Valentino Rossi began his Grand Prix career in 1996 racing on an Aprilia RS125 for the Scuderia AGV Aprilia team in the 125cc Class.
Valentino Rossi had mixed fortunes in his debut season, he failed to finish in 5 of the races, but he did manage 2 podiums, one of which was his first victory which was at Brno in the Czech Republic. Rossi finished the season in 9th place in the overall 125cc standings.
Despite clearly being a new talent to watch, Rossi also stood out for his unique sense of design and Valentino kicked off his long-standing partnership with designer Aldo Drudi, who would go on to create all of Rossi’s helmet designs. In 1996 Rossi firmly established the Sun and Moon motif as his design trademark or motif. Often called the ‘Soleluna’ design, it would be a graphic style that would feature in most of Valentino’s helmet designs throughout his entire career, in fact a variant of it is still being used now.
The Sun and Moon would continue to feature in almost all of Rossi’s motorcyle helmets, but this first helmet is where it all began.
Aldo Drudi designed the graphics and the helmet featured a huge red sun on the right hand side with a cartoon face at it’s center. The yellow background on the right of the helmet fades to black at the centre and the night time design then dominates the left hand side of the helmet featuring a huge crescent moon. Rossi’s number 46 is placed in the center of the helmet just above the visor. Rossi has often said that the sun and moon reflect the two sides of his personality.
The back of the helmet featured a cartoon condom and Japanese lettering that translated as “Go Rossifumi”. Rossifumi was one of Valentino’s very first nicknames and was a reference and tribute to fellow rider Norifumi Abe.
Valentino explained the origin of the Rossifumi nickname as:
“Rossifumi was my first nickname because I was a big fan of Japanese riders, especially Norifumi Abe. So that’s how I got to be called Rossifumi”.
There is significance attached to this helmet as it was the design that Rossi wore when he won his first Grand Prix, taking pole position and eventually victory in the Czech Republic at Brno, beating Jorge Martínez and Tomomi Manako.
See video highlights of Valentino Rossi’s first 125cc victory below:
Image Gallery of the 1996 Sun and Moon Helmet:
Rossi was not yet having custom helmet designs created for special rounds (much like you see today with Misano, or Mugello) and this ‘Sun & Moon’ (Sole Luna) design would be the primary design that Rossi raced with during his maiden season in the 125cc Class.