Italian motorcycle legend Valentino Rossi received emotional praise from fellow riders and thousands of fans after finishing 10th in the final MotoGP race of his fantastic career at the Valencia Grand Prix.
Francesco Bagnaia took his fourth win in six races and Australian star Jack Miller finished third on Sunday before paying tribute to nine-time world champion Rossi.
“This race win is a gift to Valentino,” said Bagnaia, a product from Rossi’s VR46 driver academy.
“I would like to dedicate this race to him and thank him for what he did for us in the academy. Before this weekend I would not have thought it was possible (to win) … but we are here as one of the fastest teams. It’s the best way to get there. “
Bagnaia’s teammate Miller secured the team championship for Ducati, while 2020 World Champion Joan Mir of Spain missed a podium after jumping forward after a crash by Suzuki teammate Alex Rins in the middle of the race.
It meant Miller, who won consecutive Grand Prix in France and Spain in May, finished the season in fourth place overall with 181 points, behind Yamaha’s new world champion Fabio Quartararo – fifth in Sunday’s race – with 278, Bagnaia (252) and Mir (208).
Rossi, one of the greatest and most charismatic motorcycle champions, thrilled fans like the Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo with a few fast laps, but could not increase his 199 podium places in the premier class.
The 42-year-old Italian, nicknamed “The Doctor”, is considering switching to car racing after more than two decades in Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
Rossi was bullied by his fellow riders after the race when greetings from the motorsport fraternity and the wider sporting world were broadcast on the big screen, including tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who paid tribute.
Hollywood actors Tom Cruise, Chris Hemsworth and Keanu Reeves also sent messages of support for Rossi, the only rider to have won titles in the 125cc, 250cc, 500cc and MotoGP categories.
Rossi did one final lap of honor amid a standing ovation from the crowd as fireworks streaked the skies before an emotional farewell to his Petronas Yamaha team.