Valentino Rossi will part company with Yamaha for Ducati at the end of the season. The announcement sees the reigning MotoGP world champion bring an end to his hugely successful seven-season association with Yamaha. The Italian has won four MotoGP world titles with the Japanese manufacturer since joining the factory squad from Honda in 2004. Having signed a two-year deal to ride with Ducati from 2011, and the 31-year-old admitted leaving the team had brought a special relationship to a close.
"It is very difficult to explain in just a few words what my relationship with Yamaha has been in these past seven years," said Rossi. "Many things have changed since that far-off time in 2004, but especially 'she', my M1, has changed. At that time she was a poor middle-grid position MotoGP bike, derided by most of the riders and the MotoGP workers. Now, after having helped her to grow and improve, you can see her smiling in her garage, courted and admired, treated as the 'top of the class'.
"Now the moment has come to look for new challenges; my work here at Yamaha is finished. Unfortunately even the most beautiful love stories finish." A Yamaha team statement read: "Valentino has played a huge part in the history of Yamaha and he will always remain an important part of Yamaha's heritage. "Yamaha is extremely grateful for Valentino's contributions to its racing successes over the past seven years and it would like to wish him the very best in his future racing endeavours.
"Yamaha will be putting all its efforts into ensuring a successful and happy end to the partnership over the remaining races." Yamaha are expected to draft in American Ben Spies as Rossi's replacement in the factory squad. Spies currently rides for the Tech 3 Yamaha team. * Press Association