Farewell to a legend: Watch Valentino Rossi’s final MotoGP race on BT Sport

One of sport’s most transcendent and enigmatic figures competes in MotoGP for the last time at the season-ending Grand Prix of Valencia this weekend.

By Tim Williams Published: 12 November 2021 - 12.48pm
Features MotoGP

Valentino Rossi

Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi retires at the end of the season and the inimitable Italian’s final race will be shown live on BT Sport 2 HD from 12.30pm this Sunday.

The 42-year-old has amassed 115 wins and 235 podium finishes in 423 starts in an extraordinary career that has spanned 25 years.

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He is considered one of the greatest - and certainly one of the most successful - motorcycle riders of all time and is the only man in history to win World Championships in 125cc, 250cc, 500cc and MotoGP.

Rossi won three premier class world titles with Honda from 2001 to 2003, before moving to Yamaha in 2004 where he claimed his fourth championship in as many years, following it up with a repeat success the next season.

He was only denied six in a row at the final race in 2006, but two more world titles would follow at Yamaha as the Italian took his tally to nine by 2009 before he joined Ducati.

His success on the track is remarkable, but it’s his intoxicating charm and charisma that has won him fans the world over.

The man known as ‘The Doctor’ is personable and passionate - the antithesis of an archetypal media trained sportsperson.

“It’s difficult to say and know that next year I will not race with a motorcycle,” Rossi said when he announced his impending retirement in August, ahead of the Grand Prix of Styria where he took his first podium in 1996.

“It was great, I’ve enjoyed it very much, it’s been a long, long journey and it was really fun.

“It’s 25-26 years in the World Championship, so it was great. Next year, my life will change.”

He is a bona fide superstar, especially in his native Italy. His hometown of Tavullia is a shrine to their hero, with more than 20,000 people from all over the world visiting each year.

But his reach goes far, far beyond provincial Italy. Hollywood star Brad Pitt is one of several high-profile admirers and he famously traded machinery with Formula 1 legend Lewis Hamilton in 2019.

“It was great, I've enjoyed it very much. Next year, my life will change”
- Rossi

Rossi’s longevity is unmatched. He has had to adapt his riding style to new technologies and manufacturers and is an inspiration to many of his rivals on the grid.

“My dream was to share a track with him,” newly crowned world champion Fabio Quartararo told BT Sport.

“He’s my idol forever and a part of my success is down to Valentino because he’s the guy who made me really want to ride a MotoGP bike. He’s a legend and the king of the sport.”

He has also been embroiled in many defining rivalries throughout his storied career. From Max Biaggi in 2001 to Sete Gibernau three years later, he has had plenty of adversaries on the track.

His legendary duel with Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo in 2009 and victory by less than a tenth of a second at the Catalunya Grand Prix will live long in the memory.

He’s also had a fractious relationship with Marc Marquez and appeared to kick the Spaniard off his bike at the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2015, although Rossi has always denied that was his intention.

His legacy will be the riders lining up next to him in Valencia, but his presence will still be felt in the paddock next season, with his Sky Racing Team 46 adding a premier class team.

Rossi’s last dance in south-eastern Spain will doubtless be an emotional day as one of sport’s most iconic figures bows out after a career that will never be surpassed.

Arrivederci Valentino and thanks for the memories…

Watch the season-ending Grand Prix of Valencia on BT Sport 2HD from 12.30pm on Sunday, with every session from all three classes available across the weekend.