Valentino Rossi has proven that you can go home again, the Italian signing a two-year deal to return to Yamaha to ride a factory M1 in the 2013 and 2014 MotoGP World Championships.
Rossi, who won a total of four World Championships with Yamaha (2004, 2005 and again in 2008 and 2009), will join Jorge Lorenzo on the team. With both Lorenzo and Rossi signing two-year deals, the Yamaha squad is in place through the 2014 season.
"This announcement is once again excellent news for Yamaha," said Yamaha's Motor Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis in a release issued early this morning. "In June we were able to sign Jorge Lorenzo for the 2013-14 campaign and now we are able to confirm Valentino Rossi for the next two years. In doing so we have been able to put together the strongest possible team to challenge for victories and to promote the Yamaha brand."
While the Rossi signing may be "excellent news for Yamaha," it leaves the Ducati team without the man it signed two years ago to lead the Italian brand back to prominence. Ducati, along with its new Audi ownership, was hopeful of re-signing the eight-time World Champion to partner Nicky Hayden. Rossi's time at Ducati was disappointing with no wins and just two podiums thus far and a release from Ducati pre-empted the one issued a few hours later by Yamaha.
"Ducati wishes the Italian well for the new challenges that await him, and in the meantime, the team will continue to give its best effort in order to improve over the latter part of the season," the Ducati release stated. "Racing has always been in Ducati's DNA, and now more than ever, it is integral to the Borgo Panigale company's product development and image. Audi shares Ducati's strategic approach and agrees with its growing commitment to competition.
Therefore, having recently renewed its agreement with American Nicky Hayden, Ducati is in the process of finalizing the team that will take part in the 2013 World Championship, confident that its team and bike will be capable of competing at the highest level."
In a pre-Indy Grand Prix conference call set up by Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday, Hayden denied any knowledge of who his teammate will be in 2013.
"No, I'm not going to tell you. I don't know," Hayden said. "So, I really... and I haven't really got caught up in it. It doesn't really change much for me, so I'm sure I'll find out probably a little bit before you guys, but not much."
Yamaha, meanwhile, is confident of a bright future with Lorenzo and Rossi.
"We have run this 'super team' together in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and during that time we achieved the 'triple crown' titles with Rider, Manufacturer and Team World Championship victories for three consecutive years," Jarvis said. "The target for the future is obvious and we will do our utmost to achieve our goals. I have no doubt that with the experience, knowledge, skills and speed of these two great champion riders we will be able to challenge for many race wins and for the 2013 and 2014 World Championship titles."
The 33-year-old Rossi will replace Ben Spies on the team, the Texan announcing prior to the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix two weeks ago that he was leaving. Speculation is that Spies will join the BMW team in World Superbike for the 2013 season.
"The signing of Valentino completes our future planning for the Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team," Jarvis said. "Now that this is done we will put our 100 percent efforts into completing the job at hand and to supporting Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo in their search for race victories and for Jorge's 2012 World Championship title challenge."
Rossi won 46 Grands Prix with Yamaha during his seven-year run with the team. The Italian is currently eighth in the 2012 MotoGP World Championship. Lorenzo, with whom Rossi had a fairly contentious relationship at the end of his Yamaha run, leads this year's title chase by 23 points after winning five of the first 10 races of the year heading into next weekend's Red Bull Indy Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.