Reigning double World Superbike champion and four-time 250GP title winner Max Biaggi
is to retire from racing.
The announcement was made during a special press conference organised at the Vallelunga circuit, where the 41-year-old Italian first began racing.
Biaggi confessed it had been a very difficult decision, but feels it is time to dedicate more time to his family and is proud to have been competitive right to the very end of his illustrious career.
"Everything began by chance for me here at Vallelunga," said Max.
"I was a young guy who had nothing to do with the world of motorbikes, but something 'sparked' in me and what followed has been a kind of dream that has taken me a very long way.
"It's my choice to retire now," Biaggi added. "I'm not injured and had a new contract offer from Aprilia - same bike, same money - but I think I've taken enough time from my children and my wife. It's the right time to stop."
The 'Roman Emperor' rode his first grand prix season in 1992 at the relatively late age of 20, but went on to win 29 races and four straight titles in the quarter-litre category with Aprilia and Honda.
A further 15 race victories followed in the premier 500cc/MotoGP class - on Honda, Yamaha and then Honda machinery - where Biaggi's intense rivalry with countryman Valentino Rossi helped raise the sport to new levels of popularity.
Three times a MotoGP
Championship runner-up, once to Mick Doohan and twice to Rossi, Biaggi was forced out of grand prix under controversial circumstances at the end of 2005 and sat out the whole of 2006 before switching to World Superbikes.
Biaggi sensationally won on his WSBK
debut - for Alstare Suzuki at Qatar 2007 - just as he had won on his 500GP debut at Suzuka in 1998.
Third overall by the conclusion of his 'rookie' WSBK
year, Biaggi switched to the satellite Sterilgarda Ducati team for 2008 - which, along with 2005, proved to be his only winless World Championship season.