MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi is known for his bold and colorful personality – but he’s equally known for his many bold and colorful helmets, all of which have unique meanings to the world’s most loved road racer. Here are all the touching, funny, and strange stories behind all of his most famous designs!
The world’s most famous motorcycle racer, 9-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi is not only one of the most talented riders to ever race in MotoGP, but is also a perennial fan favorite due to his colorful, fun personality.
But just as colorful and fun as Rossi himself are his helmet designs, which over the years have become a Rossi trademark. They are unique because they are not only beautiful, unusual and visually captivating, but in that they almost all tell a story. Rossi uses his helmet designs as a way to communicate – whether it’s paying homage to his fans, expressing his emotions, or even just poking fun at himself, his helmets are much more than just cool-looking racing gear. Instead, each one is a volume in an ongoing story that the now-legendary racer has been telling his entire career.
Rossi’s helmet designs vary wildly, but they do carry some strong themes. Almost always designed in collaboration with well-known helmet designer Aldo Drudi, they often feature heavy doses of hi-viz yellow, his trademark color, sun and moon imagery, which are symbols meant to represent the two sides of his personality, and often feature touches of things that are important to him, like his beloved pets (two bulldogs and a cat) which often make appearances on his helmets.
New designs are usually released in a pattern – he typically has one design he primarily races in for the year, another used in winter testing, and he also releases much-anticipated special versions for his “home races” each year in Misano and Mugello, which are usually the most eccentric and humorous, and usually carry the most personal meaning for him.
Check out our gallery of some of the most entertaining, unusual, and iconic Rossi helmets below, along with the stories behind each one!
The “Shark” Helmet
One of Rossi’s more eccentric Misano designs, this one, released before the 2015 round, features a large, intimidating blue cartoon shark coming up behind a small but very determined looking yellow fish. In 2015 Rossi arrived in Misano in the lead, but hotly pursued by his rivals, Lorenzo, Marquez and Pedrosa (all Spaniards) trying to beat the native Italian in his home race. This design represents his dogged determination to stay ahead of his tough competition!
The “Wish You Were Here” Helmet
One of the most heartfelt Rossi designs, this one features a design heavily inspired by the album cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” The design, on his 2013 Misano helmet, was a tribute to his friend and fellow MotoGP racer Marco Simoncelli, who was killed in a crash while racing Sepang in 2011. Like Rossi, Simoncelli’s hometown is also not far from the Misano circuit, which was renamed in honor of Simoncelli after his death.
The “Soleluna” Helmet
One of the most iconic Rossi designs, Soleluna (which translates to “sun and moon” features a large sun wrapping over the helmet from the front, and meeting a crescent moon on the back, and has been Rossi’s primary helmet since returning to Yamaha in 2013. A sun and moon are often found on Rossi’s helmets, but this design is most well known for making them the centerpiece of the design. It comes in both Corsa and Pista versions, but the flagship Pista graphic adds in the Monster Energy logos on each side, making it an exact replica of the one Rossi actually races in.
The “Doubleface” Helmet
This 2013 winter test design is one of Rossi’s more whimsical ones, which takes the iconic Soleluna design and reverses it, placing the moon in the front and the sun at the rear. But that’s not the weird part – the weird part is that Rossi had a photorealistic image of his own face looking through the visor placed across the back, giving the effect that he is staring right at the other riders behind him!
The “Mirror/Solar Energy” Helmet
One of Rossi’s most striking designs ever, this helmet, released for the 2015 Mugello round, features the entire crown in a bright, reflective chrome finish, with images of solar panels along the sides, and a “power meter” with indicator bars rising up the back.
Each indicator bar represents a qualification or practice round leading up to the race, and is meant to show Rossi’s rising energy as race day approaches. The mirrored finish is meant to reflect the energy of Rossi’s devoted fans back at themselves, completing a “circuit” of energy that Rossi thrives on, and it also features images of Rossi’s beloved bulldogs (which are often worked into his helmet designs.)
The “Turtle” Helmet
The Turtle, or Tartaruga (in Italian), is one of Rossi’s more humorous Mugello designs, but also one with a lot of significance for him. Turtles are slow, and Rossi, who had not been particularly fast in the 2013 season leading up to Mugello, used this comical turtle design to poke fun at himself for falling behind. He was facing some very stiff competition from the rest of the “big four” that year – Lorenzo, Pedrosa, and Marquez – represented by a pack of four stick figures running along, with the yellow one struggling to keep up, on the chinbar.
But besides the obvious “slowness” reference, turtles actually also hold a lot of significance for Rossi – a turtle was Rossi’s first mascot when he raced minimoto as a child, borrowed from another legendary Italian motorsports hero. Rossi also has a turtle tattoo on his hip to commemorate his ironic “sprit animal.”
The “Five Continents” Helmet
This is a classic Rossi design, and among his most popular, which visually pays homage to the five different continents that MotoGP visits in the course of a season (all except Africa and Antarctica.) It features his trademark sun design with five rays, each one depicting art that represents one of the continents. This was his primary design throughout the 2009 and 2012 seasons, but he retired it when he returned to Yamaha in 2013, switching to the “Elements” helmet as his primary design instead.
The “WTF” Helmet
If you’re seeing the pattern in Rossi’s helmets by now, you have probably already identified this as a Misano helmet, which are Rossi’s most quirky and provocative. This design, a thought bubble with symbols of expletives all over it, expresses his frurstration with Ducati, who he was racing for in 2011; he had a number of problems with the bike that strained his relationship with the company, and he was not shy about expressing it. Cartoon images of Rossi’s two beloved bulldogs, which often make appearances on his helmets, are also found on the rear.
The “Boxer” Helmet
Another Misano helmet, this one made it’s appearance in 2012. Again expressing his frustration at the Ducati that just couldn’t keep Rossi in the lead, an “emotionally beat up” Rossi is expressed by a beaten and bruised cartoon boxer on the crown of this helmet, asking “how am I doing?” in Italian. His two bulldogs are also found in this design.
The “Handprint” Helmet
This Misano 2014 favorite holds a lot of personal significance for Rossi, as the main feature of the design are actual handprints of essential members of Rossi’s race team, who helped The Doctor make a big recovery after his debacle with Ducati. The women in his life get more than a handprint; his mother and girlfriend both have imprints of their lips in the design, one on each cheek, and the fingerprint of Aldo Drudi, the chief designer of all Rossi’s helmets, also makes an appearance.
Fun Fact: If you’ve seen any Rossi lid, you’ve probably noticed the unusual “Tribu Dei Chihuahua” decal usually found across the top of his visor. As Rossi finally explained in an interview, “Tribu Dei Chihuahua” refers to the name his gang of childhood friends gave themselves, a reference to a tribe of natives found in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. There is, in fact, no “Chihuahua” Indian tribe, so the young Rossi was probably misinformed – but the name stuck, and is emblazoned on the world champ’s visors to this day.
The “Face” Helmet
At 2AM the Wednesday before the 2008 Mugello round, Rossi and his long-time helmet designer, Aldo Drudi, could not come up with an idea for a design for his much-anticipated Mugello helmet (Rossi even suggested that the helmet be blank white, saying “sorry, we couldn’t come up with anything!”) After talking to Rossi about what racing Mugello was like, Rossi described one blind corner after the circuit’s long straight, and he made this shocked face to describe it. Drudi was so entertained by the goofy expression that he decided to make it the centerpiece of the design – and the result was one of the funniest and most famous and Rossi lids of all time!
“The Donkey” Helmet
Rossi embarrassed himself when crashing out of the 2009 Indy round, losing 25 points in the process – one might say “he made an ass out of himself.” To make light of the situation, he made an ass out of himself, literally, on his 2009 Misano helmet, with the same “face” design he wore there the year before, but with his face turned into that of a donkey. The goofy-looking donkey has Rossi’s actual eyes, and the words “The Donkey” are found in the same font and location where “The Doctor” used to be. Like The Turtle, this helmet is one of the most obvious ways Rossi has made fun of himself, and as a result, is another fan favorite!
The “Chicken” Helmet
This quirky design was made to celebrate Rossi’s 9th world championship, which he secured at Sepang in 2009. The image of cartoon chicken laying an egg seems odd at first, but it is making reference to an old Italian saying that says “old chickens are only good for making broth” (as they don’t lay eggs.) The design is a reference to Rossi’s age when he won that championship; at 31, he was considered old by MotoGP standards, but he won that year anyway. In other words, this “old chicken” managed to lay one more egg.
The “Wake Up” Helmet
Another quirky Misano helmet, this design, featuring a cartoon alarm clock going off, was created for the 2010 round. It was meant to poke fun at the fact that Rossi often runs late for track sessions and team meetings, but it also has a double meaning – it is also meant to say that it was time for Rossi to “wake up” for the rest of the season and get himself back in the game, after missing several rounds in 2010 due to a broken leg.
What’s your favorite Rossi lid of all time?