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46 is a sign, not just a number for me: Valentino Rossi

Valentino Rossi

Bengaluru, May 30: Francesco Bagnaia won the Italian GP, but it was Valentino Rossi who hogged the limelight through the Grand Prix weekend at the Mugello circuit after his famed No.46 was retired at a special ceremony in the straights, just ahead of the qualifiers.

As they say, there is only one number 46! On Saturday (May 28) at the Gran Premio d'Italia Oakley, MotoGP Legend Rossi returned to the iconic Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello as No. 46 was officialy retired from use in the MotoGP class.

On the grid before qualifying began, the retirement ceremony saw FIM President Jorge Viegas and Dorna (MotoGP commercial rights holder) CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta present the Doctor with a special trophy of the number he rode to unprecedented levels of recognition, creating a global sporting icon in the process.

46 is more than just a number: Fluorescent yellow will not glow again as MotoGP honours Valentino Rossi46 is more than just a number: Fluorescent yellow will not glow again as MotoGP honours Valentino Rossi

For the records, the 43-year-old won nine World Championships across all classes -- 115 wins and 235 podiums across -- as he played a key role in redefining the sport for millions of fans across the world, with No.46 coming to signify one thing and one thing only: Valentino Rossi.

Retiring at the end of the 2021 FIM MotoGP World Championship season, the Italian is now joined by his racing number as a spectator of the world's fastest motorcycle racing series.

Rossi's number retired: VR46 still on front row as Di Giannantonio grabs poleRossi's number retired: VR46 still on front row as Di Giannantonio grabs pole

"It's mix feelings -- on one side, it's very sad that I've finished, I've stopped, and also the 46 it is retired from MotoGP. On the other, it's a great feeling because it was a long story and an unforgettable career full of great moments, so I'm very proud of this," Rossi said in his hour of glory.

"It was good, here in Mugello, because it's always a special place, it's always the home of the Italian GP, our home GP, and it's also good because I've always raced with the 46 from the first year. 46 for me means a lot, because it was the number of Graziano, of my father, when he finished second in the 250cc Championship. I'm very happy because it's a sign, not just a number," Rossi added.

Valentino Rossi

The MotoGP legend also spoke about the Mugello race and threw some light on the emerging riders on the grid.

"Italy is always in the top in MotoGP, specially at this moment because also the bikes, Aprilia and Ducati are very strong, and we've a lot of Italian riders -- we've Enea (Bastianini) who has won a lot of races, Pecco (Bagnaia) is very strong and also, we've a lot of riders from our academy, .

"This weekend also Luca and Bezz are fast, we've also Morbidelli, we've also young Italian riders who're very strong, so I think that I can be quiet for the future."

Italian GP: First win for Bagnaia, Quartararo extends championship lead with 2nd-place finish, Marquez 10th Italian GP: First win for Bagnaia, Quartararo extends championship lead with 2nd-place finish, Marquez 10th

Bagnaia won the race and it was for the first time in almost two-and-a-half decades that a race was being held Mugello without Rossi on the grid.

"For sure I miss it, because it has been my life for 26 years, to follow the championship around the world, but it's good. I'm happy, I don't miss it a lot because it was also very long, very stressful, so now I'm a bit more relaxed and I think that it was the right time!" concluded Rossi.

Rossi may have retired, so too his No.46, but his legend will live on. The MotoGP and his legion of fans will miss him nonetheless.

For the quarter of a century of history and memories, the only thing left to say is, Grazie Vale!

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Story first published: Monday, May 30, 2022, 10:45 [IST]
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