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Masao Azuma announces retirement from Grand Prix racing

Masao Azuma announces retirement from Grand Prix racing

Masao Azuma announces retirement from Grand Prix racing

Masao Azuma has announced his retirement from Grand Prix racing at a special press conference held on the eve of his home race at Motegi. Sunday's race will be Azuma's last appearance in front of his home crowd, as he officially hangs up his leathers at the end of the current season. The 32 year old has made 106 appearances in the 125cc World Championship since making his debut at Suzuka in 1996.

""In the 125cc class there are a lot of young riders coming through now who have good backing and good sponsors and I feel that now is the right time to end my MotoGP career," explained Azuma. "I am not getting any younger, and this year results have not been like I expected, but I am happy with my Grand Prix career.

"I was never a factory rider and always had to battle against some strong competitors, and now I hope that in the future I can still be involved with motorcycling in some ways. I wouldn't like to say what I will do, but I hope that my job in the future involves young riders from Japan and helping them either on or getting to the world stage.

Azuma took ten victories during his career, with his best season coming in 1999. He took five victories in the first half of the season but faded badly in the second half after famously hitting a deer at Brno, before 15 year old Marco Melandri announced his sensational arrival on the world scene with a string of wins. However, it was Emilio Alzamora who took the title, despite not winning a single race, with Azuma forced to settle for third behind Melandri.

Azuma's most recent highlight came at Suzuka last season, when he won the 125cc race to set-up Daijiro Kato and Valentino Rossi for a memorable hat-trick for Honda, who could then celebrate the historic achievement of 500 Grand Prix wins. His last victory came eleven races later, when he staged a memorable charge through the field in the wet race at Rio.

125cc, 2003

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