Nine-Time Motocross World Champion Antonio Cairoli Set To Retire

Tony Cairoli

Antonio Cairoli has been synonymous with European Motocross over the last decade and a half. He is the all-time premier class MXGP winner with 69 Grand Prix wins, 93 in total. In addition to a whopping seven premier class titles with a pair of 250 championships to boot. However, with the Sicilian Superman set to turn 36 years old next week, his iconic career was likely going to end sooner or later. Now it is set to be the former. As the MXGP icon announced on Tuesday in Rome, Italy, that the 2021 season will be his last.

End Of An Era

The GPs have been losing a number of key names in recent years. From Gautier Paulin to Clement Desalle, and Tanel Leok, but Cairoli is without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest retirement post-Stefan Everts. At his peak from 2009 to 2014, he won six consecutive 450 World Titles and 47 GPs. His entire career has been with the De Carli team, which at first ran Yamaha’s, then from 2010 on KTM. Cairoli now may be the rider most associated with the brand. As his first title with them in 2010 started off an impeccable run of seven World Motocross titles, along with five Supercross titles for the orange brand. That includes four Cairoli titles when he ran on a KTM 350 SX-F against a field of 450s.

Still being a title-contending rider in his mid-30s also adds to his legend. While his last title came in 2017, he finished in either second or third two of the last three seasons (hurt in 2019). Currently, he sits third in the 2021 MXGP standings, one point back of Romain Febvre, and 29 back of Tim Gajser. The opportunity to go out on top is almost never available to many athletes at all, especially for someone at Cairoli’s age. Expect him to go all-in so to speak. In addition to having the chance to win his first Motocross Des Nations in a little over a week’s time. Regardless, European Motocross is losing one of its all-time greatest.

Press Conference

Giving quotes along with Cairoli was the KTM Motorsports Director Pit Beirer.

Antonio Cairoli

“This is not an easy decision. I’ve always said that numbers and statistics did not mean that much to me. I think it was an achievement for me and my family to win one world championship so to have had a career like this is very special. I feel that it is the right time to stop. Everything around me makes it seem like the right decision, and we are still trying to win the title this year, so the motivation is high for this challenge.

I want to thank all those who have helped me and supported me since I came to the world championship, and all along the way actually. There have been many faces and names and of course all the excitement and love from the fans. I have felt very much part of the KTM family from day one and we will continue our work and relationship together, but now in a different way. There is a lot more to do in life after 2021 but for now our goal is very clear.”

Pit Beirer

“Our story started in an impressive way because when Tony came to KTM when we still hadn’t won a title in the premier class and we were also developing the KTM 350 SX-F, so it’s like there were two challenges to conquer! To then win five consecutive championships and establish the 350 concept was a big milestone for us. Over the years the relationship became closer and the friendship grew even more. A lot of our success both in the U.S. and in MXGP arrived because of those first years with Tony and the belief that he had in us and the vision for the future. It’s something we didn’t forget and we won’t forget.”

Coming to America?

While his full-time competition days are soon to be behind him, Cairoli did not close the door on some one-off appearances. In a post-press conference interview with Jason Weigandt of, Cairoli said the following in regards to future plans.

“I would love to do some racing in the U.S. and mabye some Nationals I would like to do. Because now I am free, and all those years, 18 years, I have always been a contender for [MXGP Championship]. So when it’s like that it’s very difficult to go to the U.S. just for my pleasure, then mabye have a small crash and break my collarbone. So now I’m free and I can just do whatever I want, and I would like to do some races.”

Even if it is just a one-off appearance, Cairoli running a U.S. National would be monumental. The only times he has raced in the states is when the GPs come to America, the last being in 2017. The No. 222 racing in a field completely filled with guys he has (mostly) never raced with before would be must-watch TV. In any case, this is a big loss for Motocross, as well as Italian motorsports. Cairoli and Valentino Rossi retiring in the same year just feels right. A pair of absolute icons who were some of the absolute best to ever do what they did. Congratulazioni per il pensionamento Tony.

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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images

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