LONDON: Valentino Rossi, one of the greatest and most charismatic of motorcycling champions, called time on his MotoGP career yesterday and looked forward to a future in car racing.
The 42-year-old Italian, who races with the number 46 and is a nine-times world champion with seven titles in the top category, told a news conference at the Styrian Grand Prix in Austria that 2021 would be his last season.
“I decided to stop at the end of the season,” Rossi told a news conference at the Red Bull Ring.
“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.
“I love to race with the cars,” added the Italian when asked about the future. “Just a little bit less than racing with motorcycles. So I think I will race with the cars from next year.”
He said one aim was to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans sportscar race.
Rossi is riding for the Malaysia-based Petronas Yamaha team but his form has faded, the veteran languishing 19th in the championship with a best finish of only 10th from nine races.
A showman on the bike and off it, and famed for his post-victory antics, ‘The Doctor’ last won a race in 2017 with Yamaha, in the Dutch TT at Assen.
The sport and his army of fans will miss him, the Italian still a crowd favourite with worldwide recognition and capable, in pre-pandemic times, of packing out his home races.
Yamaha hailed him as a living legend and GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) in a statement of thanks.
The only rider to have started 400 or more races, Rossi has 89 wins from the top category and 26 others from the junior 125cc and 250cc categories.
He has stood on the podium 235 times in his career, the first coming in Austria in 1996 with third place on a 125cc Aprilia.