Yesterday, the 2021 MotoGP season ended at Valencia, but there were no real surprises. We already knew Fabio Quartararo had won the rider’s championship with the factory Yamaha squad. Instead, the attention was turned towards Valentino Rossi, also riding a Yamaha for the Petronas SRT satellite team.
This was Rossi’s last race, the closing of a long and illustrious career, riding a wide variety of machinery. Rossi saw his best success with Yamaha and Honda, but he also rode for Aprilia and Ducati’s factory teams; he dominated in both four-stroke and two-stroke competition.
While there may be arguments over which racer was the best in the entirety of MotoGP history, there’s no question that Rossi dominated his own era, and up until the past couple of years, he was still a threat to win a race. His last realistic chance to win a series was in 2015, but after a much-publicized feud with teammate Jorge Lorenzo and rival Marc Marquez, Rossi finished the season in second.
Still, he retires with 115 GP wins including his victories in the two-stroke 125 and 250 years. He has seven premier class championships, as well as a championship in the 125 class and the 250 class. He is the only racer to have championships in the two-stroke 125, 250, and 500 classes as well as the modern four-stroke class; his career took off in the late 1990s and even despite his slump the past couple of years, Rossi fills stadiums with fans wherever he races.
His final race weekend was filled with tributes from current and former team members and rivals. Here’s BT Sports’ highlight video of some of his best wins.
Speaking of Marquez …
Speaking of Marc Marquez, the rider who took over Rossi’s place at front of the pack in the 2010s—Honda’s factory ace is in a bad spot. A recent offroad training accident left him with not just a concussion, but also double vision after banging up his optic nerve. This isn’t the first time it’s happened to Marquez, either, and Honda sat him out the last couple of races, and he isn’t testing at Jerez either.
It’s been a couple of very tough years for Marquez, who injured himself badly in 2019 and hasn’t returned to form ever since. Sooner or later, Honda’s going to start looking for his replacement; no doubt Marquez will return, maybe as strong as ever, but you can bet Big Red won’t be waiting forever. Sooner or later, Honda will hire a new sideman for Marquez, except next time, it might not just be a supporting role: Marquez might have to start fighting for his job.