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GP Week : Issue 150
Valentino Rossi has publicly pledged to see out his ill-starred two-year contract with Ducati, continuing to try to bring himself and the Bologna marque back to winning condition. But speculation is rife that it could be the down-beat swan-song for the grand master of the past decade. Unless the hope that he said “died last year” can be rekindled, it seems unlikely he will want to continue with Ducati. All major factory rider contracts expire at the end of this season, in theory leaving the possibility of a game of musical saddles in which Rossi might find a plum seat. But a combination of burned bridges and a profusion of younger talent leaves him with few other options. There has been no official comment from Honda, but Rossi left the factory team with mutual bad feelings at the end of 2003. Even if that were not the case, with Stoner and Pedrosa on factory strength and two promising satellite team riders in Bautista and Bradl, HRC would have no need of the 33-year-old’s services. Yamaha’s racing chief Lin Jar vis preferred not to comment, when GPWEEK put the question to him directly last week, but similar circumstances obtain in the team where Rossi scored a symbolic 46 of his 77 wins. Lorenzo and Spies occupy the factory seats, and if the latter stumbles this year Dovizioso is on standby in the satellite Tech 3 team, while his team-mate Cal Crutchlow is showing strong promise. With plans to limit prototype teams to four riders, this puts a major question mark against rumours that Rossi would field a private independent Yamaha team. It is unthinkable that Rossi should join a junior satellite team or move to CRT; he is probably more likely, if he decides to stay in bikes, to fulfil an earlier suggestion of moving to World Superbikes. But Rossi gave a hint that other plans may be forming after he qualified an impressive tenth and finished a creditable 18th in the Blancpain Three- Hour endurance race at Monza in a Ferrari 458 two weekends ago, in spite of an off-track excursion by co-driver “Uccio” Salucci. He had, he said, thoroughly enjoyed himself. Rossi has tested a Ferrari F1 car several times, but rejected the chance of getting more serious, saying: “I prefer bikes.” QUO VADIS, VALENTINO? Rossi’s future up in the air 10 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> NEWS