So, we all knew this was coming. Ever since Casey Stoner announced his move to the Repsol Honda squad for 2011, there has been the question of who was going to take his ride. The worst kept secret in motorcycle racing history indicated that 7-time World Champion Valentino Rossi would be joining the Ducati team. And today following FIAT Yamaha’s announcement that the Italian would not be riding for them in 2011, it was left to Ducati to confirm what we all knew anyway.
It was left to managing director of Yamaha Motor Racing, Lin Jarvis to break the news of Rossi’s departure. In a press release he said, “On behalf of the Yamaha Motor Group, I would like to express our sincere gratitude for the amazing seven years that we have spent together. Valentino joined us in 2004 at a moment when we were struggling in road racing after eleven seasons without a victory. Valentino’s victory at his first GP race for Yamaha in South Africa was an incredible moment and was just the first of many more race wins that have thrilled MotoGP fans and Yamaha fans around the world. His unsurpassed skills as a racer and a development rider enabled him to win four MotoGP world titles to date with us and helped Yamaha develop the YZR-M1 into the 'the bike of reference’ for the MotoGP class.
“There have been so many wonderful experiences and victories and we are very proud to have been able to make history together. Whilst we regret Vale’s decision to move on, at the same time we fully respect his decision to search for a new challenge and we wish him the very best for 2011 and beyond.
He continued, stating that Yamaha will continue to give Rossi their full support for the remaining 8 races of the season.
Jarvis’ announcement was swiftly followed by a statement from the man himself. You can find the full statement here, but here is a small excerpt that sums up the strong feelings for Yamaha that Rossi has, “Now the moment has come to look for new challenges; my work here at Yamaha is finished. Unfortunately even the most beautiful love stories finish, but they leave a lot of wonderful memories, like when my M1 and I kissed for the first time on the grass at Welkom, when she looked straight in my eyes and told me 'I love you!'”
Then that just left Ducati to seal the deal. In a press conference at the Brno Circuit, it was announced that “The Doctor” will be joining the Italian outfit on a 2 year deal at the start of next season. It is likely that he will be joined by current Ducati pilot Nicky Hayden, given his stronger performances this year.
President of Ducati Motor Holding, Gabriele Del Torchio was the first to comment. “We are delighted to announce that Valentino Rossi will be with us from 2011. He is a paragon of excellence in the world of motorcycling, coherent with our Italian company which is a standard-bearer for “made in Italy” excellence. These are key values for success in technology, design and sportsmanship. In addition to the strong and passionate intent of both parties, this agreement has been made possible by the committed support of our shareholder Investindustrial and all the sponsors associated with the Ducati MotoGP Team, sponsors which have believed in this opportunity and share and support our choices.”
Next up was Filippo Preziosi, General Director of Ducati Corse “Firstly, Valentino is a great fan of motorcycles and so it has always been a pleasure for me to listen his opinions. Until the Valencia GP he will remain a competitor, one so great that he has always given a special value to our victories, but as soon as he rides the Ducati for the first time, we will work together on every single detail that will develop a bike capable of showing his huge talent. Working with Valentino is one of the most exciting things for every Engineer and it's good to know we will have this great opportunity next season.”
So brings a close to the saga of chineese whispers around the paddock, and I for one cannot wait for the chance to see the greatest MotoGP rider ever on a completely different style of bike next year. It should make compelling viewing, and also give Jorge Lorenzo the chance to mature even more.
Now begins the speculation regarding the rest of the re-shuffles. According to reports, current Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Ben Spies will take up Rossi’s empty seat, and current World Superbike rider, Brit Cal Crutchlow will make the step up to the top class.