Valentino Rossi’s statistics could speak for themselves, but in his 372nd and final top-level start of a storied career spanning more than a quarter of a century, he finished 10th one final time in the Valencia Grand Prix and showed he could still contend with the best MotoGP riders in the world even as he bid them farewell.
“I’m very happy. I didn’t expect there could be a weekend like this,” Rossi said in the interview at the top of this post. “It’s always very emotional.
“I received a lot of surprises on Thursday. Also today: all of the riders from the (VR 46) academy used my helmets. I received a lot of respect, a lot of support from the other riders from MotoGP.
“I’m also very happy I was strong. I was quite fast during the week there. Today was a good race. I enjoyed it a lot and today was the best way to finish.”
Rossi’s announcement he would retire earlier this year before the running of the Styrian GP was not particularly surprising. Racing longer than many of the drivers he competed against have been alive is no small task – and he had nothing else to prove.
In his legendary career, Rossi earned nine World Championships, 115 victories and 235 podiums in 414 starts across all classes 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.
The week following his announcement, Rossi finished eighth in Austria, one second behind eventual champion Fabio Quartararo.
He earned one more top-10 in the Grand Prix of Romagna, but fell outside that mark in the penultimate race and felt a little pressure in the finale.
“This result will remain forever,” Rossi said. “I can say that in my last race, I am still in the top 10.”
And Rossi did not have to speak for himself.
Celebrities in the world of sports and entertainment lined up celebrate his career and wish Rossi well on the next stage of his life.
Hosted by Keanu Reaves, some of the greatest athletes on two and four wheels that included Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Jimmie Johnson, Chad Reed and Travis Pastrana bid him farewell along with Tom Cruise and Chris Helmsworth.
One of motorsport's true living legends 👑
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 13, 2021