Sport

GRAND EXIT

Valentino Rossi inducted into MotoGP Hall of Fame after final race

Italian MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi is cheered by fans after his final professional race at the Motorcycling World Championship at the Cheste racetrack in Valencia, Spain on 14 November 2021. (Photo: EPA/Kai Foersterling)

The greatest and most successful MotoGP rider of all time retired on 14 November after more than a quarter of a century in the sport.

Nine-times world champion Valentino Rossi was inducted into MotoGP’s Hall of Fame after the Italian put an end to his illustrious career of more than two decades with a 10th-place finish at the Valencia Grand Prix on Sunday.

Seven-times MotoGP title winner Rossi, one of the greatest and most charismatic of motorcycling champions, delighted fans with a few quick laps at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit but was unable to add to his 199 premier-class podiums.

The 42-year-old, nicknamed “The Doctor”, is considering a move into car racing after competing in Grand Prix motorcycling.

“I always think of this day like a nightmare, because it’s the end of a long career and I thought it would be in Valencia, but in the end, I enjoyed it a lot so I have to thank everyone,” Rossi said.

“Everyone who has worked with me, the whole paddock, the other riders… it was an unforgettable day and I enjoyed it. It was a long career, and always a pleasure.”

Rossi, the only rider to win titles in the 125cc, 250cc, 500cc and MotoGP categories, took a final lap of honour on Sunday to a standing ovation from the crowd as fireworks dotted the sky, before an emotional farewell with his Petronas Yamaha team.

A showman on the bike and off it, and famed for his post-victory antics, Rossi last won a MotoGP race in 2017 with Yamaha, in the Dutch TT at Assen.

“I think the most positive thing in my career is that a lot of people started to follow my career from the beginning, and the sport became bigger, more famous in Italy but also all around the world,” he said.

“It’s good to understand that during my career I became something different, something like an icon, and this is a great, great pleasure also if for a rider it’s more important what happens on track, the result, everything.”

Rossi started his career in the 125cc category and won a world title in 1997, followed by the 250cc championship in 1999.

He moved to the premier class a year later and won seven titles between 2001 and 2009.

“I always imagined this presser… this is a strange feeling. I want to keep it normal but that’s not possible. Great emotion right now,” said Rossi, who took part in a special ceremony during which all his championship-winning bikes were presented before the media.

The Petronas Yamaha rider said he was disappointed at being unable to add a 10th world title.

“I fought a lot for the 10th championship… I was able to race at a good level. My last title in 2009 was a lifetime ago. I would have been happy to win another championship, but I cannot complain. I had a great career,” added Rossi.

Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia claimed his fourth victory in the past six MotoGP races at the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix on Sunday as Rossi finished 10th.

Pramac Racing’s Spanish rookie Jorge Martin made a strong start from pole position and held off a pack of challengers but was denied a second victory of the season after being overtaken by Bagnaia with 13 laps left.

Australian Jack Miller of Ducati was third while 2020 world champion Joan Mir of Spain missed out on a podium position after surging forward following a crash by Suzuki teammate Alex Rins midway through the race.

Valentino Rossi blows a kiss while appearing with his Petronas Yamaha team at a press conference at Ricardo Tormo racetrack in Cheste, Valencia, eastern Spain, on 11 November 2021, before his final race on 14 November. (Photo: EPA/Kai Foersterling)

“This race victory is a present to Valentino,” Bagnaia, a product of Rossi’s VR46 riders academy, said.

“I want to dedicate this race to him and thank him for what he has done for us at the academy. Before this weekend, I didn’t think it was possible (to win)… but we arrived here as one of the fastest teams. It’s the best way to finish.”

Rossi was mobbed by his fellow riders following the race, as congratulatory messages from the motor sports fraternity as well as the larger sporting world were broadcast on the giant screen, with tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal among those paying tribute.

Hollywood actors Tom Cruise, Chris Hemsworth and Keanu Reeves also sent messages of support for Rossi. Reuters/DM

Rossi stats from motogp.com

* Rossi and Phil Read are the only riders to win world titles in the 125, 250 and 500cc classes. (Note: Marc Marquez has won titles in 125cc, Moto2 and MotoGP);

* Rossi is the only rider to have won World Championships in four classes: 125, 250, 500 and MotoGP;

* Rossi and Giacomo Agostini are the only two riders to have won premier class titles on both two-stroke and four-stroke machinery;

* His win at the 2004 season-opening GP in South Africa made him the first rider to take back-to-back premier class victories on different makes of bike;

* In 2004 he became only the second rider to win back-to-back premier class titles on different makes of machinery. Eddie Lawson was the first, winning on a Yamaha in 1988 and a Honda in 1989;

* He holds the record for successive premier class podiums, scoring 23 successive top-three results from the Portuguese GP in 2002 to the South Africa GP in 2004;

* Rossi had the honour of scoring the 500th victory for Honda when he won the Japanese 500cc GP in April 2001;

* Rossi has won GP races on seven different motorcycles: 125cc Aprilia, 250cc Aprilia, 500cc Honda, 990cc Honda, 990cc Yamaha, 800cc Yamaha and 1,000cc Yamaha;

* His 11 wins in 2005 is the highest number of premier class victories in a single season by a Yamaha rider;

* He is the only rider to win five or more successive premier class races on a Yamaha;

* He is the only rider in history to have won five or more successive races on two different bikes (Yamaha and Honda);

* He is Yamaha’s most successful rider of all time, with 56 race victories on their bikes;

* His 89 race victories in the premier class are more than any other rider in the history of Grand Prix racing (second on this list is Giacomo Agostini with 68 premier-class wins);

* He has won 115 GP races across the three classes. Only Giacomo Agostini with 122 wins has stood on the top step of the podium more in Grand Prix racing;

* Valentino Rossi’s third-place finish at Jerez in 2020 was the 199th time he has stood on the podium in the premier class, more than any other rider (second on this list is Jorge Lorenzo with 114 premier-class podiums);

* He has been on the podium 235 times across all classes, which is more than any other rider in the history of Grand Prix racing (second on this list is Giacomo Agostini with 159 Grand Prix podiums);

* The Valencia GP was Rossi’s 432nd Grand Prix start. This means he has taken part in 44.4% of all Grand Prix events that have taken place since the world championship series began in 1949. (The rider with second-most GP starts is Andrea Dovizioso with 332 by the end of 2021);

* Rossi’s final total of premier-class GP starts was 372; this is more than any other rider (second in the list is Alex Barros with 245);

* He has the longest winning career in the premier class of GP racing, with his latest win at the Dutch TT in 2017 coming 16 years and 351 days after his first 500cc GP win at Donington in 2000 (Alex Barros is second with 11 years and 204 days);

* Rossi also has the longest winning GP career across all classes; 20 years 311 days between his first GP victory in the 125cc class at Brno in 1997 and his last GP win at Assen in 2017 (second in this regard is Loris Capirossi with a GP winning career of 17 years 49 days);

* During his career Rossi has competed at 38 different Grand Prix circuits;

* He has taken at least one GP win at 29 of those circuits. No other rider in the history of motorcycle GP racing has won at as many different circuits as Rossi;

* The circuits at which Rossi has had most GP wins are Catalunya and Assen where he has won 10 times at each;

* In the premier class Rossi has competed at 29 different circuits;

* He has won in the premier class at 23 of these 29 circuits;

* The circuit where Rossi has had most premier class wins is Assen (eight);

* The circuit at which Rossi has made most GP appearances is Jerez, where he has made 27 GP starts across the three classes, including 23 in the premier class;

* During his GP career Rossi has shared the podium with 55 different riders. The rider he has stood on the podium with most often is Jorge Lorenzo – 53 times;

* In the premier class Rossi has shared the podium with 38 different riders;

* The last time he shared a podium with a rider older than himself was with Loris Capirossi at the 2008 Czech Grand Prix; and

* With Valencia being Rossi’s last event, it is very likely to be the last time that a rider born in the 1970s will start a GP race.

 

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