After 26 years, Valentino Rossi will retire from MotoGP at the end of 2021

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After 26 years competing in the MotoGP Series, Valentino Rossi, 41, announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of the 2021 season. The announcement came after the five-week summer break as the series prepares for the Styrian Grand Prix in Austria.

Superlatives are easy to express.

In his legendary career, Rossi earned nine World Championships, 115 victories and 235 podiums in 414 starts entering the weekend. With one championship in the 250 class, another in 125s and seven in the top division, Rossi is the only rider in history to win in all three divisions. A total of 89 wins came in the elite class.

His announcement was bitter-sweet, coming at the track on which he won his first podium in 1996.

“I said I would make a decision for next year after the summer break, and I decided to stop at the end of the season,” Rossi said in a release. “Unfortunately this will be my last half season as a MotoGP rider. And 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!

MotoGP of Netherlands - Race
Rossi’s involvement with MotoGP will continue in 2022 with the debut of his new team. (Photo by Steve Wobser/Getty Images)

“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 unforgettable moments with all my guys, the guys who work for me, so … I don’t have a lot to say! Just this.

“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.”

In addition to his seven titles in MotoGP, the most recent of which came in 2009, Rossi finished second in the points five times, including three times consecutively from 2014 through 2016.

Rossi’s 89th and latest MotoGP win came in the 2017 Dutch GP. His podium count slowed at the same time with six coming in 2017, five in 2018, two in 2019 and only one last year. Last year’s campaign was also marred by a battle with the COVID-19 virus that caused him to miss two of the 14 rounds.

So far through nine races of 2021, he has not yet stood on the podium with a best of 10th in Italy.

The decision to retire came during what may be the most difficult season of Rossi’s career. He lost his factory Yamaha ride and elected to campaign in what has become his farewell tour with some backing from Yamaha at Petronas SRT. The season has been less than stellar, however, with no podiums, just 17 points earned and a ranking of 19th in the standings.

Last year, Rossi finished 15th in the standings. He was seventh in 2019, making 2018’s third-place effort his most recent competitive season.

“A difficult decision but you need to understand … I think in the end in sport, the results make the difference,” Rossi said. “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!”

Rossi will not disappear completely as he is set to launch his own team in 2022 with a Ducati.