Two iconic Italian riders retired last weekend: Valentino Rossi and Antonio Cairoli. Their legacy endures.
Last weekend was emotional for motorcycling in general and in particular for Italian motorcycling. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) had his last MotoGP race -he is making his Dakar debut in January-, Antonio Cairoli (ITA) retired from the Motocross World Championship, and Valentino Rossi (ITA) retired from motorcycling.

Few sportspeople have had an impact on their sport like Valentino Rossi (ITA) has had on motorcycling. Last weekend he retired from competition, sending ripples across all sports, as legends poured in to thank Valentino for his career and his impact beyond the track.

Valentino’s impact in the world of sport is so big that it came as no surprise that someone like football star Ronaldo Nazario (BRA) flew the checkered flag in Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo Circuit, as every rider stopped by to hug 10th-placed Rossi. This race was the last of the season and Fabio Quartaro (FRA) was the Champion -he had already secured it before the race- but all eyes were on Valentino.

The winner of the race was also fitting: Franceso Bagnaia (ITA). Why? Because he is a graduate of Valentino Rossi’s Academy, VR46. Curiously, it was the first-ever 1-2-3 for Ducati, a brand where Valentino raced his rather two least successful years in MotoGP.

Since he arrived at the World Championship circuit in 1996 he made a mark. it only took him one year to win the 125cc World Championship. He then ascended to the 250cc Class and finished second, followed by the Championship in 1999. He made his MotoGP debut in 2000 and also finished second in the Championship, only to be followed by five consecutive titles (2001-2005), and then finishes of 2nd, 3rd, 1st, 1st, and 3rd.

He was also runner-up from 2014 to 2016, and 3rd in 2018. The last of his 89 Moto GP wins came in the 2017 Dutch TT. The next rider with the most wins in the maximum category is Giacomo Agostini (ITA), who won 68 from 1965 to 1977. Agostini is the only rider with more Moto GP/500 cc World Titles, with 8.

Valentino’s legacy goes beyond the track. He made MotoGP a global sport. He has fans anywhere from Italy to Argentina to Thailand. A big star that will be missed on track, but not at the track, as he has vowed that he will be in the paddock to support his VR46 Moto2 team next year…

Another Italian great that retired is Antonio Cairoli. He won a total of 9 World Championships, seven in the MX1/MXGP category. He also retires with the record of most Motocross World Championship race wins, with a total of 70 in the main category, one of which came this year in the United Kingdom (he won a total of three heats. this year).

Cairoli was still very competitive: he was 6th in the Championship this year. But it is always delightful to see some of the best in their sport retire happy and safe, especially when they have been around for a long time, in such a dangerous sport as motorcycling.

Last but not least, Petrucci, a nine-time MotoGP race winner, did not retire as a competitor but rather is taking on a new challenge – going from the track to the desert. It will not be an easy endeavor but certainly one to the level of such a rider.

All the best to them in their new ventures!