Riding The Fabled 2005 Valentino Rossi Yamaha YZR-M1
Paralyzed by perception, the call confirming I would be riding Valentino Rossi’s 2005 MotoGP world championship bike sent seismic waves across the phone lines, rocking and shaking the fabric of my known world. Seconds turned to hours, minutes to days, as every heartbeat began ticking down the time till I would take the ultimate motorcycle challenge. How could one motorcycle strike so much fear in my heart, and so categorically undermine every component of my life that represented stability and security? Not cut from the same cloth as Rossi, nor possessing the heart of a lion or the courage of David, there was no machine I had ridden that could have prepared me to ride Vale’s personal MotoGP machine. Lifting the front wheel of an AMA Superbike at 170 mph, setting a land speed record of 202.247 mph on a nitrous oxide devouring two-wheeled beast, or twisting the throttle of Rich Yancy’s insane, 260 mph street-legal, turbocharged Suzuki Hayabusa, seemed hopelessly inadequate as qualifiers for this test.
Factor in a value of over one million dollars, or that the number 46 emblazoned on the hand-made carbon fiber bodywork belongs to possibly the greatest motorcycle racer ever sent by the gods off speed to taunt us fragile, fallible humans, and at least there was valid justification for my fears. Valentino Rossi is without doubt blessed with superhuman abilities, but the marvel of modern technology that sat beneath him in his racing years should not be overlooked in this equation of world dominance. Producing 250 tire-shredding, blood-sweating Ferghana horses, propelling a package weighing a mere 320 pounds, and hiding a Pandora’s box of electronic and mechanical secrets that contribute to its phenomenal achievements on the world’s toughest stage, just the chance to see this machine at close quarters is an honor and highlight that could last a motorcycling lifetime.
The 2005 MotoGP championship winning Yamaha YZR-M1. And I was about to ride it.
But as the inline four-cylinder engine roared violently to life, and the mechanic blipped the throttle to warm it for me, there was no more room for thought. Slipping the M1 into first gear, sliding out the clutch, and tiptoeing onto the Valencia racetrack under the brilliant Spanish sun, the weeks of expectation were over. Even as the battle of reason and terror still waged in my mind, mercifully I had enough pre-programmed motorcycle responses left to navigate the famous circuit for my four allotted laps. Riding slowly and cautiously at first, there was a release that I had won the fight and climbed into the saddle of doubt on the horse of all my fears. And there on the long front straight, with the throttle pinned to the stop, the inline four cylinder shrieking its blood curdling battle cry at 15,600 rpm, I found salvation. Experiencing the sound, feeling and mind-altering exhilaration of Valentino Rossi’s Yamaha YZR-M1 at full power was my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sit at the feet of the speed gods, if only for a brief few moments.
Fifteen minutes later, I was standing in the Yamaha pit. Laughing from the very fabric of my conscious being, my inner happiness reflecting in crew chief Jeremy Burgess’ face, I felt an incredible moment of weightlessness. I was a lover hearing the words “I do,” a father holding his newborn child, or maybe Vale himself climbing the top step of the podium, his foes vanquished one more time and his place amongst the gods secure. I won’t ever win a world championship, but this brilliant memory will last forever. And, as the years pass, I will be able to relive, whenever I desire, a few of those indescribable moments. I had ridden and experienced the world’s fastest, most famous race bike and, contrary to my perceptions, lived to tell the tale.
The legend in all his glory, on the bike that took him to the pinnacle. What a thrill it was to ride.