Wednesday’s announcement that MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi will remain on two wheels has ended one avenue of speculation about the Italian superstar’s future – but opened another…

Rossi’s current Yamaha contract expires at the end of this season and – while it is assumed that the seven-times world champion now intends to remain at the marque for a fourth year in 2007 – rival manufacturers now face possibly their last chance to sign the most famous name in motorcycle racing.

“I cannot discuss that,” replied Lin Jarvis, managing director of Yamaha Motor Racing, when asked if there was a clause in Rossi’s contract that gives Yamaha first call on the Italian if he stayed on two wheels.

“We are very confident that Valentino will stay with us as our relationship is very strong,” Jarvis added, after a long pause.Since joining the premier-class in 2000, there has only been one occasion when Rossi has switched manufacturer – when he sensationally quit Honda for Yamaha at the end of 2003, taking almost all his pit crew with him.

Due to the importance Rossi places on his closely knit team of mechanics, led by legendary crew chief Jerry Burgess, and of having a ‘relaxed’ team environment – Yamaha are by far favourites to retain the #46 next season. However, Ducati (the ‘Ferrari of motorcycling’) has long been linked with Rossi – due to its immense patriotic appeal and the presence of title sponsor Marlboro, which could surely beat any rival pay check.

But Rossi turned down Ducati/Marlboro in 2003 and it now remains to be seen if the Bologna based company will learn from that experience and revise an offer accordingly for 2007, when MotoGP rules change from 990 to 800cc engines.


Rossi has already warned that such radical rule changes traditionally favour Honda – and is keen to test and develop Yamaha’s 800 – but it is Ducati which was the first, and so far only, team to publicly debut its 800cc machine. It would be a major shock if – given his previous comments about life at Honda – Rossi returned to HRC, which is currently working flat out to beat him, while Suzuki and Kawasaki must be viewed as ‘unnecessary’ risks – but nothing and no-one should be ruled out. The bidding starts now…


On offer is a fun loving 27-year-old who has won the 500cc/MotoGP World Championship, with relative ease, every year since 2001 – collecting an amazing 54 premier-class victories along the way – but is currently 43-points behind Honda’s Nicky Hayden after a nightmare start to the 2006 season. Valentino’s biggest race of the year, the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, takes place next weekend.


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