Location: Grand Prix of Italy (Gran Premio d’Italia Alice ), Mugello
Date: Sunday, June 6, 2004
Race position: 1st
Valentino Rossi had a dream start to the 2004 MotoGP season after his controversial switch to Yamaha, with a win at Welkom in South Africa, becoming the first rider to win back to back races on two different bikes. Rossi win stunned fans as the general consensus was that the Yamaha just wasn’t up to scratch and would struggle to beat the might of Honda. Valentino probably felt vindicated and proved to his critics that the man could make the difference and it wasn’t all down to who simply had the best bike – a criticism that frustrated him during his last months at Honda.
But things didn’t quite go his way after the initial win – following this victory, Rossi suffered a slump in results and finished in 4th place at the next two races, Jerez and Le Mans. Expectation was high when he arrived at Mugello, and his critics pointed to his switch to Yamaha as the cause for his recent results – many speculated he should have never made the move. If you are off the podium and out of the top 3, then many racers fell that it doesn’t make a difference if you come 4th or last, you are not on the podium and that’s what matters.
In order to poke fun at his recent results, Rossi unveiled a special one off Drudi designed helmet, which was designed to make light of his recent results which saw Rossi miss the podium on consecutive occasions for the first time since his first premier class win for Honda in 2000. The helmet was a variation on his regular helmet design from 2003-2004, but was made to look like it was made of wood. The design also featured a medal with the number four in Roman numerals (IV), made to look like it had been carved into the top of the helmet. Rossi said that the story behind the design was steeped in Italian tradition, where the saying goes that if you take 4th place – then you get the wooden medal.
“In Italy we have a joke that if you come fourth you get a wooden medal. So we decided to make a wooden-looking helmet design with a four on the front”
The helmet design is often referred to as the ‘Wooden’ helmet or the ‘Wooden Spoon’ helmet.
Rossi ended up breaking his recent poor run of form at Mugello in 2004 and won the race, ahead of Sete Gibernau and Max Biaggi.
Image gallery of the Valentino Rossi ‘Wooden’ Helmet (Mugello 2004):