Italy will hold the next round of the FIM Motocross World Championship, set for Mantova in the far north of Italy. It is little surprise that there is a buzz in the air for this event as the MXGP riders return back to Italy after a stunning round in Trentino a couple of weeks ago.
A handful of countries have a special long-standing relationship with the FIM Motocross World Championship, and Italy is one of those. Of course, our current MXGP red-plate owner is Antonio Cairoli, an Italian who has dominated the sport for the last 15 years.
Cairoli is passionate about his sport and even more so about his country. Sportsman of the year in Italy in previous years and a household name, Cairoli has done more for Italian motocross than any other Italian motocrosser, and believe me, there have been some very special Italian riders to have graced our sport.
Present day Yamaha Factory team owner Michele Rinaldi was the pioneer of Italian world champions, winning the FIM World 125cc Motocross Championship in 1984 and scoring 13 GP wins.
Rinaldi was a lucky man, like anyone else who raced for the Suzuki factory back then he knew he had the bikes to win. The yellow Suzuki machines won 10 125cc titles in a row, Rinaldi’s crowning glory being the last of the 10.
Rinaldi still attends the races as team owner of the Yamaha Factory effort, and he has seen a changing of the guard in many ways. He has also seen the improvement in the MXGP riders over recent years.
Alessandro Puzar kept the fire burning in Italian motocross with a 250cc title in 1990 and a 125cc title in 1995. Puzar also picked up 22 GP victories in his very exciting career and he remains one of the most interesting characters in the sport.
Following Alex Puzar’s success came Alessio Chiodi. Chiodi won three 125cc titles in 1997, 1998 and 1999 and scored 26 GP wins, previously placing him just outside the top ten for all time GP winners. Just ahead of him were Georges Jobe, Andre Malherbe, and Paul Friedrichs on 28 GP victories.
At the time Chiodi was considered the best Italian rider of all time, and his battles against the likes of Grant Langston, James Dobb, and David Vuillemin were epic.
Another Italian Andrea Bartolini won a world 500cc championship in 1999, racing for the Rinaldi Yamaha team Bartolini was up against the mighty Joel Smets, but made the most of the Belgian's misfortunes to clinch Italy their seventh motocross world championship.
After the Bartolini championship times got a little quiet for the Italian riders, with Cairoli scoring two MX2 World championships in 2005, and 2007, and in 2008 David Philippaerts added an MX1 championship. Cairoli would then win titles in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2017, a stunning performance.
What makes the performances of Cairoli so special is the fact he has won FIM Motocross World Championships on nine occasions, with just 14 years. Cairoli also has 88 GP victories and stands just second in the all-time GP winners list to Stefan Everts, who has 101.
Now as the MXGP class head to Mantova, Cairoli can look at GP win number 89, as he climbs closer to his 10th World Motocross championship. A true legend, just not for Italy, but for motocross worldwide.