Pictorial: Rossi's marriage to Yamaha in 2004

When Rossi made the announcement that he was moving to Yamaha it was obvious 2004 was going to be a special year, here are some of those moments

In 2004 Valentino Rossi would solidify his status of MotoGP legend when, in his first year with Yamaha he marked his new relationship with M1 spectacularly.

The fairy tale win at Welkom gave Rossi the career milestone of winning back-to-back races on two different manufacturers, matching Eddie Lawson.

Following the race the intimacy between the bike and rider was there for all to see, “my M1 and I kissed for the first time on the grass at Welkom, when she looked straight in my eyes and told me ‘I love you!'"

Pre-season testing

The courtship between Rossi and the Yamaha M1 started at the pre-season tests around Sepang in Malaysia.

This picture really sums up the loneliness that comes with putting in constant laps to find the perfect base set-up. The testing came to fruition at the Grand Prix Zero at Jerez in Spain. Valentino came away with a silver BMW Z4 after topping the timesheets.

Yamaha M1

The M1 that Rossi would create a beautiful relationship with. Before Rossi would get with his bride she was given a new makeover from the minds at Yamaha, with Masao Furasawa and crew chief Jeremy Burgess fronting the effort.

The adoration from all involved was there to see, Rossi said of his M1: "She was a poor middle-grid position MotoGP bike, derided by most of the riders and the MotoGP workers. Now, after having helped her to grow and improve, you can see her smiling in her garage, courted and admired, treated as the ‘top of the class”

Beating Honda at Welkom

Honda was furious with Rossi’s defection to Yamaha so a force of factory mounted riders were assembled to defeat #46.

Altogether this increased the sweetness of the Welkom victory, throughout the 28 laps two arch-rivals clashed in a battle that was more than business – it was personal. The lead exchanged places multiple times over the race, but Rossi would be the one to dispose of Max Biaggi and the horde of HRC riders. He crossed the line .210 ahead of Biaggi and created history.

Two fourths

Following the famous win Valentino Rossi struggled for two races, but the superb riding abilities of the masterful rider masked the problems with the Yamaha M1, these were just teething problems for the newlyweds.

In the rain in Spain, Rossi demonstrated his god-like talents by saving this tremendous near-highside and out of the seat moment. But two fourths were all that the Italian could muster up at Jerez and again at the Le Mans round.

Wooden helmet at Mugello

Before the round at Mugello, the fickle Italian press were quick to criticise Rossi following his two, off-par performances in Spain and France.

In typical Rossi style he countered the disapproval of his previous positions with his sense of humour, by wearing a helmet with a wooden medal motif – the award given to anything lower than the podium – and by adding another win to his tally at the luscious hillside circuit.

Catalunya tyre smoking

Valentino Rossi wrestled the 990 M1 to another win at Catalunya and the tyre smoking picture shows how well he was becoming moulded with his new machine.

On the parade lap Rossi would don a Doctor’s coat and stethoscope. The diagnosis? The prescribed Yamaha medication was working… He would take the holy trinity of victory honours by completing the Mugello, Catalunya and Assen hat trick.

British dominance

Pleasing the sea of yellow, the partnership put on a dominant display at Donington Park. Crossing the line with a commanding lead Rossi had time to ponder the demonstration he had just given his British audience.

It’s interesting to note the round of applause Rossi is receiving from the Ducati crew in the background, little would they know the Italian legend would be joining them in seven years.

Sweeping controversy

Accusations flew around the paddock before the riders would attack the new Qatar circuit. Sete Gibernau lead the finger pointing at Valentino Rossi with the allegation that the Italian and his crew put rubber down on their grid spot to improve grip for the race launch. Rossi was demoted to the back of the pack and he would fall in the race trying to make up ground on his rivals.

The press conference that followed at Sepang was a sour affair with sniping remarks all-round. Rossi cursed Gibernau with the ultimate mind-game proclamation that he would never win another race. Rossi would again win in Malaysia and although his celebration was tongue-in-cheek the sinister undertones were obvious.


'Che Spectaculo!' The title was clinched at Philip Island; Rossi was victorious in the race to take a 25-point advantage on his rivals. Rossi-Mania was in full effect as the podium was mobbed with crowds of cheering fans.

The Yamaha/Rossi marriage worked and the pairing would go on to celebrate many successful championship victories together.