Yamaha has admitted that Jorge Lorenzo made it clear his priority was to keep struggling Texan Ben Spies as his factory Yamaha team-mate in 2013 and not bitter rival Valentino Rossi.
Lorenzo and Rossi will renew their intense rivalry again next season after the Italian signed a two-year deal to return to Yamaha after a wretched spell with Ducati.
Yamaha management spoke publicly on Rossi’s return for the first time today ahead of the Czech Republic MotoGP round in Brno and MCN asked senior boss Lin Jarvis what Lorenzo’s reaction had been when the Spaniard was informed about Rossi’s return.
Jarvis told MCN “We had a meeting together in Mugello where we informed him that circumstances were evolving that it looked like there was a possibility that we might be able to contract Valentino as a team-mate. I think Jorge honestly would probably have preferred to keep Ben as his team-mate because they have had a very good relationship these last two years together. That would have been his priority and that was the way we were working as well. But finally he respected Yamaha’s decision to bring back Valentino and it is up to us to manage the situation.”
Jarvis confirmed that Rossi will make his debut on Yamaha’s factory YZR-M1 1000cc machine immediately after the final race in Valencia.
He also made it clear that Rossi had instigated negotiations over a shock return.
Rossi won four world titles and 46 races for Yamaha in the most successful period in the Japanese factory’s history between 2004 and '10and Jarvis added: “Valentino made an approach to us to express his interest in returning to Yamaha, so the first point of contact came from Valentino’s side.”
Jarvis said Yamaha had not been placed under any external pressure to sign Rossi and he denied being asked by Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta to offer the 33-year-old a competitive bike after his disastrous spell at Ducati.
He added: “Although some people may find this remarkable I can say that Carmelo had no influence whatsoever. I never discussed Valentino Rossi’s return to Yamaha with him, so this is Valentino being interested in Yamaha and us being interested in him.”
Rossi’s loyal and long-serving crew, led by Australian Jerry Burgess are all expected to return to Yamaha with Rossi next season.
Negotiations are on-going with Rossi’s crew and Jarvis said: “We expect that Jeremy and the crew could return to us and we are certainly open to that. We spent seven years together with Jeremy and the technical group, so we haven’t yet finalised that plan but we are going to have further discussions with Valentino and now we will go into the planning of the crew.”
By signing Rossi to take over from Spies, who announced prior to the recent Laguna Seca race that he will leave Yamaha at the end of 2012, Yamaha overlooked Tech 3 duo Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso as potential options to partner Lorenzo.
Dovizioso feels particularly aggrieved having claimed five podiums in the last seven races but Jarvis said both had been kept updated with Yamaha’s strategy.
He said: “Both Cal and Andrea have had excellent seasons this year, particularly Andrea with five podiums now. In terms of pure performance of course he has done a great job and could easily expect that he would be given an opportunity to step up to the factory team. Ben has had a torrid season this year and he’s had all sorts of unfortunate incidents like in Laguna and Indy, he has had some illness problems and he’s also made some mistakes himself. He’s had a hard year but he still has a lot of potential. During this season we evaluated Cal, Andrea and Ben and our opinion is that we all agreed all three have a lot of potential. Before the process with Valentino started we had discussed with Cal and Andrea and told them they were doing a great job and we wanted them to stay with Yamaha but at the same time Ben Spies is our current factory rider and he has a lot of potential, so we were more inclined to renew with Ben. This was something we told them five or six weeks ago. As the season progressed then the situation changed because we never anticipated Valentino coming back to Yamaha three months ago. “