Nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi will retire from racing at the end of 2021, he has announced.
The 42-year-old called a press conference on Thursday afternoon ahead of the Grand Prix of Styria, sparking rumours that he was either going to retire, or move over to his own VR46 Ducati team. It was the former that became apparent, with the Italian announcing that it was a “very sad moment", adding "it's difficult to say and know that next year I will not race with a motorcycle”.
This announcement brings to an end a career that has spanned 26 seasons, in which Rossi has won the 125cc, 250cc, 500cc championships, as well as six MotoGP titles. He is the only rider in history to have won all classes; the only to have started 400 or more races, and the second most successful in terms of race wins – 115 victories (89 in MotoGP) to Giacomo Agostini’s 122. He boasts the most podiums – 235 – as well as 65 poles and 96 fastest race laps.
Rossi’s last victory came at Assen in 2017, and his last podium during a tough 2020 season. After eight years with the Yamaha factory team, he moved to the satellite Petronas Yamaha SRT team for 2021, where he has seen his worst ever start to the season. After nine rounds, he sits 19th overall with just 17 points, two crashes and a best finish 10th at Mugello.
However, he did not dwell on this, and showcased a video of his racing career, describing it as full of "unforgettable moments".
"It was great, I've enjoyed it very much, it's been a long, long journey and it was really fun," Rossi added.
"It's 25-26 years in the World Championship, so it was great. Next year, my life will change."