Over the course of his 20-year Grand Prix career, Valentino Rossi has slipped his cranium into countless helmets, each with its own design. Most regular-season helmets incorporate the Sun & Moon motif first seen in his freshman GP year. Other helmets are one-off designs created for special events such as his hometown race at Misano, winter testing, Marco Simoncelli tributes, etc. Regardless the occasion, the Aldo Drudi-designed helmets are usually delicious looking lids recognizable by their attractiveness and flamboyancy. Here are my 10 favorites.
10. Tribal Sun (2001)
2001 was the year Rossi won his first premier-class championship. With the switch to four-stroke MotoGP looming, 2001 was also the final 500cc two-stroke Grand Prix championship. To commemorate the event, Rossi sported a new design for the final few rounds. Based on his regular-season lid, the adaptation featured a tribal sun in place of the cartoonish sun at the front of the helmet, while the back was a yellow moon on a black background. This was also the helmet he wore during post-season winter testing.
9. Snowman (2016)
Rossi’s winter testing helmets have recently taken on a life of their own. Run in the steamy heat of Malaysia – where it doesn’t feel remotely like winter – Rossi makes fun of the situation with his Snowman helmet from this year. Posing for pictures, Rossi donned a similar yellow scarf and hat to that of the snowman on the top of the helmet.
8. Wood (2004)
After making the switch from Honda to Yamaha, Rossi won the first race of the season in 2004 – the first rider to win back-to-back races aboard different bikes. However, he followed that win with a pair of fourth-place finishes. Rossi mocked the situation by insinuating he’d won the wooden medal. His helmet was designed to resemble wood with a large, wooden medallion engraved with the roman numeral IV.
7. Birthday (2008)
Merry B-day, Vale! With a February 28th birthday, Rossi oftentimes spends the event testing a new bike for the upcoming GP season. For his 29th birthday in 2008 during winter testing, Rossi wore this birthday cake helmet. Among the candles at the top of the helmet is happy birthday written in Italian, “Buon Compleanno Vale.”
6. Boxer (2012)
When Rossi switched from Yamaha to Ducati, he couldn’t recreate the same success he enjoyed when switching from Honda to Yamaha years earlier. After a winless season-and-a-half aboard the Duc, Rossi was on the ropes. His one-off Misano helmet in 2012 showed exactly that – a battered and bruised Valentino Rossi. Written on the boxing gloves he’s wearing on the helmet is the word “Semprelast” – wordplay on the Everlast brand, as well as his dismal results, sempre being Italian for “always,” Alwayslast. On the lower back of the helmet, Rossi’s two bulldogs were also wearing boxing gloves.
5. The Doctor (2005)
After the University of Urbino presented Rossi with a láurea ad honorem (honorary degree) in communication and publicity, Valentino henceforth became known as “The Doctor.” According to a report, Rossi was given the award “in recognition of the positive influence he has set as a role model, also to commemorate his achievements as one of the best riders in recent years.” Rossi commemorated the event with a special Doctor helmet at the 2005 Mugello Grand Prix – a race he won over Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri.
4. Wish You Were Here (2013)
Rossi has had a few Marco Simoncelli tribute helmets, but we like the one he wore in 2013 the best. Using elements of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album, the helmet is one of Rossi’s more somber and subdued designs. While the Wish You Were Here title is an obvious statement from Rossi to Simoncelli, we must also assume Rossi to be a Pink Floyd fan, which ups Rossi’s cool factor for having excellent taste in music.
3. Wooly Hat (2015)
Think of it as the helmet version of the ugly Christmas sweater – although it’s not really all that ugly. Fashioned to look like a real stocking cap, the Wooly Hat helmet is simply a super-cool design Aldo Drudi created that incorporates all your X-mas favorites including reindeer, Christmas trees and snowflakes. Rossi’s 46 flows with the wintery theme, only the AGV and Monster logos uglifying the design.
2. My Face (2008)
Each time the camera landed on Rossi during the 2008 Mugello race you had to smile, if not laugh. The open-mouth image of Rossi’s face on the top of his AGV lid is one of the most comical things of the modern MotoGP era. “I have to be honest about my helmet,” said Rossi, “it was Aldo Drudi’s idea this time but I think it’s one of the best ever! It’s not a drawing, it’s a real picture of my face at the braking end of the straight here, and I think it’s very funny!”
1. Sun & Moon (1996)
When an 18-year-old Valentino Rossi entered Grand Prix competition in 1996 in the 125cc class aboard the Scuderia AGV Aprilia, this is the helmet he was wearing. The original Sun & Moon motif set the precedent for future helmet designs, as well as the asymmetrical features of his leathers. This is the helmet design that began his career-long partnership with Aldo Drudi, who has designed all of Rossi’s helmets. It is the helmet he was wearing when he won his first GP – at Brno that same year – as well as his first GP championship in the 125cc class in 1997. Rossi continued with this design through two years of 250cc competition – including one championship – and his first year in the premier class. Rossi has always worn AGV helmets and many of his past and present designs can be purchased today at agv.com.