By Mike Nicks

Valentino Rossi's success in winning three consecutive races and soaring to the top of the MotoGP championship may have blocked Yamaha's plans to offer the seven-times world champion a pay cut in 2009, according to the daily Spanish newspaper Sport.

The dynamic pairing of Rossi and 21-year-old Jorge Lorenzo - the dream team that represents both the present and future of MotoGP - has also triggered a rush of blue-chip sponsors eager to replace Fiat as the factory Yamaha team's backers, the newspaper says.

Fiat's contract expires at the end of this year, and the car maker is said to be unlikely to renew its backing. But three or four major Spanish companies, including two banks, an insurance company and a telecommunications organization are ready to talk, according to Sport.

The telecommunications company is said to be Telefonica, who backed Dani Pedrosa in 125 and 250cc competition until the Spaniard moved to MotoGP. The banks may be Caja Madrid and Santander - the latter already active with Yamaha in World Superbikes.

Rossi and Lorenzo may each acquire his separate sponsor, according to the article's author, Germ?n G Casanova. And the total price of backing the two riders would be EUR12m per year, compared to the EUR6m per year that Fiat has paid in 2007 and 2008.

"No one has denied anything in the article," Casanova told me at Mugello on Sunday night.

His sources indicate that Yamaha were considering offering Rossi a cut from EUR7m to EUR5m in 2009. But Rossi's success wave may prompt him to think in the region of EUR10m a year - EUR6m from Yamaha and EUR4m from personal sponsors such as Kerakoli and Nastro Azzurro. He has to pay the Italian tax authorities EUR30m after his recent tax dispute.

The Doctor expects to sign a new Yamaha contract before the MotoGP summer break begins on July 20, but isn't yet sure if it'll be a one or two year deal.

Rossi is now handling his own negotiations after splitting from his former management team, and said in Mugello this week: "I love being my own manager."

 

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