Valentino Rossi has spoken publicly for the first time about his decision to sign a dream deal with Ducati for next year’s MotoGP world championship.
The Italian’s two-year deal with the Bologna factory was confirmed on Sunday night in the Czech Republic after MCN exclusively broke news of the deal in late June.
Rossi had previously only commented on his Ducati transfer in a brief but emotional statement released on Sunday night in Brno.
But he has elaborated further on the key reasons behind his decision to finish his illustrious career on board a factory Ducati.
The reigning world champion, who won four world titles in a golden era for Yamaha, said: “It is a good feeling. Especially because I avoid all the people in Italy from the man who sells the newspaper or the people who make the coffee who say "Why you don’t go to Ducati or when are you going to Ducati?" So now this is easier. At the beginning of the season I spoke to Ducati. I feel Ducati is a lot more different than in the past, a lot more open to fix all the important things of the contract together. So from that moment I started to think. In general there were two or three important things.”
The first key factor for Rossi was the imminent retirement of senior Yamaha boss Masao Furusawa.
Furusawa’s role in Rossi’s success at Yamaha can never be underestimated as he helped transform the factory YZR-M1 into one of the most successful bikes in premier class history.
He also radically restructured Yamaha’s race department in readiness for Rossi’s arrival at the beginning of 2004.
But significantly he enjoyed an immensely close personal relationship with Rossi and he’d made it clear that he wanted to see the 31-year-old become a lifetime ambassador for the Yamaha brand once he retired from racing.
Rossi said: “At the end of this season, Masao Furusawa stops work. For me, in all these seven years, Furusawa was always the number one of Yamaha. So without him, I don't know what’s going to happen and for this I was quite worried.”
Rossi then said his work at Yamaha was finished. With four world titles in seven years, Rossi felt he had nothing left to prove on a factory YZR-M1, and that the time was right to seek a new challenge.
“I have the feeling that my work here in Yamaha is finished. So the situation changed a lot. We did a great job, a fantastic job with great emotion, but we modified the situation from 2004 in a positive way because now the bike is fantastic and maybe it is the best one. Yamaha have great riders, especially (Jorge) Lorenzo but also (Ben) Spies is fast. So it looks like for me here, the time is finished. I need a new adventure and some new experience. But especially a new motivation, so I decided for Ducati, “added Rossi.
With rumours that his two-year deal is worth an astonishing £25m, Rossi said financial gain had not been a motivating factor in his decision.
He said: “I heard somewhere that it is a money choice, but I want to say that it is not true because the money I will take from Ducati is exactly the same money that Yamaha offered. There is zero difference.”
He said a big attraction of moving to Ducati was the opportunity to work with the Bologna factory’s engineering genius Filippo Preziosi. A gifted technician, Preziosi is hugely hugely respected in MotoGP and Rossi told MCN: “I always speak with Filippo Preziosi and I see in him the similar behaviour that I saw in Furusawa in 2004. He wants me and he trusts me and he thinks that together we can improve the Ducati. I’m curious. I think this year the bike become a little bit easier to ride, but I think we can modify the bike like we want. It is easier because for sure the Ducati is more competitive than the M1 in 2003, but more difficult for me, because I am older, and I have very strong rivals. But I have to try.”
To lessen the learning curve, Rossi is expected to defect to Ducati with most of his loyal crew, led by pragmatic Aussie Jerry Burgess.
But he said no final decision had been taken on who the personnel around him would be.
“For me it's important but it is a crew choice because everybody have a different age, different ideas for the future, so they have to decide. I hope yes, but I don't know.”
It has been 11 races though since Ducati won in MotoGP when Stoner triumphed in emphatic fashion at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia last October. Does such a winless streak worry Rossi?
“The potential of the Ducati now is quite good and similar to Yamaha. Maybe the M1 is a bit better. I change from a better bike to a little bit worse bike, but not a big difference. I have to try, but I think it is not impossible.”
- For the full story read the August 18 issue of MCN, out tomorrow