One of the most vivid differences between MotoGP and Formula One is the legions of absurdly rowdy fans that line the track at each MotoGP event. The return of spectators at some events this season was certainly welcome after running the 2020 season with either severely limited attendance or behind closed doors. The return is even more welcome considering that this is the final season for nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi.
Over his 22-season career in the premier class of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, Rossi cultivated probably the most passionate motorsport fanbase ever. His devoted masses appear trackside at every corner of the planet, fully decked out in neon yellow. They adorn themselves in neon yellow shirts and neon yellow caps while waving neon yellow flags and lighting yellow flares off in the grandstands. Neon yellow everything!
Valentino Rossi being Italian, sees his most zealous support in Italy. MotoGP normally visits the country twice per season for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello and the San Marino Grand Prix at Misano. However, a second race will take place at Misano this weekend to replace rounds cancelled due to the pandemic. This will be Valentino Rossi’s final MotoGP race in Italy. Rossi grew up only eight miles away from the Misano circuit in the town of Tavullia. The Rossi fans who show up for these races are a cross between a soccer ultra and a festival-goer. Just imagine if Scuderia Ferrari’s tifosi wielded chainsaws.
Because yes, they show up to MotoGP races with chainsaws. The high (or low) point for Rossi’s supporters in the MotoGP World Championship was during the openly hostile 2016 title fight. Italian rider’s rivals Marc Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo were given bodyguards during that season’s Italian Grand Prix weekend to protect the riders from any potential incident with Rossi’s fans. Thankfully, no altercation took place between the fans and rival riders.
It is unclear what these fans will do after the 2021 season. A team owned by Valentino Rossi will enter MotoGP for the 2022 season. Despite Rossi’s ownership, one of the team’s riders being his half-brother and being based in his hometown, it won’t be clear if the Italian icon’s fervent support will carry over to Racing Team VR46 until their first race in Italy.