Valentino Rossi poised to sign Ducati deal?

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Speculation is rife in Assen that Valentino Rossi is poised to drop another transfer bombshell by confirming he will quit Yamaha and sign a lucrative contract with Ducati. 

It is the second time in his illustrious career that Rossi is pondering switching allegiances following his move to Yamaha from Honda for the 2004 world championship campaign.

His departure from Yamaha though would be a major surprise given his previous assertion that he wanted to finish his career with the Japanese factory.

And Yamaha always hoped that the 31-year-old would serve as a lifetime ambassador once he decided to retire from racing. 

Several key figures though in Yamaha fear that Rossi will depart at the end of the season with Ducati rumoured in the Italian media to have offered the Italian a contract believed to be worth around £15m.

Rossi has been perennially linked with Ducati ever since the iconic Italian manufacturer joined MotoGP in 2003.

He has flirted with a move before but has always remained loyal to Yamaha, largely because of his close relationship with Japanese boss Masao Furusawa.

Furusawa though is due to retire in the early part of next season.

The move is a major surprise given Rossi’s insistence as recently as the French GP in Le Mans that he intended to sign a new deal to stay with Yamaha.

It is not clear what might have triggered such a big change in heart from the nine-times world champion, but it is no secret that he was dead against continuing to ride for Yamaha as long as Jorge Lorenzo remained in the Fiat-backed squad.

And it would seem Lorenzo is going nowhere with the 23-year-old red-hot favourite to lift the title in 2010.

Rossi is currently recuperating from the broken right leg he suffered in a massive practice crash at Mugello earlier this month.

Rossi won the world title on a YZR-M1 990cc machine in 2004 and ’05 and he Rossi’s move to Ducati would give clear indication that 2007 world champion Casey Stoner is severing his ties with the Bologna factory at the end of the current campaign.

The 24-year-old has been linked with a switch to HRC since the second round of the championship in Jerez. Rossi would partner Nicky Hayden on board a factory Ducati GP11 having previously been team-mate to the popular American at Repsol Honda in 2003.

Rossi’s possible departure from Yamaha means current world championship leader Jorge Lorenzo will stay, though he is now likely to demand a big pay hike by assuming number one status.

The Spaniard will be joined in the factory team by Texan Ben Spies, who scored his maiden MotoGP podium in the British round at Silverstone last weekend.

Spies has a two-year contract direct with Yamaha in Japan and has made no secret of his desire to move to the factory team in 2011.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt