‘Grazie Vale!’: Rossi’s retirement tour brings fans to his hometown


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Misano Adriatico (Italy) (AFP)

For Rossi’s army of fans, this provides the opportunity for two pilgrimages, one to see him participate in the Grand Prix of Emilia Romagna and the other to Tavullia, his hometown just 10 kilometers away.

“Vale” announced in August that he would retire after the season-ending race in Valencia on November 14.

Since then, he has already made a moving return to Misano for the San Marino Grand Prix in September.

Sunday will mark his final arrival on an Italian track after a 26-year career that has earned him a world title in 125cc, one in 250cc and seven in MotoGP and an army of fans.

At 42, he is on the verge of becoming a father. He is a seasoned businessman and team owner, using the VR46 brand after his number.

His ambition is to race a car, with the 24 Hours of Le Mans in his sights.

“The Doctor” has charisma. He is a star but always smiling and accessible.

On Friday, after free practice in Misano, fans made the 20-minute trip to Tavullia, which is “Rossiland”.

The local boy is omnipresent in this village perched on top of a hill.

At the entrance to town, a huge sign stating ‘Grazie Vale’ on a background of Rossi’s favorite color, yellow, was pasted to a wall.

“You would see him speed by on his small motorbike on the way to school. He’s part of the family,” said the local bookseller, whose shop is adorned with pictures of Rossi, as is the salon. neighbor hairstyle.

There is his fan club, the VR46 store, and the “Da Rossi” pizzeria.

Just outside of town is its VR46 Academy for training young Italian riders.

Among the graduates is Francesco Bagnaia, who will start from pole position on Sunday, 22 places ahead of his mentor who is at the back of the grid.

Florence, a Frenchwoman, surprised her companion Stan by organizing their first Rossi pilgrimage on the track and then in Tavullia.

“We just love it”

Seeing the “Doctor” in the flesh on the trail brought tears to their eyes.

“It’s almost historic. If there’s one place to go this weekend, it’s here,” says Florence. “It’s unique, you can’t do what he did again.”

“It’s his career in MotoGP as well as all the extras: the merchandise, his academy, his teams.”

“Marc Marquez is also a world champion. In Spain you see his red everywhere, but there is no Marquez town, no Marquez company, no comparable push.”

Anita, a Dutchwoman living in Germany, is a regular in the village and in the races.

“Sad because it’s his last race but, on the other hand, I think he’s right. He’s becoming a dad, life has to go on and there comes a time when you have to say: that’s it”, she declared. “It’s his time and his choice.”

Home support: Fans dressed in yellow Rossi traveled on a wet Friday to watch their hero during practice sessions for his final MotoGP race in Misano ANDREAS SOLARO AFP

“But he’s not out of our lives. A true fan loves him to the end. And if he’s last in the race, we’re still his fans.”

“He’s a human person, always kind and normal. We just love him, it’s a disease … but it’s a beautiful disease.”

“I don’t know what we’ll do next year without Valentino. I really don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said.

“The Doctor,” whose helmet incorporates images of his fans this weekend, said on Thursday he hoped to be remembered as “a rider with a long career and good results, but the more important is that people have fun with me “.

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