Motorcycling great Valentino Rossi retiring at end of year

SPEILBERG, Austria (AP) — Motorcycling great Valentino Rossi is retiring at the end of the season.

The nine-time MotoGP world champion announced his decision Thursday at the Styrian GP — at the venue where Rossi took his first grand prix podium in the 125cc class in 1996.

“I have decided to stop at the end of the season,” the 42-year-old Rossi said. “It’s hard to make this decision, I would have wanted to race for another 25 years but the moment has come to say, ‘Stop.’

“So, unfortunately, this will be my last half season as a MotoGP rider.”

Rossi is regarded as one of the best ever racers, with the Italian having won seven premier class titles and nine overall across MotoGP, in 250cc and 125cc.

He’s won a record 115 grands prix — 89 of them in the premier class — and his 235 podium appearances are also more than any other rider.

But Rossi’s last podium was more than a year ago and he hasn’t won a race since 2017. He sits 19th in the season standings, with just 17 points after nine races.

“It’s a sad and difficult moment for me, to say that next year I won’t race with a bike,” Rossi added. “I have done this for nearly 30 years and next year my life will change from a certain point of view.

“But it was great and I had so much fun … we still have half a season, I think it will be more difficult when we get to the last race.”

Nicknamed “The Doctor,” Rossi is a colorful and entertaining character, whose name transcended the sport, and he will be widely missed from the circuit.

“It was a long journey together, many people who support me today or race with me weren’t even born when I started on the track,” Rossi said. “It was an incredible support and sometimes difficult even for me to comprehend, but it makes me proud and I think we have had fun together.”

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