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 **** 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.
Biaggi then returned 'home' to Aprilia, with whom he had claimed three of his grand prix titles, to head up the factory's WSBK comeback with the new RSV4.
A single win in 2009 was followed by ten victories and a first WSBK crown for Biaggi in 2010. Biaggi then lost his title to Carlos Checa and Ducati, before winning the 2012 Championship by just half-a-point over Kawasaki's Tom Sykes.
Biaggi, the only rider to have won multiple grand prix and WSBK titles, claimed 21 wins and 70 podiums in the production Championship. Biaggi joins Troy Bayliss in retiring as a reigning WSBK champion.
"Aprilia Racing and the Piaggio Group wish to thank Max Biaggi on this, the day when he has announced his retirement from racing, for his extraordinary contribution to the world of sports and the Aprilia image," read a statement from the Piaggio Group, parent company of Aprilia.
"From the first championship title he won in 1994 in the 250 class to the Rider and Manufacturer titles won this year on the Aprilia RSV4 in World SBK, Aprilia's history in competitive motorcycling has been inextricably connected to the Max's efforts, winning unforgettable victories and becoming the only Italian rider to have ever triumphed in World Superbike.
"Max won five of his six world titles astride bikes from Noale in addition to winning 41 races and riding his way to 43 podiums: he is without question the most victorious Aprilia rider ever, as well as one of the greatest players in motorcycle sports on a global level.
"The Piaggio Group extends warmest wishes of happiness and success to Max Biaggi in his personal endeavors and in any new professional activities that he may undertake."
Biaggi hinted that he will continue to have some form of involvement with Aprilia in the future.
Aprilia is now in need of a replacement to partner Eugene Laverty next year, with Sylvain Guintoli linked to the ride.