MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi to join Ducati

By Gareth Llewellyn
valentino rossi
Valentino Rossi (Photo: Andy Northcott)

valentino rossi

MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi will leave Fiat Yamaha at the end of the current season and join Ducati from 2011 on a two-year deal.

Yamaha, whose MotoGP unit is based in Italy, offered Rossi a new deal, but having been with the team since 2004 the lure of a new challenge and racing in the famous red of Italy’s Ducati proved too strong for the eccentric Italian..

“It is very difficult to explain in just a few words what my relationship with Yamaha has been in these past seven years,” Rossi said.

“Many things have changed since that far-off time in 2004, but especially ‘she’, my M1, has changed. At that time she was a poor middle-grid position MotoGP bike, derided by most of the riders and the MotoGP workers. Now, after having helped her to grow and improve, you can see her smiling in her garage, courted and admired, treated as the ‘top of the class’.

“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!”‘

Rossi is set to lose his title to Spanish team-mate Jorge Lorenzo after breaking his leg before the Italian Grand Prix in June. Despite returning on crutches after just six weeks and immediately setting quick times, Lorenzo has won six of nine races already this season with nine still to come.

A Yamaha team statement read: “Yamaha is extremely grateful for Valentino’s contributions to its racing successes over the past seven years and it would like to wish him the very best in his future racing endeavours.”

Yamaha are now expected to draft in American Ben Spies from the Tech 3 Yamaha team as Rossi’s replacement.

A Ducati statement from president Gabriele Del Torchio read: “We are delighted that Valentino Rossi will be with us from 2011. He is a paragon of excellence in the world of motorcycling.”

Rossi had considered entering Formula 1 when he left Yamaha, and even set stunning times for Ferrari during tests with the Italian team.

Ferrari had wanted Rossi to stand in for Brazilian Felipe Massa after his horrific injury at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009, and even become a third driver for the team, but the idea for a third car never came about and Rossi opted to concentrate on MotoGP.

Rossi has also competed in World Rally events amid speculation he may move to the series permanently when he has finished with two wheels.

Ducati general director Filippo Preziosi said: “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.”

Rossi’s move to Ducati was made possible after Casey Stoner announced he was leaving the Italian team to join Honda for 2011.

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