(Reuters) – Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia claimed his fourth win in the last six MotoGP races at the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix on Sunday as his mentor and nine-times world champion Valentino Rossi finished 10th in his final race.
Pramac Racing’s Spanish rookie Jorge Martin made a strong start from pole position and held off a pack of challengers but was denied a second victory of the season after being overtaken by Bagnaia with 13 laps left.
“This race victory is a present to Valentino,” Bagnaia, a product of Rossi’s VR46 riders academy, said.
“I want to dedicate this race to him and thank him for what he has done for us at the academy. Before this weekend, I didn’t think it was possible (to win)… but we arrived here as one of the fastest teams. It’s the best way to finish.”
Jack Miller finished third to secure the team championship for Ducati, while 2020 world champion Joan Mir of Spain missed out on a podium position after surging forward following a crash by Suzuki team mate Alex Rins midway through the race.
Yamaha’s new world champion https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/quartararo-wins-maiden-motogp-title-bagnaia-crashes-2021-10-24 Fabio Quartararo finished fifth.
Seven-times MotoGP title winner Rossi, one of the greatest and most charismatic of motorcycling champions https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-motor-motogp-rossi-idUKKBN2HW2F6, delighted fans including Brazilian soccer great Ronaldo with a few quick laps but was unable to add to his 199 premier class podiums.
The 42-year-old Italian, nicknamed “The Doctor”, is considering a move into car racing https://www.reuters.com/article/motor-motogp-styria-rossi-idINL1N2PC1HT after more than two decades in Grand Prix motorcycling.
Rossi was mobbed by his fellow riders following the race, as congratulatory messages from the motor sports fraternity as well as the larger sporting world were broadcast on the giant screen with tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal among those paying tribute.
Hollywood actors Tom Cruise, Chris Hemsworth and Keanu Reeves also sent messages of support for Rossi, the only rider to win titles in the 125cc, 250cc, 500cc and MotoGP categories.
Rossi took a final lap of honour to a standing ovation from the crowd as fireworks dotted the sky, before an emotional farewell with his Petronas Yamaha team.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)