can confirm that four of the six Repsol Honda team members directly responsible for running Valentino Rossi have left to join the Italian in his new adventure at Yamaha - with nine-times world champion crew chief Jerry Burgess heading the list.

While official Yamaha and Honda announcements have only referred to Rossi's two-year deal, it has been no secret that the #46 wanted those who have worked so faultlessly for him on the RC211V to join him - but would they would pick Rossi over HRC?

Yamaha have told that four did, and Rossi can now count on the continued support of not only Burgess - a Honda employee for twenty-one years - but also mechanics' Bernard Anciau (five years with Honda), Alex Briggs (eleven years with Honda) and Gary Coleman (four years with Honda) when he throws his leg over an M1 for the first time in January.

Rossi is said to have been so keen to have his crew move with him that he personally paid them a bonus, and it's easy to see why - Burgess (top pic) is the most highly regarded member of the Repsol team after Rossi himself, having guided the likes of Randy Mamola, Ron Haslam, Freddie Spencer, Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan before joining forces with the Italian.

The combination of Burgess and his highly skilled mechanics means that while Rossi will have plenty of work ahead to return the M1 to the top step of the podium, he'll now have the same proven people to help him.

By contrast, Honda have been dealt a further infuriating blow to their 2004 preparations, and will now have to quickly recruit replacements to join the two team members - mechanics Dickie Smart (fourteen years with Honda) and Peter Benson (eight years with Honda) - staying to work with Rossi's mystery replacement.



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