MX23RW : Wednesday, July 28 04:59:22| >> :600:77222611:77222611:

Valentino Rossi showing no signs of slowing down at 40

The Italian will celebrate a landmark birthday this weekend but he is still at the top of his game in MotoGP.

Valentino Rossi turns 40 on Saturday but at a time when most of his contemporaries have long hung up their leathers the nine-time world champion shows no signs of slowing down.

With many of his MotoGP rivals less than half his age, the Italian could be forgiven for putting more thought towards contemplating his healthy bank balance rather than working out how to save half a second per lap.

But for a man addicted to speed there is no chance of him turning his back on his £8million-a-year contract with the Movistar Yamaha team.

Ever since he turned his first wheel on a world championship circuit 23 years ago Rossi has been winning admirers and capturing hearts with his cheeky grin and an obvious disregard for personal safety.

Born in the Italian village of Tavullia, north of Ancona in the region of Marche, the son of a former professional racer was riding motorcycles almost as soon as he could walk.

But it is not just on the track where Rossi has made his mark, founding a growing empire which has become the largest employer in Tavullia and dominates the world of grand prix motorcycle racing.

Last year Rossi's business interests in the sport generated turnover of £26.5m, not including his annual contract with Yamaha and personal sponsorship.

A total of 84 people are directly employed by Rossi in a series of businesses which include his merchandise shop, pizzeria, gelateria, bottega and bar, with many of the key positions filled by close friends.

The number 46 – Rossi's iconic race number – dominates the skyline in Tavullia. Flags bearing 'VR 46' adorn every street and the local council even reduced the speed limit from 50kph to 46kph in honour of the local hero.

Close by is the VR46 Motor Ranch which features a 1.5-mile dirt track and is the base for Rossi's rider academy and the Moto2 and Moto3 race teams he backs, which are a production line of future Italian racers.

The ranch is also the base for Rossi's merchandising operation, which last year processed in excess of £18m in merchandise bearing the name of the Italian and several fellow racers.

But it has not all been plain sailing for Rossi. What has defined his career so far is the ability to bounce back, both on and off the track, often confounding the doctors to race when he could barely walk following the latest in a series of crippling injuries.

  • 23 world championship seasons
  • 323 grands prix
  • 9 world titles
  • 115 GP race wins
  • 232 GP race podiums
There has also been personal tragedy. A decade ago Rossi's best friend and fellow racer Marco Simoncelli, the 2008 250cc world champion, crashed at the Malaysian GP and was struck by Rossi and American rider Colin Edwards, the latter causing head injuries from which the Italian later died.

Only last year Rossi suffered a broken leg while out training on an off-road bike but, despite only being able to walk with the aid of a stick, he was racing just 23 days later, beating all but four of his MotoGP rivals in the process.

At the 2018 Malaysian GP Rossi led until sliding off at two-thirds distance on the same day his half-brother Luca Marini had won a GP for the first time and Pecco Bagnaia had secured the Sky VR46 team's first world title with the Moto2 crown.

One question remains for Rossi to answer in the 2019 season. Can he beat Marc Marquez?

The Spaniard is fast catching his Italian rival with a total of seven world titles and is a short-odds favourite to make it eight in 2019.

Marc Marquez will be a big challenger to Rossi in 2019
Marc Marquez will be a big challenger to Rossi in 2019 (David Davies/PA)

Rossi has shown he can adapt his racing style to match that of the more aggressive Marquez but he has yet to win a world title since the young pretender joined the MotoGP ranks.

Former world champion Jorge Lorenzo, who quit Ducati to team up with Marquez at Repsol Honda for 2019, certainly rates Rossi's chances of a 10th world title.

The Spaniard thinks Rossi, who was his team-mate at Yamaha for several season, and Marquez are his main title rivals this season.

Come the end of the 2020 season, when his current contract runs out, Rossi will be 41 and his thousands of adoring fans could be queuing for selfies with other stars of the track – leaving Rossi to perhaps concentrate on his race teams, rider academy and myriad other business interests.

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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States1010929
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia78419
Great BritainGreat Britain56415
Today's Olympic highlights header

Wednesday's key events

· Team GB have dominated the men's coxless fours in recent Olympics, winning on each of the last five occasions, but this year they face some stiff competition. They are one of four rowing medal contenders for Great Britain today (2.10am)

· Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus face off again in the women's 200m freestyle final, with the latter having already come out on top in the 400m event (2.41am)
· Team GB's Abbie Wood is among the medal contenders in the women's 200m individual medley final, while teammate Alicia Wilson will also take part. USA's Kate Douglass was the fastest qualifier, while world and Olympic record holder Katinka Hosszu is also involved (3.45am)
· Katie Ledecky could make it two golds in one morning as she goes into the 1500m freestyle final as heavy favourite, having broken the Olympic record in qualifying (3.54am)
· Team GB were by far the fastest qualifiers for the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final and will therefore be favourites for another gold in the pool (4.26am)

· Team GB take on New Zealand in the first men's semi-final, having been beaten by reigning champions Fiji but then come from behind to overcome USA on day two (3am)
· The sevens gold medal match takes place at Tokyo Stadium, with the winner of Great Britain vs. New Zealand taking on either Argentina or Fiji (10am)

· Joe Fraser and James Hall compete for Team GB in the men's all-around final (11.15am-2.10pm)

· Anna Shackley will take part in the women's road time trial (from 3.30am)
· Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart have medal ambitions for Great Britain in the men's road time trial, although both will need to recover from the crash they suffered on Saturday (6am)

· Jack Laugher bids to retain his men's 3m synchro diving title alongside new partner Daniel Goodfellow (7am)

· Charlotte Dujardin will look to add to her already legendary status with a third successive Olympic individual dressage title (9.30am-1.25pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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