MotoGP: Valentino Rossi to retire at the end of 2021

Valentino Rossi has confirmed his retirement plans


Valentino Rossi will not be on the 2022 MotoGP grid after deciding to retire from the sport at the end of his 26th Grand Prix campaign.

Rossi made the announcement in a special press conference held at the Red Bull Ring ahead of the Grand Prix of Styria this weekend. The nine-time world champion made his decision during the summer break; however, thoughts of retirement had been increasing after each race of a so far difficult 2021 season.

“I said during the season I’d take my decision for next year after the summer break,” Rossi told members of the media. “I decided to stop at the end of the season, so unfortunately this will be the last season as a MotoGP rider. It’s difficult, it’s a very sad moment because it’s difficult to say and to know that next year I will not race with motorcycles. I’ve done this for more or less 30 years so next year my life will change.

“It’s a difficult decision but you have to understand that in the end, in all the sports, the results make the difference. We have half a season left, and I think this will be more difficult when we arrive at the last race. For now, I just to tell everybody my decision. It’s okay, I can’t complain about my career.”

Rossi revealed that there was an option in place for him to join his brother Luca Marini at his own team in MotoGP. The Aramco Racing Team VR46 project will join the grid next year with Ducati, however Rossi opted not to race as he felt that one year was not enough to get the most out of a new project, which would have included him swapping his R1 for the Desmocedici.

During his illustrious career Rossi has competed for Aprilia (125cc & 250cc), Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati. During that time Rossi became a nine-time world champion and is the only rider to have won the 125cc, 250cc, 500cc and MotoGP titles.

In the premier class Rossi has entertained fans around the world with his flamboyant personality and post-race celebrations, as well as his heated rivalries with some of the best riders on the grid. Some of the most-viewed moments in MotoGP history have involved Rossi, including his last lap duels with Sete Gibernau and Jorge Lorenzo, his his battle at the Corkscrew, at Laguna Seca, with Casey Stoner and infamous clash with Marc Marquez at Sepang.

Rossi won premier class races onboard Honda and Yamaha machinery, whilst he also stood on the podium three times for Ducati during a tough two-year stint with the Italian manufacturer.

“There are three championships that are the most important in my career. They are 2001, when I won the last 500cc championship, 2004 when I won the first year with Yamaha and 2008. Already in 2008, I was old and I was finished because after five championships in a row in MotoGP, I lost for two years, so usually in a normal career it’s over. But by changing to Bridgestone, I was able to come back to the top and fight with Lorenzo, Stoner and [Dani] Pedrosa and won two more championships.

“Seriously, I don’t have any regrets about the choices I made. For example, racing for Ducati was very difficult for me because we didn’t win, but it was a great challenge. An Italian rider on an Italian bike. If we were able to win it would have been historic.

“I am a little bit sad not to win the 10th championship, especially because I think I deserve this – for my level and for my speed. I lost two times in the last race, so I think I deserve the 10th title, but anyway, it’s like this. I don’t think I can complain about the result of my career.”

It was also Rossi’s impact off the track which has defined his career. The current Petronas Yamaha rider became a worldwide celebrity and brought MotoGP into the mainstream spotlight. Rossi is MotoGP’s version of Michael Jordan, Cristiano Ronaldo and Tiger Woods. Even people who didn’t watch MotoGP knew who Valentino Rossi was.

At the height of his career every single race meeting would be a home race for Rossi. Grandstands would be full of yellow merchandise, and the number 46 could be spotted around the entire circuit, and in cities around the world, whilst yellow smoke from flares would cover the circuit before and after the race.

“For some reason, I don’t know why, I was able to bring a lot of people closer to motorcycle racing. Without me, they don’t know about MotoGP. A lot of people started to follow motorcycle racing to follow me, and I think this is the most important thing that I do in my career, together with the results.

“I seriously don’t know why, but I think that I entertained a lot of people on Sunday afternoons. For one or two hours on a Sunday they didn’t think about nothing, and they just enjoyed following my races. I think this is the best thing.”

Rossi fans around the world will no doubt be sad to see their hero disappear from the grid next season. The 42-year-old, as thing stand, has nine more races of his illustrious career remaining, before he then sets his sights on a four-wheeled career in 2022.

“I have to say to my fans that I have given my everything for a long, long time because it’s more than 25 years. I’ve always tried my maximum to stay at the top. I have incredible support from all the fans around world. Sometimes, it’s difficult to understand for me, and it’s a little bit of a surprise, but this always make me very proud. I have to say thank you to all the fans and I think we’ve all enjoyed this together.”

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BREAKING NEWS: Valentino Rossi announces his MotoGP retirement

First published: 5 August 2021 at 15:22 by Josh Close

Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi has announced that he will retire from MotoGP at the end of the 2021 season.

Rossi confirmed the news in a special press conference held ahead of the Grand Prix of Styria on Thursday afternoon (August 5). Despite rumours of Rossi potentially racing for his own VR46 Ducati team next season, retirement had been expected for several weeks after a disappointing start to the 2021 season.

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After nine races Rossi sits 19th overall with just 17 points on the board. His best result of the year so far is 10th at Mugello, whilst he’s crashed out of two races. This follows similarly tough 2020 campaign which resulted in an overall position of 15th after also missing races through Covid-19.

”  Rossi said in this afternoon’s press conference, which incldued a special celebratory video package of his career. “

By the end of his final campaign Rossi will have completed an astonishing 26 seasons. During that time Rossi has secured the 125cc and 250cc titles, a single 500cc crown and six MotoGP titles.

As things stand, Rossi is second on the all-time list of race winners with 115 victories, with his last victory coming at Assen in 2017. Only Giacomo Agostini (122) has more race wins. Rossi has 235 podiums, a feat unmatched by any other racer, 65 poles and has chalked up 96 fastest race laps.

The Italian was victorious on Aprilia machinery in the lower classes, before standing on the top step in MotoGP with Honda and Yamaha. Rossi also rode for Ducati between 2011 and 2012, finishing on the podium three times in what ultimately turned out to be two largely uncompetitive, frustrating years.

Rossi became the only rider to win consecutive races with different manufacturers in 2004 following his shock decision to leave Honda for Yamaha. He won the 2003 finale at Valencia for Repsol Honda, before winning the 2004 season opener at Welkom in South Africa onboard the factory R1.

Such is the longevity of Rossi’s career, he has been invovled in some of the most fierce rivalries in MotoGP history. From Sete Gibernau and Max Biaggi, to Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner and, more recently, Marc Marquez, Rossi has taken them all to the very limit – both on and off the track. 

Despite being unable to add an 10th world title to his name, Rossi still finished inside the top five overall between 2013 and 2018. This played a huge part in Rossi opting to continue racing into his 40s; he was still competitive, he was beating other Yamaha riders, and, most importantly, he was enjoying it.

His career hasn’t had that same spark in the last couple of years and, at the age of 42, Rossi has struggled to keep up with the new young guns of the sport. Rossi is going faster than he ever has before on a MotoGP bike, it’s just that the overall pace has increased. Grip has been the main bug bare, with Rossi struggling to adapt to the latest-spec Michelin rear tyres.

Whether he’s able to add another podium or victory to his CV remains to be seen, but Rossi’s influence and importance to MotoGP cannot be underestimated. During his 26-year career every race has become a home event for Rossi, with grandstands filled with his bright yellow and blue merchandise.

Rossi was able to break into the mainstream media and therefore brought MotoGP into the spotlight as well. Most people who attended races and watched on TV in the ’00s and early ’10s were doing so to watch Rossi race. Even now, fans still flock to his hometown of Tavullia throughout the year.

The paddock will be a strange place without Rossi, however, depending on how much he wants to be involved, he’ll still be around every now and then to support his own MotoGP team – Aramco Racing Team VR46 – and brother Luca Marini.

Whatever happens next, Rossi’s legacy will continue within MotoGP through his team and the VR46 Academy. Premier class riders Franco Morbidelli, Francesco Bagnaia and Marini are all academy members, whilst fellow member Marco Bezzecchi has been linked with a move to the top class. 

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