After more than 25 seasons of MotoGP racing, Valentino Rossi will retire at the end of the 2021 season.
It’s a massive announcement, but not unexpected. Earlier in 2021, Rossi said he’d make his decision about his racing future during the season’s mid-summer break. Now, as the teams and riders prepare to resume action at the Styrian GP, Rossi says he’s decided it’s time to retire from racing.
The decision comes as Rossi sits in 19th in the 2021 championship standings, with only 17 points on the season. It’s a big slide for The Doctor, who was a front-runner from the start of his career (in the mid 1990s!) until very recently. Rossi practically defined MotoGP racing for a whole generation of fans, due to his on-track prowess and off-track exuberance. His greatest success came in the early 2000s, with premier class titles for both Honda and Yamaha; he also won 125 cc and 250 cc titles back in the two-stroke era, and finished second overall in the 2014-2016 seasons. Along with the Japanese factory teams, Rossi also rode for Aprilia (he broke into GP racing aboard an Aprilia 125 in 1996) and Ducati (he spent the 2011 and 2012 season with Ducati).
He is the only rider to win the premier championship on a 500 cc two-stroke bike as well as a modern four-stroke machine.
Along with his massive stack of championship trophies, Rossi is second on the all-time win list, with 115 wins, behind Giacomo Agostini (122 wins). As of today, Rossi has 235 podiums, more than any other racer in GP history.
However, the highlights have been rare in the past few seasons. Rossi’s last race win came in 2017, and 2020 was particularly bleak—he was dropped from the factory Yamaha team to the Petronas satellite team at season’s end. Now, with 2021 looking worse, Rossi will retire.
What’s next? Although Rossi’s sometimes hinted that he’d like to take a serious stab at auto racing, he’s probably going to focus on managing his new VR46 MotoGP team, which is confirmed for MotoGP for the next three seasons. Originally, sponsors hoped he’d race for his own team, but Rossi didn’t seem to think that was a good idea.
However, it’s hard to believe we won’t see him in some sort of motorsport competition in coming years, even if it’s just at the exhibition level. Nobody enjoyed speed and competition more than Rossi. He’s going to find it very hard to leave that drug behind …