VALENCIA, Nov 15 — Motorcycling legend Valentino Rossi, who completed his final MotoGP after 26 years in the saddle on Sunday, thinks retirement will be difficult “especially in March when the season starts again”.
The 42-year-old Rossi, a nine-time world champion across all categories, finished tenth on his Yamaha in his final outing in Valencia, which was his 432nd GP since starting his career back in 1996.
“I was motivated and focused as if I was fighting for the championship because the last race is the last race, it’s very important,” said ‘The Doctor’ after crossing the finish line where he was feted by fans and fellow riders alike.
“It was not easy because there was a lot of pressure but I was able to get into the top 10 so that means I’m ending my long career among the top 10 riders in the world!” he laughed.
“That’s important to me, I’ll always be able to say that in my last race I finished in the top 10. That was the most important thing, to try to be competitive, because I’m still a rider.
“I didn’t want to finish last.”
Rossi’s initials and number ‘VR46’ were flying everywhere at the Ricardo Tormo circuit as MotoGP gave arguably its greatest exponent a delirous send-off.
“It was a really, really special weekend,” said Rossi who won seven premier titles (500cc and MotoGP) as well as the 125cc and 250cc world crowns.
“I wasn’t expecting that. I was a little worried about the last weekend of my career.
“We imagine this moment for a long time but you never know how we’re going to feel, if you’re going to be able to stay focused on the race, if you’re going to be sad. But it was a great weekend.”
At the end of the race, which was won by Rossi’s protege Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia who had the number 46 on his helmet, the 75,000 crowd stood in applause as his fellow riders gave him the track to make a solo lap of honour.
“It was very moving. I received great support and felt great respect from all the people in the paddock and all the riders.”
Next season Rossi’s VR46 team will make its debut in MotoGP as a Ducati satellite but the Italian is already feeling pangs of regret about leaving the sharp end of the sport he so clearly loves.
“I regret stopping, already,” he admitted with a trademark Rossi grin.
“I think it will be difficult in the next few weeks and months, especially in March when the season starts again and I won’t be there.”
His other regret, in spite of all the titles he won, were those that he missed out on.
“I would have liked to have won a tenth world title,” he said.
“Maybe if I had put in as much effort in the first years of my career as in the last 10, I could have won more races,” he laughs.
“But it’s okay to be a little dumb when we are younger. We learn with experience.” — AFP