Motorcycling legend and nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi confirmed Thursday he will retire at the end of the season after 26 years lighting up the sport.

The 42-year-old Italian signed a one-season deal with Yamaha-SRT for this campaign and it had been mooted he might ride for his own team next term.

However, he told a press conference ahead of this weekend's Styrian Grand Prix that he will call it a day, 12 years on from his last MotoGP title.

"I have decided to stop at the end of the season," said Rossi. "It's been a very long trip but really great fun."

"It's a very sad moment because it's difficult to say and know that next year I will not race with a motorcycle, I've done that for I think more or less 30 years."

Rossi will finish his career with seven premier class world titles -- just one behind the all-time record of eight held by compatriot Giacomo Agostini.

He has competed in 423 grands prix races -- 363 in the top class.

Recent years have seen the man nicknamed "The Doctor" combine competing with ownership of the his own VR46 team, helping to bring on young riders in Moto2 and Moto3 and next season he will be free to concentrate on that mentor role.

All over: Valentino Rossi addresses his retirement press conference on Thursday
All over: Valentino Rossi addresses his retirement press conference on Thursday APA / ERWIN SCHERIAU

Warm praise for his stellar career came from rivals, including French star Fabio Quartararo, his successor at the Yamaha factory team who leads this year's title race.

"I have no words... Big congratulations for your amazing career! I'll remember all my life the first race I ever watch you in Jerez 2005 and you motivated me to be where I am today," tweeted Quartararo.

Rossi won top category world crowns in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009, having started off with a 125cc crown in 1997 before adding a 250cc title two years later.

In all Rossi made 235 podiums, 199 of them in the premier category and scored 115 victories -- 89 in MotoGP/500 cc, 14 in 250 cc and a further 12 in the 125 cc category, while he piled up 65 pole positions.

After his first 125cc race at Malaysia in 1996 he lost little time in scoring a first win that same year in the Czech Republic before advancing to the premier category in 2000, landing his first success at that level at the British Grand Prix that same season.

His last triumph came in the Netherlands in 2017 -- a record 20 years and 311 days after his maiden 125 win.

But this season has seen him slide down the pecking order with Yamaha-SRT, as he currently lies 19th in the ranking with just 17 points, leading him to call it a day at year-end having only managed a sole podium last season.

"Valentino is a living legend whose successes and personal flair contributed to Yamaha's legacy and heritage in abundance," said Yamaha managing director Lin Jarvis.

"Also, during more difficult periods, his positive mindset would be a boost to those around him, and he was always ready to go the extra mile for a good result."