12 MotoGP and WorldSBK one-off liveries that were much better than the original

Many are expecting Valentino Rossi to bow out of MotoGP in style with a special farewell livery... but will it be as memorable as these one-off specials?

Valentino Rossi - Yamaha Italia World Cup

While some may not quite be ready to accept it, the day of Valentino Rossi’s very final race in MotoGP is fast approaching and that means we will put our bottom dollar on him going out with a bang (hopefully not the engine) with a special one-off livery to celebrate his 25 years on the international stage.

Indeed, Rossi and Yamaha are no novices when it comes to switching up the corporate hues and sponsor decals of its entries with numerous examples over the years from when it got its paintbrush (sort of…) and went for something different.

It isn’t the only MotoGP team to go rogue on occasion with many examples that we’d have rather seen all-year long, frankly… here we have a selection of the very best.

Nicky Hayden Stars and Stripes livery

12. ‘Kentucky Kid’ stars at home 

Nicky Hayden - Ducati Corse - 2009 Indianapolis MotoGP 

The late Nicky Hayden was a popular figure wherever he went but none more so that when he was competing on home soil in the United States, which in 2009 was double the privilege at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis.

Two years on from his MotoGP World Championship title with Honda, Hayden was in the midst of a tough first season adapting to the Ducati Desmosedici but it seems home support and a patriotic paint job can be worth a fair few tenths since he’d go on to score his first podium with the Italian firm with a run to third.

Yamaha Colin Edwards

11. Patriotism on an iconic Yamaha canvas

Colin Edwards - Camel Yamaha Team - 2006 US MotoGP, Laguna Seca

Though not quite the most faithful rendition of Yamaha’s iconic yellow, black and white colourway from the 1970s and 1980s, its Camel backing in 2006 at least made the M1 more eye-catching than in previous years.

That was until Colin Edwards turned things up to 11 with a splash of patriotic Texan-theme ‘stars and stripes’ to please the home fans (as well as wipe all mention of tobacco advertising).

Suzuki Red Bull

10. Red Bull previews the future with Suzuki

John Hopkins, Kenny Roberts Jr - Team Suzuki MotoGP - 2005 US MotoGP, Laguna Seca

It’s hard to imagine almost any sport without the tell-tale hues of Red Bull sponsoring in various capacity, but having just created its own F1 team, Red Bull previewed a future of Honda and KTM backing with a striking one-off outing with Suzuki in 2005, one that couldn’t have been more Red Bull if it tried.

Aprilia RED livery

9. Aprilia sees RED for a good cause

Alvaro Bautista, Aleix Espargaro - Aprilia Gresini Racing - 2016 Valencia MotoGP, Valencia

While most liveries switcheroos are largely to impress a sponsor or reward a rider, Aprilia demonstrated how MotoGP could be a force for important causes by teaming up with the RED charity.

Raising awareness for HIV and AIDS, the all red livery was used by Aprilia during the final Valencia MotoGP rounds in 2016 and 2017

Valentino Rossi farewell livery

8. Valentino Rossi gets funky for Honda farewell

Valentino Rossi - Repsol Honda, 2003 Valencia MotoGP, Valencia

With a third MotoGP World Championship title firmly in his back pocket, Valentino Rossi celebrated with a funky, Austin Powers-style typeface livery for the season finale in Valencia.

It would also turn out to be his final appearance on a Honda following the news he would defect to Yamaha from 2004.

Repsol rallying retro Honda MotoGP

7. Honda harks back to its rallying heritage

Dani Pedrosa, Nicky Hayden - Repsol Honda, 2008 Valencia MotoGP, Valencia

Honda paid tribute to long time partners Repsol by throwing back to the Spanish oil giant’s origins in motorsport with this simple, yet retro white livery during the 2008 Valencia MotoGP.

Reflecting the livetres of its rally cars of the 70s and 80s, Repsol went on to provide backing for Lancia, Ford and SEAT on the WRC.

Marco Melandri - Tech 3 Yamaha

6. Marco Melandri’s spidey senses get tingling

Marco Melandri - Tech 3 Yamaha, 2004 Portuguese MotoGP, Estoril

The marketing department for the Spiderman 2 film in 2004 turned to MotoGP and Marco Melandri for an unmissable product placement, which led to the Italian’s Tech 3 Yamaha decked out in red and blue colour and emblazoned with webbing.

This was actually the second time Melandri turned Spiderman to promote the franchise, dressing as the arachnid superhero in 2000. Better still, the regalia would be donated and auctioned to raise money for charity… so a big win all round!

Yamaha Yellow Anniversary livery

5. Yamaha toasts its heritage

Valentino Rossi, Colin Edwards - Yamaha Factory, 2005 US MotoGP, Laguna Seca

While we have become used to seeing Yamaha decked out in blue for some years now, back in the day it was more synonymous with yellow, black and white.

There are many that consider this to be the more attractive look and this one-off livery for Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards at Laguna Seca goes a long way to justify that statement

Jonathan Rea - Kawasaki Racing Team

4. Kawasaki echoes 1990s with stunning WorldSBK homage

WorldSBK: Jonathan Rea - Kawasaki Racing Team, 2021 WorldSBK Argentina, San Juan Villicum

OK, so we’re cheating here a bit but we couldn’t help but include this stunning recreation of Kawasaki’s first WorldSBK title back in 1993 with Scott Russell.

With a retina-burning lime green base, white strip and blue wording in the typeface of Kawasaki’s 90s logo, as much as we like the current darker shade, it does make us hope the firm bite the bullet and re-adopt this.

As if that wasn’t enough, Jonathan Rea’s team-mate Alex Lowes ran a burnt orange and black livery in a nod to the GPZ900R used in Top Gun.

Pramac Ducati Lamborghini

3. Pramac Ducati goes exotica with Lambo

Jack Miller, Pecco Bagnaia - Pramac Ducati, 2019 Italian MotoGP, Mugello

Maybe it is the fact yellow has been broadly swerved by MotoGP teams over the years, but this one-off Italian MotoGP livery for Pramac Ducati celebrating distant relatives Lamborghini was a big winner.

With Pramac Racing largely sticking to the same red, white and blue formula over the decades, the dash of colour helped its two bikes stand out in 2019.

Yamaha Italia World Cup

2. Rossi and Yamaha’s Italy World Cup tribute

Valentino Rossi - Yamaha Factory, 2008 Catalunya MotoGP, Barcelona

Football mad Valentino Rossi paid tribute to the Italian national team playing in the 2008 World Cup final against Spain the same weekend he raced in the Catalunya MotoGP with the Yamaha in synonymous pastel blue and even wearing a football-patterned helmet.

However, with Spain winning that final on penalties, Rossi would fittingly also be defeated by Dani Pedrosa in the race.

Suzuki GSX-R livery

1. Suzuki pays homage to GSX-R brand in iconic style

Aleix Espargaro, Maverick Vinales - Suzuki Ecstar, 2015 German MotoGP, Sachsenring

Simple, retro but evocative, the white and blue hues of Suzuki’s famed GSX-R brand were emblazoned proudly during the 2015 German MotoGP, harking back to the entries of the 80s and 90s.

That said, we do wish they’d gone all the way with white rims too, but you can’t have everything...