Italy going crazy over Valentino Rossi

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updated: February 25, 2007 08:37 IST
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Italian Valentino Rossi became only the third rider in history to win world titles in three different classes when he clinched the 500cc championship in Australia last Sunday. He was a gawky teenager four years ago with coloured hair and aspirations of being number one. And it happened all too soon for Valentino Rossi in the 1997 British Grand Prix. Tomomi Manako crashed in the last lap, allowing Rossi to take the 125 cc title. Four years later, at the Australian Grand Prix the 22-year-old Rossi in the yellow leathers duelled Max Biaggi last weekend. The Italian would go on to win the race and the 2001 500cc World Championship title. And he's now in an elite club of only three riders who have won championships in all three categories of motorbike racing. Australian Mike Hailwood was the first to hold titles in 125 cc, 250 cc and 500 cc. And that feat was matched by Phil Read later. Valnetino's father Graziano however didn't travel to watch his son make history despite being a former motorbike rider himself. He can't take the tension. But it was he who initiated his son into racing at the age of 2. And Italy has been going crazy over their latest sporting hero. The girls in particular just love him. Rossi is the first Italian to win the 500 cc championship since Franco Uncini in 1982. Next season he plans to keep his same number plate instead of the customary number 1 for the champion. But what colour his hair will be next season, no one knows. This was him as Robin Hood in 1997 after his first major win. And like the character, he too will now be part of the folklore of motorbike racing for a long long time.