Loris Capirossi has announced that he will retire from racing at the end of the 2011 season. The 38-year-old Italian, a veteran of 22 seasons of Grand Prix racing, said that the difficulty in finding a competitive bike for next season and the strength of the current crop of young riders - with more fast young men on the way - made it time to retire.
The decision had clearly been a difficult one - Capirossi struggled to fight back his emotions as he made the announcement - but now that he had taken it he was sure it was the righ one. "I am 100% sure this is the correct decision," he told a packed press conference at Misano, ahead of this weekend's MotoGP round at the Italian circuit. "When you go and you don't to is worse, but I want to retire."
The Italian underlined that he would be retiring from racing altogether as opposed to switching to another class or another series, despite having offers. "I had an opportunity to ride a CRT bike, but I don't want to ride that kind of bike," Capirossi said. "I also had a chance to ride a good bike in World Superbike, but I didn't want to. I was not forced to stop because I didn't have any opportunities."
Capirossi's career has spanned two decades, starting in 1990, the year in which he also became the youngest ever 125cc world champion, a record he holds to this day. The Italian went on to win a second 125cc championship the following year, adding a 250cc world title to his tally in 1998. He has a total of 29 Grand Prix victories in all three classes, and had racked up a total of 99 podiums throughout his career. While making the announcement of his retirement, Capirossi jokingly asked the other riders at the table for a little help, to allow him to secure a 100th podium before he retires.
The other riders in the press conference were full of praise for the Italian. Casey Stoner called Capirossi "the best teammate I ever had," saying that Capirossi had welcomed him into the Ducati team in 2007, and had been very generous of the success he had had, despite the problems that Capirossi was having in the first year of the 800s. Valentino Rossi was particularly effusive, talking of having grown up watching the Italian on the TV, his earliest memories being watching Capirossi race at Suzuka. Rossi also joked that he had been a big fan of Loris during is 250 years because Capirossi was "against Biaggi!" His own best memories of his compatriot were from 2006, of the fantastic battles he had with Capirex in Mugello and Sepang.
When asked for his own favorite memories, Capirossi said they had to be of that first championship in 1990. His worst period, he said, had been in 1997, when he had struggled badly aboard an uncompetitive Aprilia. That year he had come close to retiring, and had only been persuaded to stay by his manager, Carlo Pernat. "Carlito promised me I would have a good bike the next season," Capirossi said, and Pernat was as good as his word: Capirossi rode his Chesterfield Aprilia to the 1998 250cc World Championship that year.
That championship - and his first one, in 1990 - were not without controversy. Capirossi sealed his 1990 125cc championship at Phillip Island, where he was assisted by a group of Italians including Dario Romboni and Fausto Gresini, who ganged up on Dutchman Hans Spaan to ensure that Capirossi secured the championship, provoking Spaan to try to punch Romboni in the middle of the race. And Capirossi's 1998 250cc championship was awarded only after an appeal process to the FIM, as the Italian had been disqualified from the last race of the year in Argentina. Capirossi had launched into his teammate and championship rival Tetsuyo Harada, diving underneath him with no chance of ever making the corner. Capirossi took Harada out, ensuring that the Japanese rider would not be able to score sufficient points to keep him from the title.
The Italian will now see out the remainder of the season with the Pramac Ducati team and then hang up his helmet for good. He may not leave the MotoGP paddock just yet, though: immediately after the announcement of Capirossi's retirement, the paddock was ringing with rumors that the Italian would be taking a position with Dorna, though there was no confirmation of such a role. If it is hard to retire from racing, it is even harder to leave the paddock, it seems.