MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi has signed a two-year contract with Yamaha.
The deal will see Rossi ride a factory YZR-M1 in the 2004 and 2005 MotoGP world championships and was confirmed in a statement released by Yamaha at 6am this morning (Monday, November 10).
In one of the biggest transfers in racing history, Rossi will officially join Yamaha’s factory effort on January 1. Spaniard Carlos Checa will partner the 24-year-old Italian in what is expected to be a team sponsored by cigarette company Gauloises. Checa's current team-mate Marco Melandri, will move to the Tech 3 Yamaha team.
The deal has been on the cards for well over two months and after Rossi and Honda confirmed at the final round in Valencia that they were splitting, Yamaha finally concluded negotiations with the five-times world champion.
Jubilant Yamaha race boss Lin Jarvis, who was vilified 12 months ago for axing Max Biaggi, said: "We are all extremely happy that Valentino will be joining Yamaha in 2004.
" In our discussions with him it is clear that he relishes the challenge of achieving our goal in MotoGP as much as we do. He is an incredible talent and will make a huge difference. Obviously there is a lot of hard work ahead of us, but we are confident that we can give Valentino the means to achieve more world championships and we look forward to the challenge ahead. This is a very important step in our plan to re-establish Yamaha as a leading force in Grand Prix racing. "
Rossi walked out on HRC having admitted he needed a new challenge. He now has a massive task of turning around Yamaha’s ailing fortunes in the premier class. The company has been without a GP world title since 1992, and this season was only the second time in 31 years that they have failed to win a race at the top level.
Confirmation that Rossi will take up his role with Yamaha on January 1 means he will only have three months in which to drastically improve the struggling YZR-M1 before the defence of his crown gets underway in South Africa on April 18.
He won’t be able to test until January 16 at the earliest with a month-long testing ban in force from the middle of December.
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