Today, the motorsport world was finally privy to an announcement that has been a long time coming, yet which none of us wished to hear. Valentino Rossi will be hanging up his MotoGP leathers at the end of the year.
What can be left to say about a career that has spanned a 26 year period? Valentino Rossi is considered to be *the* iconic figure of motorcycle racing, and with 9 world titles to his name, many also hail him as the greatest rider of all time.
That title of GOAT is well deserved, too, as the man has racked up an incredible total of 235 podium finishes across his entire career, with 199 of them having been taken during his tenure as a premier class rider. As it stands, Rossi’s domination of the sport may yet only be conquered by Marc Marquez, as his other closest rivals (Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Mike Hailwood) are already retired. It is a certainty in my mind that we will never see a dominant force like Valentino has been, for a very long time, if ever again.
However, not only for his incredible domination on the race track, he is a beloved figure. After all, Giacomo Agostini has more world titles to his name and is not held in nearly the same regard as Rossi.
Over the years, a massive part of what has set Rossi above of his fellow riders is the fact that, alongside his many victories, Valentino has also treated us to some of the most iconic celebrations; the toilet in Spain, the donkey ears, the speeding ticket and the skittles are just the first to spring to mind. Rossi also pioneered a tradition of using special, one-off helmets for ‘event’ races, such as his home race in his beloved Mugello, the most recent of which was a dad joke involving a picture of a cow and MUUGELLO inscribed across the helmet.
Rossi’s innate charisma and easy-going approach to racing has been the cornerstone of his incredible sway with the motorcycle racing fans. Whilst no one can ever deny the man’s hunger for victories, he has always presented himself as a jokester with his ever-present, effervescent grin and quick catchphrase of finding races ‘very funny.’
It is this, more than anything, which I believe has endeared fans to him for more than 2 and a half decades now. After all, it is easy to support a man who wins races in such dominant form (trust me, I’m a Marc Marquez fan) but to continue to inspire such support during difficult years – such as the famously turbulent Ducati era, or even from 2018 onwards where he has remained winless – truly shows the level of respect and love that Rossi has managed to inspire.
Speaking in a special press conference today, Valentino revealed his departure from the world of MotoGP in his typical relaxed fashion, straightforwardly delivering the news that he decided over the summer break not to continue racing after his current contract finishes at the end of the year.
“…it’s difficult, it’s a very sad moment because it’s difficult to say it 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. And I had a unforgettable moments with all my guys, the guys who work for me, so… I don’t have a lot to say! Just this.”Valentino Rossi, Petronas Yamaha SRT
There were no dramatics, no tears, but certainly, a few smiles and laughs as he reminisced on a lifetime’s worth of success at the pinnacle of motorcycle racing.
“I had a very long career and fortunately I won a lot of races, but I have some moments and victories that are unforgettable. Pure joy. Some things where I laughed for a week and after 10 days I’d still be laughing, wonder why and remember the race. It’s difficult, yes. A difficult decision but you need to understand… I think in the end in sport, the results make the difference. So at the end I think it’s the right way. It’s difficult because I had the chance to race for my team in MotoGP, together with my brother, something that I would like. But it’s ok like this I think… we have another half season, I don’t know how many races, I think it will be more difficult when we arrive at the last race, but for now it’s just to say my decision to everyone. I can’t complain about my career!”Valentino Rossi, Petronas Yamaha SRT
Valentino Rossi has been an icon for our beloved sport, and many fans owe their introduction to MotoGP to him. It will be bizarre next year to see a grid that doesn’t include the iconic 46 – after all, he’s been racing for longer than I’ve been alive! However, his legacy will forever live on in the memories he gave us, his 7 premier class plaques on the trophy, his sea of dedicated yellow-clad fans that span across the grandstands, and in his very own VR46 team that will next year be a permanent feature on the premier class grid.
After all, that’s said and done; the 42-year-old has more than earned his retirement and whilst I am certain that many tears will be shed at the end of this season, right now, all I have to say is thank you, Valentino. Thank you for everything.
Hopefully we get to see podium 200 before the end of the season!
What is next for Valentino Rossi
Rossi himself said he wants to continue to race, particularly with cars however he does not know which championship yet. A frequent competitor in the Monza rally, with many claiming Rossi could have been WRC champion if he chose that route. Rossi also mentioned running a Moto GP team with his brother Luca, word on the street says Dorna have slots for entries, and we know Vale wouldn’t struggle to get bikes. If all else fails, and Rossi does get bored I’m sure there are instructor spaces at UK trackdays!
Will Moto GP struggle without Rossi?
While some might say yes, some also say no. Sure it feels like 50% of moto GP fans are Rossi fans, I think the sport will continue to thrive as does at the moment. We lost Marquez for a season when he was injured, and let’s be honest it made the races much more interesting. Rossi in 2021 does not have the dominance of Marquez , some would barely notice he was racing, but the next ‘batch’ of riders coming through gives us likeable characters and promises great racing. Moto GP can surely get better, and with Rossi building a team it gives us two riders to support.
This article was written by the fantastic Rebekah Lee, our resident Motorsport nut and MA Creative writing graduate. She’s been fascinated by all things motorsports since childhood – follow her on Twitter at @bekahjlee
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