“I don’t have a lot to say, just this.” A wild understatement to conclude a hugely dramatic press conference: Valentino Rossi will retire from motorcycle racing at the end of the season.
That’s nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi to you and I. His record speaks for itself: 423 race starts have converted into 115 wins; 363 MotoGP/500cc starts have turned into 55 pole positions, 89 wins, 199 podiums and seven premier-class championships.
Look how much the wins outweight the poles – here’s a man who can slink his way through a grid when his back’s against the wall.
Just now, at the age of 42, those moments aren’t so frequent and 'VR46' has decided it’s time for him to call it a day. “I decided to stop at the end of the season,” he began his announcement in the lead up to this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix at Austria’s Red Bull Ring.
“Unfortunately this will be my last season as a MotoGP rider. Its difficult; it’s a very sad moment because it’s difficult to say – and to know – that next year I will not race with a motorcycle. I’ve been doing this thing for more or less 30 years, so next year my life will change.”
As will MotoGP as a whole. Rossi is MotoGP to swathes of fans, and it’s easy to see the Italian viewership of the sport taking a notable dip from the 2022 season. We’d be amazed if Vale stays away from the sport entirely, and indeed Rossi now runs his own team.
He’s also dabbled with four wheels throughout his career and he’s hinted he’d like to race at the Le Mans 24 Hours. “I always love racing with cars,” he said. “During this career I always tried to improve my skills with cars, to make some kilometres to be ready for this moment, but I don’t know my level.
“It’s not the same as motorcycles. You never race just for fun. If you are a real rider or driver you race to be strong and to win. At the moment I don’t know which cars, or races [I will compete in].”
Tantalising. But for now, we must say thank you to Valentino for a quarter of a century of sublime racing. Grazie.
STORY Stephen Dobie