OFFICIAL: Valentino Rossi confirms he WILL retire from MotoGP

It's official... Valentino Rossi WILL retire from motorcycle racing at the conclusion of the 2021 MotoGP season after 25 years of GP competition

Valentino Rossi - FIAT Yamaha M1

Valentino Rossi has confirmed he will bring his spectacular motorcycle racing career to an end at the conclusion of the 2021 MotoGP World Championship season.

After months of speculation, the storied Italian - one of history’s most successful competitors - revealed his decision to retire from the sport during an ‘exceptional press conference’ ahead of this weekend’s Styrian MotoGP.

The confirmation brings an end to rumours that he would extend his career by another season either with the Petronas SRT Yamaha team or with his own VR46 Racing outfit, which steps up to the premier class in 2022.

An iconic figure that transcended motorcycle racing to become a global superstar has won nine Grand Prix World Championships in a GP career that stretches back to 1996 when he made his debut in the 125GP class.

Going on to win that title in 1997, he followed it up with the 250GP title in 1999 to precede his move into the premier class (500GP) in 2000. Winning his first top tier title in 2001 with Honda, the change to 990cc four-stroke machinery in 2002 for the start of the MotoGP era simply energised his burgeoning dominance of the sport.

Winning two more titles with Honda in 2002 and 2003, Rossi made a sensational switch to Yamaha from 2004, which hadn’t won a premier class title for more than a decade. Despite the swap, Rossi was a winner on his debut in South Africa and went on to clinch his fourth title that year.

He made it five-in-a-row in 2005 to - statistically - rubber-stamp his status as one of motorcycle racing’s most successful riders in history. However, it was Rossi’s enormous fanbase and popularity that earmarks him as one of motorsport’s most influential figures.

A combination of his fiery personality, cheeky demeanour off the track, fearsome reputation on it and unfiltered opinion of those around him, Rossi was a showman through and through that enthralled fans that hung on his every word and through every corner, and riled rivals who couldn’t get a look in as a result.

This approach certainly delivered plenty of controversial moments down the years - perhaps most notably his fracas with Marc Marquez in the 2015 Malaysian MotoGP which earned him a penalty for the final round that all-but-handed the title to Jorge Lorenzo - and while the up-and-coming generation adores Rossi, his peers during his heyday - Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez, Sete Gibernau, Max Biaggi - were less impressed.

Nonetheless, the data doesn’t lie and with 89 MotoGP/500GP wins to his name, 55 pole positions, 199 podiums and seven premier class titles, there is no denying Rossi lived up to the hype he stoked up.

His legacy will live on beyond his racing years via his VR46 Racing team, which will enter the MotoGP World Championship in 2022 with significant backing from Saudi oil firm Aramco. 

Rossi’s decision to step down from racing means its rider line-up is expected to consist of Luca Marini and Moto2 graduate Marco Bezzecchi, both members of the VR46 Academy