But what marks Rossi out, apart from his breathtaking bravery and grace at high speed, is his showmanship. In an era of anodyne sportsmen Rossi is a welcome relief. For last season's Italian Grand Prix he wore garish new colors when he heard his fan club had a Hawaiian branch, which prompted his devotees to don floral shirts and install a swimming pool and plastic palm trees in the stands. To celebrate his first 500 cc win he gave a lift to a fan dressed as a chicken. He designed himself a T shirt with 35 reasons why he is world champion. No. 15 reads "because I learnt to be a phenomenon."
Organizers of the British Grand Prix credited the Rossi factor with trebling attendance-60,000-from two years ago. His victory at Donington Park was all the more remarkable since he parted company with his bike in spectacular fashion in practice, breaking his left thumb. Rival Loris Capirossi has said Rossi could win the championship with only one arm. Definitely a phenomenon.
In the Lead
For the third time Colin McRae took first place in the Safari rally. But more significantly, the victory made him the most successful driver, taking the Scotsman's total of World Rally Championship wins to 25, ahead of rivals Carlos Sainz and Tommi Makinen. McRae's victory was all the sweeter since only a quarter of the competitors survived the car-breaking Kenyan course, with main championship contenders Marcus Grönholm, Sainz and reigning world champion Richard Burns all failing to finish.
His spectacular driving style has made McRae probably the biggest name in the sport, though many owners of the Sony PlayStation rally game believe him to be a virtual character like Lara Croft. In spite of his many race wins, he has taken only one world championship. Now he has back-to-back victories at the Acropolis Rally in June and last week in Kenya, he trails championship leader Grönholm by only seven points and has set his sights firmly on increasing that total. He will be putting his foot down to overtake the Finnish driver in his home rally next month and hoping to pull smartly away from the pack.
If the Face Doesn't Fit
Sportsmen and -women may think that getting their picture in the papers all the time makes them instantly recognizable. But it ain't necessarily so. When the world's most famous sportsman, Tiger Woods, turned up at Muirfield for a practice round before the Open Golf Championship, his face meant nothing to a security guard, who refused him admission because he wasn't wearing his identity badge. Yachtswoman Tracy Edwards set a new record in June, zipping a total of 695 nautical miles in 24 hours off Newport, Rhode Island in her 33.5m catamaran Maiden II. When she sailed up the Thames in her record-breaking craft she was hauled over by the river police for speeding. Pointing out that she was over the 13 km/h limit, an officer asked, "Who do you think you are? Tracy Edwards?"