All-Time MotoGP Great Valentino Rossi Calling it Quits

Valentino Rossi will retire from motorcycle competition at the end of 2021, bringing to an end a career that has spanned 26 seasons, and yielded nine world titles.

Rossi made his debut in 125 cc in 1996, winning the world title in 1997, and went on to claim the intermediary championship, then known as 250 cc, in 1999.

The Italian stepped up to the premier class in 2000 and took five successive championships, before adding another pair across 2008/09.

Rossi raised the profile of MotoGP with his outrageous ability and personality, introducing outlandish celebrations, in the process amassing a fanbase that was prominent around the world. He has sported No. 46 on his bikes throughout his career.

He did not add to his world title collection after 2009 but finished runner-up during a renaissance across 2014-16 and has remained among the most popular riders.

He has taken 115 victories across all classes, including a record 89 in the premier division, most recently in 2017. He has started 414 grands prix, across all classes, which is a record.

Rossi is in the midst of his worst season, holding only 19th in the standings, with just one top-10 result from the opening nine Grands Prix.

Several of Rossi’s current contemporaries, including reigning world champion Joan Mir and current points leader Fabio Quartararo, were not yet born when the Italian debuted.

The 42-year-old announced on Thursday that the current season will be his last in MotoGP, having opted against continuing in 2022, when his own VR46 team will join the championship.

“I said I would take a decision for next year after the summer break, and I decided to stop at the end of the season,” he said during a special press conference ahead of MotoGP’s Styrian Grand Prix.

“Unfortunately, this will be my last half season as a MotoGP rider. And it’s difficult, it’s a very sad moment because it’s difficult to say and know that next year I will not race with a motorcycle, I’ve done that for I think more or less 30 years.

“Next year, my life will change. But it was great, I’ve enjoyed it very much, it’s been a long, long journey and it was really, really fun. It’s 25, 26 years in the World Championship, so it was great.”

Rossi is nonetheless set to remain active by competing in GT3-categorised sportscar competitions, though is still in the process of arranging deals.

Away from MotoGP, Rossi has previously contested GT3 endurance races, entered rallies, and tested Formula 1 machinery, most prominently with Ferrari in the mid-2000s. In late 2019 Rossi sampled Mercedes’ title-winning Formula 1 car from 2017 as part of a promotional event at which Lewis Hamilton rode Rossi’s Yamaha MotoGP bike.

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