Valentino Rossi ended a glittering career of more than two decades on Sunday with a 10th-place finish at the final MotoGP race of the season in Spain.
Rossi, 42, is a nine-time world champion across categories and soaked in the applause from the 75,000 crowd as he rode an ovation lap in Valencia, which was his 432nd GP having started his career back in 1996.
Ducati's Francesco Bagnaia, who won the race, and other riders followed Rossi after the race until the veteran Italian greeted fans in the grandstands.
“It’s the only thing possible today, to give a present to Vale,” said fellow Italian Bagnaia, who wore a helmet with Rossi’s No46 on it. “I want to dedicate this race to Vale and thank him for what he has done for us.”
Rossi claimed his first world title in 1997, a year after making his 125cc debut, following up with the 250cc championship in 1999.
Rossi's last title was in 2009 and his last GP victory back in 2017. However, that takes nothing away from his accomplishments and he leaves the stage with his place assured as one of the true greats of the sport.
Former Brazil striker Ronaldo waved the checkered flag at the end of the race, marking the last time the Italian veteran crossed the line.