Yamaha are believed to have turned down the chance to keep Gauloises/Fortuna backing for their factory team next season - and instead plan to run star rider Valentino Rossi in a special Yamaha livery.

Speedtv.com's Dennis Noyes reveals that whilst Altadis (owners of the Gauloises and Fortuna tobacco brands) have a contract that states they can't be replaced as title sponsor for the factory Yamaha team, they can't prevent Yamaha simply running Rossi in their own colours in 2005...

"It was at the French GP that news first surfaced of Yamaha's intention to run Rossi on an un-sponsored machine in 2005, carrying only the Yamaha tuning forks logo on a light golden fairing, golden because 2005 is the 50th anniversary year of Yamaha. (There might be a Gauloises logo low on the keel.)" writes Noyes on the Speed TV website.

"Altadis first thought this was just a bargaining tactic by Yamaha to sweeten the renewal. After all, the French-Spanish company sponsors both Yamaha teams and is budgeted to spend a combined 54 million dollars over the 2004-2005 seasons. (Yamaha described the 54 million bucks as a "tip" compared to their real corporate R&D costs.)

"...Altadis, when they did their contract with Yamaha for 2004 and with strong options for 2005, took every precaution to prevent Yamaha from having any loophole that would allow any other commercial sponsor to take their place next year. Apparently they never dreamed that Yamaha would choose to forego any form of title sponsorship and simply run Rossi and his bike in institutional Yamaha markings."

Possible reasons for the ground-breaking decision are given as Yamaha's desire to get a greater return on their investment in Rossi by visibly linking more closely with the Italian (so his success sells motorcycles, instead of cigarettes), plus pressure from the anti-smoking #46 and increasingly restrictive tobacco advertising legislation worldwide.

Meanwhile, the factory Ducati team has issued an official denial of any premature split with their own tobacco title sponsor, Marlboro.

"In the wake of rumours that surfaced during last weekend's German GP, the Ducati Marlboro Team wishes to underline that the agreement between Philip Morris and Ducati Corse is of four-year duration, and will conclude at the end of the 2006 season," read a Ducati statement.

"In reiterating the duration and the validity of the contract, both sides also take this opportunity to confirm their desire to respect these agreements, while maintaining the mutual trust and spirit of collaboration that has always been a characteristic of this MotoGP team."

Marlboro switched support from Yamaha to Ducati last year, for the Bologna based company's debut MotoGP season - where the team went on to claim one win, eight podiums and three pole positions on its way to second in the constructors' championship.

After a tough first half of the 2004 season, Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss have yet to take a single win, podium or pole position.