Over 38,000 fans turned out to see Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden during a special 'Ducati Night' pre-season send-off party at Bologna's Piazza Maggiore, ahead of the 2011 MotoGP season.

"It's really nice to be here," said Rossi, during an earlier visit to the nearby Ducati factory. "We'll do everything we can to finish at the front and do a good job. Thanks for the great support; the bikes that you make here are beautiful. Please keep doing a good job, and we'll try to do the same on the track."

"It's really special to be here," confirmed Hayden. "I've worked for other companies, but Ducati is unique; the bike is special, and the people who work here are special. Now let's hope we can give you the results that you all deserve."

The evening party was kicked off by comedians Giuseppe Giocabazzi and Sergio Sgrilli, while musical group Stadio played their hits.

The high-point was the on-stage appearance of Rossi and Hayden aboard their GP11 race bikes, which will be used for the first time in anger at Qatar on March 20.

At 9:45 p.m., the unmistakable sound of the Desmosedici's desmodromic engine was heard and, following the appearance of the Ducati Marlboro Team, the riders arrived on stage aboard their bikes, and the square responded with a thunderous ovation.

"This has been a truly fantastic day," said Gabriele Del Torchio, Ducati Motor Holding President, at the end of the evening.

"The packed square that we've seen tonight speaks for itself. The city has responded enthusiastically, and many, many ducatisti have come from all over Italy to help us celebrate Nicky, Vale, and the start of the 2011 MotoGP season.

"During this evening's press conference, Industry Councillor for the Emilia Romagna region, Gian Carlo Muzzarelli, officially signed the protocol that will allow us to begin work on a new plant here, confirming the importance of Borgo Panigale as our headquarters...

"The company has embarked on an important globalization project to seize opportunities that arise in markets around the world. Bologna will remain at the center, however. Borgo Panigale will be the company's head, its heart, but also its hands.

"It's not that we're unaware of the opportunities for globalization these days, but Borgo Panigale's role will always be one of strategic importance. It's extremely satisfying to be able to make such an announcement on this magical evening."

Rossi and Hayden will next be on track at the Qatar test from March 13-14, where they will be seeking clear improvements after two tough tests at Sepang.



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