Valentino Rossi announces his retirement at the end of the 2021 MotoGP road racing season
We all knew it was impending, even though we secretly wished it would never end. After 26 seasons and nine world championships, seven of which in the Premier class, motorcycle racing legend Valentino Rossi has announced he will call it quits at the end of this 2021 MotoGP season. Nothing lasts forever in this life, and Rossi’s ride had to pit in eventually.
At 42 years old, number 46 “The Doctor“ announced his retirement Thursday in a prearranged press conference prior to the upcoming Styrian Grand Prix in Spielberg, Austria. It was sad to hear yet not entirely unexpected from the world-renown racer.
“I decided to stop at the end of the season,” the Italian icon told reporters in the conference room. “Unfortunately this will be the last half 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 the motorcycle.
“I do this thing for more or less 30 years. Next year my life will change. But anyway, it was great, I enjoy very much this long, long journey and it was really, really fun.”
Rossi riding the PETRONAS Yamaha SRT superbike in the 2021 MotoGP season. Photo by PETRONAS Yamaha SRT.
Rossi has been riding for the Malaysian PETRONAS Yamaha SRT team this season, but has struggled against the young, fast factory riders, posting a single best of 10th place after nine races, and he currently occupies 19th in the points standings.
Still, Rossi has and continues to be a crowd favorite everywhere the race series lands, drawing thousands just to catch a glimpse of the legend, much less an opportunity to meet or get an autograph and/or photo with him, something Rossi is always more than willing to give. Maybe that’s another reason he has been so popular- he’s always warm, friendly and approachable.
Valentino Rossi is the only motorcycle racer to have amassed over 400 race starts across his career. He accumulated 89 wins in the premier MotoGP class, and 26 wins in the 125 Junior and 250 Moto2 classes. He’s the only racer in history to have won titles in 125cc, 250cc, 500cc, and what is now called GP. Rossi has also achieved a total of 235 podium appearances, unmatched in motorcycle racing.
The rookie “Boy Wonder” in 1996, astride the Scuderia Carrizosa Aprilia RS125, and after his first win at Brno in August that year. Photos by MotoGP.
Rossi burst on the motorcycle road racing scene in 1996 in the 125cc class, at the very track he made his recent announcement, and took its crown the very next year. He then stepped up to the 250cc class, taking second then the championship in succession. In Y2K, the young “Doctor” jumped up to the 500cc class, on a factory Honda.
Rossi was just getting started. He won five titles in a row, 2001-2005, the first three with Honda then ‘04-05 with Yamaha. Rossi dominated the 2000s, winning two more by 2009, before being lured to race for Ducati. 2011 and 2012 proved to be ill-fated for Rossi and Ducati, the rider and team failing to win the crown both seasons.
Rossi returned to his beloved Yamaha team, and took two runners-up season finishes between 2014 and 2016. But new talent was rising through the ranks. Casey Stoner snagged 2 GP titles, Jorge Lorenzo battled his way to 3 world titles, and the sensational Marc Marquez came to dominate with 6 championships. Rising star Joan Mir took the title in 2020, and it was clear to many that “one man’s sunset is another man’s dawn.” Rossi’s star was setting, and new stars continue to rise.
Rossi at his retirement announcement, Spielberg, Austria. Photo by Gerhard Schiel, AP
Rossi took his final race win at the Dutch Grand Prix at Assen in 2017, yet never claimed another season title to propel him into the double digits of championships. But Rossi retires with his head held high, still one of the top twenty racers in the world today, and cemented as one of the greatest racers of all time. Best of all, Rossi steps away as popular as ever, being one of the kindest, most approachable riders to walk the paddock.
“It was a long journey together, many people who support me today or race with me weren’t even born when I started on the track,” Rossi reflected in the press conference. “It was an incredible support and sometimes difficult even for me to comprehend, but it makes me proud and I think we have had fun together.”
We wish “The Doctor” all the best in whatever his next endeavors will be.
*Information sourced from AP and MotoGP.
*Photos by PETRONAS Yamaha SRT, Gerhard Schiel (AP), and MotoGP.