The 41-year-old Italian will make his 432nd Grand Prix start this weekend having amassed a record 89 wins and 199 podium finishes in MotoGP. Picture: MOTOGP.COM
The 41-year-old Italian will make his 432nd Grand Prix start this weekend having amassed a record 89 wins and 199 podium finishes in MotoGP. Picture: MOTOGP.COM

This weekend, Valentino Rossi will hang up his helmet as a nine-times world champion with seven titles in the top category of motorcycling.

The Italian said he was pleased with his achievement in a glittering 25-year career of popularising the sport as he prepared for his final race at the Valencia Grand Prix.

The 41-year-old Italian will make his 432nd Grand Prix start this weekend having amassed a record 89 wins and 199 podium finishes in MotoGP.

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

“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.”

As a special surprise ahead of his retirement, the number 46 was reunited with all nine of his championship-winning machines in Valencia. With Rossi are Yamaha team boss Lin Jarvis, left, and Honda team manager Alberto Puig. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
As a special surprise ahead of his retirement, the number 46 was reunited with all nine of his championship-winning machines in Valencia. With Rossi are Yamaha team boss Lin Jarvis, left, and Honda team manager Alberto Puig. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

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,” he said.

Rossi has had a difficult final season, collecting only 38 points and achieving no podium finishes.

Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo sealed the title ahead of Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix last month to become the first Frenchman to win a MotoGP world championship.

Reuters

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