Yamaha confirm Valentino Rossi's return

As expected, Valentino Rossi has inked a deal that will take him back to Yamaha as team-mate to Jorge Lorenzo from next season.
Rossi, USA MotoGP 2012
Rossi, USA MotoGP 2012
© Gold and Goose

Yamaha has confirmed that Valentino Rossi will return to its factory MotoGP team to race alongside Jorge Lorenzo for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

A triple world champion for Honda, Rossi went on to win four more titles and 46 of his record 79 premier-class wins for Yamaha between 2004 and 2010.

Then came an ill-fated switch to Ducati, which has produced just two podiums from 27 races, prompting Rossi to abandon the all-Italian dream and seek an M1 return.

"This announcement is once again excellent news for Yamaha," said Yamaha Motor Racing MD Lin Jarvis, "In June, we were able to sign Jorge Lorenzo for the 2013-14 campaign and now we are able to confirm Valentino Rossi for the next two years. In doing so, we have been able to put together the strongest possible team to challenge for victories and to promote the Yamaha brand."

Despite appearing to find a natural home at Yamaha in 2004, cracks in the relationship began to appear when the factory signed up-and-coming star Lorenzo to replace Colin Edwards alongside Rossi for 2008.

Lorenzo soon proved to be a competitive thorn in Rossi's side, prompting the retention of a wall between the pit garages even after the single tyre rule was introduced. Lorenzo grew stronger with each passing season and was leading the 2010 championship when Rossi broke his leg at Mugello.

Rossi returned later in the year and claimed a symbolic 46th victory with Yamaha - at the Malaysian race where Lorenzo was crowned champion - by which time he had already announced a headline grabbing switch to home manufacturer Ducati.

The Doctor had moved to Ducati with the aim of trying to become the first ever rider to win premier-class titles for three different manufacturers. But Rossi, like most of the paddock, had severely underestimated how much of Casey Stoner's success was purely down to the Australian's irreplicable talent.

Despite major technical changes to try and accommodate Rossi, which saw the Desmosedici morph from a stressed-engine carbon chassis motorcycle to an unstressed twin-spar aluminium design by 2012, Rossi was unable to repeat his sensational switch from Honda to Yamaha.

A lack of front-end feel had been prevalent almost throughout and Rossi has scored just two podiums to date on the Italian bike. At 33-years of age Rossi appears to have felt that he simply couldn't afford to wait any longer for success.

Audi's recent purchase of Ducati was touted as a possible route to success, but it is hard to see how the German giant - with no two-wheel experience - could instantly transform the project.

Over time, Audi will certainly be able to assist in terms of cutting edge materials, manufacturing techniques and aerodynamics - plus software and simulation/modelling - but solving rider 'feel' issues is far from a purely mathematical challenge.

For Yamaha, Rossi's return is largely a win-win situation.

Firstly it is an acknowledgement of their technical abilities and will doubtless bring huge marketing benefits, including the potential of a title sponsor, while if Rossi struggles it will be seen as down to the Italian rather than the bike.

The only risk is that Rossi's return will destabilise Lorenzo, who is currently enjoying incredible form, finishing no lower than second in the nine races he has finished this year. However, Lorenzo more than held his own as Rossi's 'number two' and will start next year as Yamaha's number one regardless of Rossi's return.

"We have run this 'super team' together in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and, during that time, we achieved the 'triple crown' titles with rider, manufacturer and team world championship victories for three consecutive years," Jarvis said of the previous Lorenzo-Rossi tandem, "The target for the future is obvious and we will do our utmost to achieve our goals.

"I have no doubt that with the experience, knowledge, skills and speed of these two great champion riders we will be able to challenge for many race wins and for the 2013 and 2014 world championship titles.

"The signing of Valentino completes our future planning for the Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team. Now that this is done we will put our 100 per cent efforts into completing the job at hand and to supporting Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo in their search for race victories and for Jorge's 2012 world championship title challenge."

Spies, Lorenzo's team-mate since 2010, announced his departure prior to the US GP.

After ten of 18 rounds, Lorenzo leads this year's world championship by 23 points over Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa, with Stoner 32-points from the top in third.

Rossi is eighth in the championship, two points behind team-mate and top Ducati rider Nicky Hayden, who has been re-signed for 2013. At the same stage last season Rossi was fifth in the championship with 108 points.

Among the leading contenders to take Rossi's place at Ducati are Yamaha Tech 3 riders Andrea Dovizioso or Cal Crutchlow, who have both had their Factory M1 hopes thwarted by Rossi's return.

While his Ducati title dream is over, Rossi - who has taken 105 wins across all grand prix classes - still has a major record to aim for in the form of Giacomo Agostini's all-time total of 122 grand prix wins.

One more title for Rossi would also equal Agostini's premier-class crowns.

But after so long without a win - Rossi's previous longest GP losing streak was ten races, during his rookie 1996 season in 125cc - Rossi's first goal will simply be a return to the top step.

One major obstacle between Rossi and a return to victory, Casey Stoner, will also be removed from the equation next season.

Reigning double champion Stoner, the most successful rider since 2006 and Ducati's only MotoGP champion, is to retire at the end of 2012. Stoner moved from Ducati to Honda for the start of last season.

It is assumed that Rossi will again bring his loyal mechanics, led by crew chief Jerry Burgess, back with him to Yamaha.

In addition to Rossi, Lorenzo and Hayden, Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda), Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) and Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Yamaha) have also signed deals for 2013 manufacturer (non CRT) MotoGP rides.

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