The last race of 2021 has arrived and we say goodbye to Valentino Rossi as he finishes up his career with one last race, going into retirement and farewell to Danilo Petrucci who no longer has a ride in the premier class, making his way to compete in the 2022 Dakar with KTM on two wheels. Both riders have been incredible ambassadors of the sport and in particular, Rossi a guiding light for so many younger riders, fans and supporters across the globe. We say #GrazieVale for some incredible battles although seeing him finish up is hard because he has been a part of our lives for such a long period of time.

The days of watching him in the early years, to some of the most famous battles with Sete Gibernau, Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner, Andrea Dovizioso, Marc Marquez, Marco Simoncelli, Max Biaggi and many more. It has been a privilege to watch him trackside and at some of the best circuits in the world, one being of course Phillip Island. The smell of the tyres, engines and oil as they scream past the top of Lukey Heights at the Australian circuit, the extreme sweat and humidity at Sepang with the final hairpin, the grandstands of yellow in Mugello with an incredible track pushing riders to their limits, the wet weather and chaos of Le Mans, the history of Barcelona and so many others that make you realise, how incredible these riders really are at high speeds with incredible control.

Growing up and being trackside to witness the greatness of Rossi, it has been an honour as we witnessed the growth of an empire and true icon in the sport. “The Doctor” has always wanted to put on a show for the fans, represent his country with a smile and push himself continuously.

As the level of MotoGP changes and increases, Rossi is at times in 2021, the fastest he has ever been, although it is not enough with the dynamic abilities of the younger riders who are just going to the extreme in order to win. Total sacrifice and something Rossi is very familiar with.

As he retires, the Italian rider now has a family to look after, a baby on board, a job to guide younger talents and will also stay competitive by competing in various categories of four wheel racing. On the other side of the garages, Petrucci has been a wonderful rider to interview, interact with and watch.

One of the nicest guys in the paddock, it is a real shame to see him depart from MotoGP, although the Dakar has gained a true asset with his drive red hot to secure a top finish in this gruelling desert race. It has been a solid ten years in the sport for Petrucci, still smiling even though his results have been far from ideal. We reflect on his first win with Ducati, how dominant he was that day and the tears of joy as he joined his team pushing his weight levels to the brink of all day hunger in order to win.

Credit: Movistar Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team

Valentino Rossi:

“Valencia is always a special weekend and can be a difficult race in different aspects, especially as it is always the final round of the year – apart from last year when we ended in Portugal. However, it is somewhere that I have had some very good times. I’m hoping that we have some good weather there so that we can focus on ending the final race in the top-15 and take some more points.

Although it will be my last race in MotoGP I feel normal and I think that’s okay, especially as this has been a very long season; maybe the days after the weekend will be different this year, but we will see. I hope that I will have the chance to say ‘ciao’ to my fans in a good way and to say thank you for the support.”

Danilo Petrucci: 

“For me it is really a dream come true to race the Dakar. It’s an event I’ve always wanted to do since I was a child when I was watching video tapes of the Dakar Rally from the 80s and 90s. Now, thanks to KTM, this dream is coming true. First, I would like to thank KTM for this great opportunity; I think I will be the only rider that in just over one month has competed in MotoGP and then the Dakar Rally – so it is with great pride that I go there. My main target is just to finish the race and enjoy it. The first approach was to have some road book training with Jordi, he competed in the race many times and finished on the podium, so he has been great in helping me learn this special art. I had my first taste of riding the KTM 450 RALLY recently at an initial test in the Dubai dunes, where I was with KTM’s Dakar champions and I was able to learn so much from them – it was great to see them riding, and they were super nice and helpful to me. I hope the training for the next month will be enough; for sure it will be a tough race, but I am excited.”

Here is some insight as to how Rossi reflects on his bikes, career and the day he announced his retirement:

“I have the bikes at home except the Hondas, I have the Aprilias and Yamahas, the Yamahas are in my house. The 2004 model is in my bedroom. Every morning what I wake up I see the bike, but all together like this is a great emotion. It’s a long long way if you look at the first one it’s a really long time ago. And if you consider that after the last one there was another ten years… it’s a long time and a great emotion. From Austria when I said it, I had a lot of great messages and support from all the other riders, now, and from the past. All my rivals, this is very good. It was great. I always imagined this Press Conference, and here in Valencia… a special place and the opposite for me, a not special place at the same time. It’s strange, a strange feeling but I’ll try to act normal because normally Valencia is a good moment for everyone, it means holidays start after a long season, and everyone is ready to stay at home a bit… but you always think that from Monday, it will be different. Another life. I’ve tried to not think a lot in this way, because I’ll also continue to race, with cars as a driver in this case. But I’ll try to enjoy it because for sure life when you’re not a MotoGP rider anymore will change.”