On the eve of last weekend's Catalan Grand Prix, 250cc star Sebastian Porto surprised the MotoGP paddock by announcing his immediate retirement from racing.

Here, the 27-year-old former Repsol Honda rider - a seven times grand prix winner and the 2004 championship runner-up - talks about the decision to end his ten year world championship career...

Q:
Barcelona must have been a strange weekend for you - after ten years of racing you were watching the action from the pit wall, how did it feel?

Sebastian Porto:
"It was a strange feeling. The truth is that it is the first time in my whole sports career - almost thirteen years in Europe - that I watched from the 'other side', off the bike. A strange feeling, but I'm calm inside because it's been my own decision, I took it all by myself, and it's been carefully considered. If the decision would have come from somewhere else, the team, my family, or the sponsor, I would feel as if I would have been forced to do it. But this decision was mine and although it's going to be hard, I think that I'll be all right in a couple of months or so."

Q:
Have you come to terms with the decision yet?

Sebastian Porto:
"Yes I have. And I have adapted to it well, because it wasn't from one day to the next. I had been thinking about it for a couple of weeks and I finally took the decision last week. If I would be on the bike today, I wouldn't be enjoying like I did before and if you don't enjoy it's difficult, because the problems get even bigger."

Q:
It must be difficult to get on a bike when your heart isn't fully in it, especially given the obvious risks...

Sebastian Porto:
"That might have happened if I had continued racing. Until France - because I guess the idea (to retire) came up in Mugello - I had been the same rider as always. I gave my best, I have always given my best and nothing strange ever came up to my mind. But there has been no understanding between the bike and me: I haven't been able to understand the bike and the bike hasn't allowed me to ride as I had so far. And then, when tiredness comes up and you start thinking this kind of things, you have to be cool and analyse everything, because it's not easy to take this kind of decision. But, well, you have to make choices in life and I think that I have chosen what I really felt. I've always tried not to cheat, not to promise things I knew I wouldn't be able to achieve."

Q:
How did you reach the decision to stop?

Sebastian Porto:
"I don't exactly remember how the idea came to my mind, but it was more or less after the race in France, and it came up because of a bunch of things. First I was thinking about how much longer I would be there, because, well, things pile up, you know? Maybe the latest bad results were somehow the drop that filled the glass and the water just ran over. All my sacrifices, all these years I've been away from my country and away from my family, leaving my youth behind...; it's heavy. Eventually, the definitive factor that made me say enough was that I didn't enjoy being on the bike any more like I did before. If I'd continued under these conditions it would mean forcing something that you don't do naturally anymore; and in this world, in top level competition, you cannot afford being at less than a 100%."

Q:
How did your parents, Oscar and Wilma, take the decision?

Sebastian Porto:
"Before telling my family I talked to Paco S?nchez, my manager, and to Alberto Puig. I've always been very close to my family; they have always known everything about me and I have to admit that even though my parents have never interfered in my decisions nor in moments like this; they have always respected as parents the decisions I have taken; both as regards the personal things and the sporting aspects. So it was just like that; when the idea started to grow in my mind I told them and they told me to think it over, to avoid analysing things on the spur of the moment, because I might take a wrong decision. That is maybe the reason why I took two or three weeks to think about it. After Mugello I went back to Argentina and there, alone - my family stayed in Barcelona - I analysed everything calmly, took my decision and told them on the phone. They supported me then and they have ever since."

Q:
You'll be back in your home country of Argentina in two weeks time, where you're something of a superstar. What would you like to say to them before you arrive?

Sebastian Porto:
"Yes, a lot of people have been calling me from Argentina these days, a lot of press people, it's been really big news in my country. For a long time I've been almost the only rider competing in the world championship and that makes the news even more significant in my country. But I think that people in general have accepted it. 90% of the people understand it and support me and, well, there is a small percentage of people who obviously do not really understand it because they are not here, they do not know what this world means apart from the sporting side; they don't know anything about the trips, the wear and tear and many other things. And the only thing I can say is that it's been a personal decision that I hope they will respect, and although I'm retiring, I will keep on working somehow in order to help Argentinean motorcycling to continue improving. There's nothing clear yet, but our idea is, together with the people from Repsol, to continue together with some project, looking for young promising riders in Argentina. I would love to do that, because I don't want to stay away completely from what has been my life for such a long time. I think that I'm still young and that I have many chances to do a lot of things."

Q:
What did Alberto Puig say, has he given you any advice?

Sebastian Porto:
"We all know Alberto, he is straightforward. He told me that in some ways he understands it, because these are personal decisions, and that in some ways he doesn't because he considered me to be a young rider with a lot of possibilities. But he said clearly that he respects my decision and I want to publicly say thank you to Alberto, and also to Honda and Repsol YPF, for their support, because when you decide something like this, it's not easy to be supported the way they have supported me. I'm deeply thankful and although I've already told it many times, I insist in that this year I have been in the best team of all I have ever been, technically and also humanly. Working all these years with Repsol YPF has made me feel very proud and moreover, I have been able to win races in the world championship and fight for the title thanks to Repsol YPF backing me all the way. I really hope to be able to continue working with them in the future."

Q:
Looking back, you spent ten full seasons in the 250cc World Championship, during which you finished title runner-up once, won seven races, took 19 podiums, eleven pole positions and eight fastest laps... What is your best memory?

Sebastian Porto:
"There have been many very good moments, and there have been also hard and difficult moments. The truth is that it's difficult to choose one. Every victory is a special memory, but every time you win a race you don't have much time left to enjoy it, because the race is over, you enjoy your victory on Sunday and on Monday you're already thinking about the next race. This is a very demanding world, so I think that I will really be able to value all I achieved now. I achieved a lot, considering that I'm from Argentina; I managed to win races in the world championship, I took one European title and was runner-up in the world championship, that's been the best I achieved. Maybe I would choose the two consecutive victories in Holland, at Assen. Winning there, in such a historically significant circuit like Assen was maybe one of the happiest moments of my sports career."

Q:
And the worst memory?

Sebastian Porto:
"I always say that my worst memory in sports was the year 1998, because it was a very hard year for me. I was just about to quit because I didn't have any good results, because those people I was with then told me basically that my sports career was over. I remember it was in late January, the IRTA tests were almost there and I had neither a bike nor a team. But then the miracle happened and I don't know how, but there was the Italian Team Edo Racing, offering me a Yamaha to continue in the championship that season."

Q:
You have raced many great riders during your career. Which rival has stood out the most?

Sebastian Porto:
"I think that, obviously because he has been the hardest rival with whom I fought for the championship title, it would be Dani Pedrosa. He has been a hard rival in these last two years for all of us. Sometimes I was able to show that I could be faster than him and I have won several races, but he has been one of those consistent, tough and very determined riders, and I think that there are not many riders uniting all these qualities. You can be fast in qualifying, fast in the race but then you have to be consistent, you can't make mistakes, and you have to be mentally strong, and I think that Dani has all of these qualities. Apart from Dani, Valentino Rossi. Right now I think that they are the only riders that are one step ahead of all the others."

Q:
Finally, tell us what comes to mind when you hear the following words: Injuries?

Sebastian Porto:
"Almost nothing. Thank God I have only had several hard hits in all these years, but the worst injury I had was a cracked rib. I've lost consciousness two or three times after crashes, and I think that that's felt the worst. But if we analyse all the crashes I had, they really haven't been that serious."

Q:
Fans?

Sebastian Porto:
"I think that the Italian and the Spanish fans, especially the Spanish fans, have always supported me and made me feel as if I was in my second home. Being loved by people is something I appreciate a lot, especially these last two years considering that I was the rival of a Spanish rider. People cheering you up when you're walking along the paddock and also outside, while you are fighting against a local rider is something I appreciate a lot. And considering the passion and how they follow everything, I think that especially Jerez, is the most special race of all for me."

Q:
Paddock?

Sebastian Porto:
"The Paddock is like home for all of us. It is really a world where you live very intensively. If you're there it's like being in another world. You forget a lot of things while you're there and you have four or five days in which you move away from everything and disconnect. We all know each other, we're always the same people, so it's important to get along well with everybody, because we meet again at the next race and you cannot feel comfortable if you have problems with somebody. You have to be professional above all."

Q:
The media?

Sebastian Porto:
"Very good. The media have always respected me a lot and I must highlight my relationship with the Spanish media, because they have made me feel very good and they have always respected me. I really don't remember any time that could have been hard for me or having been criticised unfairly; they have always been correct with me and they have always talked well about me."