Loris Capirossi will retire from motorcycle racing at the end of the season. The 38-year-old Italian made the announcement at Misano during the build-up to the San Marino Grand Prix, almost breaking down in tears at the time.
"It's difficult for me to say this, because after 22 seasons this will be my last race in Italy because at the end of the year, I will retire," he said, before receiving a standing ovation in the circuit press room. "It's not been an easy decision, but I think it's the right time to stop. I've said to myself, 'Yes, no, yes, no,' many times, but this is the right decision.
"I want to say thank you to everybody who has supported me and who has given me rides. I've always tried to do my best and I've had a fantastic time."
After achieving success in his homeland, Capirossi made his grand prix debut in the 125cc class in 1990 and shocked the regulars by becoming world champion in his rookie season. After making it back-to-back championships the following year and recording a total of eight race wins in the category, he moved up to the 250cc class in 1992.
With his countrymen Luca Cadalora, Frankie Chili, Loris Reggiani and Max Biaggi all frontrunners on the quarter-liter machines, Capirossi was part of a golden generation of 250cc riders from Italy. He became a regular race winner in his second season and secured a move to the premier class 500cc World Championship on a privateer Team Pileri Honda in 1995. His first win in the top class came the following year on a Wayne Rainey Yamaha, but an attractive offer from Aprilia caused him to step back to 250s immediately afterward.
In three years back on the quarter-liter machines, he was again a winner and dramatically beat a young Valentino Rossi to the 1998 title before coming back to 500s in 2000. As a rider for Sito Pons' Honda team, he became a regular podium finisher, but it was not until he left to spearhead Ducati's first MotoGP project in 2003 that the wins began to rack up, the Italian taking victories in four of his five seasons with the Italian manufacturer.
His best season in the top class was 2006, when he won at Jerez, Brno and Motegi and finished third in the world championship, but his career has been on the downturn ever since, with three years at Suzuki mustering just a single podium and a tough year on a Pramac Ducati this season being both injury-hit and frustrating.
In his 22 years of grand prix racing across all classes, Capirossi has made a record 324 race starts, winning 29 (nine in the premier class) and three world championships. He has also started from pole 41 times, set 32 fastest laps and taken an agonizing 99 podium finishes.