SportMotoGPRossi explains why he didn't retire earlier: "I didn't...

Rossi explains why he didn't retire earlier: "I didn't give up until the end"

Valentino Rossi is preparing to kick off the 2022 season, the first in which he will compete on four wheels in the GT World Challenge Europe. The Italian will dispute the inaugural appointment in Imola at the wheel of an Audi R8 LMS of the WRT team, after more than two decades on a motorcycle in the world championship, which he continues to enjoy, but now as a spectator.

MotoGP enters a new era without one of its greatest stars of the modern era, since 26 years on circuits around the entire planet made the Tavullia circuit a legend that surpassed the asphalt.

This longevity has been questioned a lot due to the lack of triumphs for Rossi in his final stage, since the last time he was proclaimed world champion was in 2009. Now, the Italian admits that he became obsessed with extending his sports career until the end of 2021, even being in a satellite structure by being replaced in the official Yamaha team, and it was because of his mentality of trying to get back to the top.

“As far as persisting in racing motorcycles, I did it because I believed in it, because I believed I could keep winning, and I continued to be competitive until the middle of 2019,” the 43-year-old said. “It is true that he was not the Valentino Rossi of ten seasons ago, it is normal, but I believed.”

“It’s hard to accept it, I didn’t give up until the end,” he explained in an interview with Il Giornale . “But at 40, you don’t have that killer instinct that you have at 25. In any case, it was hard, at one point in my career, about ten years ago, I asked myself: ‘Am I no longer riding the crest of the wave, as a world champion, or do I run until I can’t anymore?'”

“The answer was obvious, I had to continue,” revealed Rossi, who decided to jump from Yamaha to Ducati in 2011, at which point his results plummeted.

Two courses later he returned to the Japanese manufacturer, and managed to regain the winning path, even finishing among the top three in the championship, although his peak was in 2015, fighting for the title until the last race in 2015.

In 2017 he climbed to the top of the podium for the last time, and Rossi acknowledged that he could have ended his stage in the premier class sooner: “I could have stopped a year earlier, at the end of 2020, but there was COVID-19, a Shitty year, with more than one race on the same circuit, and without an audience”.

“I said to myself: ‘What am I doing? Should I stop like this? No, it’s a shame, come on, I’ll do another year.’ Not because I wanted people to be there for my farewell, but because I wanted to leave after a season of real competition,” said the man from Tavullia.

The Austrian accident 2020

During the year prior to his retirement from MotoGP, a specific episode marked the Italian champion, the Austrian Grand Prix, where a crash between Johann Zarco and Franco Morbidelli caused a monumental fall in which one of the motorcycles went flying and grazed Rossi . Despite this, he decided to continue racing: “It made me think, I already knew that, but at that moment I had another proof that in racing it’s not enough to pay attention, because if you’re in the wrong place, you’re screwed.”

“It was a difficult moment, although it didn’t make me say ‘I’m quitting’. I even decided during those weeks to go on for one more season, but it was a really scary accident,” he said.

“Because of the bike I was very scared, but compared to Zarco’s, which was quite far away, I heard the sound when it broke apart. On television you can’t appreciate the noise, the power with which the bike came, bouncing next to Viñales , and I was terrified, although Morbidelli’s bike was the real danger for me, because it brushed against me, I didn’t even see it,” Rossi explained.

“It felt like a shadow was passing through me, but the speed at which it passed within a hair’s breadth of me, it was unbelievable. That’s when you think, ‘Is it worth it?'” he continued. “I went back to the garage in fear, and there I saw my mechanics, I remember one of them, Alex, sobbing, and I told him: ‘Come on, I was three or four meters away’, and he replied: ‘But the other bike? Did you see her go by?’, to which I affirmed: ‘What other?’ Yes, that day was like a wild card.”

“I don’t miss MotoGP”

Valentino Rossi made the final decision to hang up his helmet in the summer of 2021, just when he found out he was going to be a father. This, as he himself has acknowledged, was a reason that triggered his withdrawal from the category: “When Francesca told me she was pregnant, that was the moment I thought about quitting.”

“I took it as a sign of destiny, I did not stop doing it for that reason, because if I had been competitive, I would have continued even as a father,” he revealed.

As if it were another sign, little Giulietta Rossi was born on the same day that MotoGP experienced the first day without the legend on the track, when free practice began for the Qatar Grand Prix. However, the Italian did not wait to go out on the circuit: “He was born on Friday at 4 in the morning, that day I had training with the Audi in Imola to prepare for my debut”.

“I spent the whole night in the hospital, at dawn I went home, I slept a couple of hours, and at noon I was on the track with the Audi R8 GT3 for three hours. On the way back, I was devastated, I went back to the hospital on Saturday for morning and, with Giulietta in our arms, we watched the test together”.

“I thought: ‘How lucky I am not to be on the track!’ Last year I really wanted to stop in Valencia in a happy way, and I did, so now I enjoy the grand prix from the sofa,” said Rossi. “I am a big fan of motorcycles, I like to follow them everywhere, and encourage our riders, my friends are there. The difficult moment was in June, between Barcelona and Assen, when I decided to stop”.

Although he maintains a close link with the MotoGP championship with his team and has promised to make a visit during the season, he rules out a test at the handlebars of the Ducati.

“No, but when you get on a bike, you have to do it with a goal, because it’s huge, it goes very fast, and it doesn’t make sense to go at 75%. I don’t miss MotoGP,” Rossi said.

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