So the bike is likely to remain with Honda, and given the history between the two, it’s unlikely the 2001 title-winning machine will be switching allegiances just yet.