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David Emmett

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Indianapolis is not given to great racing – a lack of use on the infield road course means that the track is usually fairly dirty once you get off line – and Sunday was no real exception. The MotoGP and Moto2 races were tactically brilliant and masterful displays of crushing the opposition, but neither was particularly entertaining to watch. Fortunately, nobody had told the Moto3 riders about the lack of great racing, and the youngsters got the day off to a fantastic start, with the race decided in the last sector of the track.

MotoGP has a love-hate relationship with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway: most of the paddock love the place, the rest hate it. The way those feelings are divided is what is really interesting, though: the admirers of the track include most of the media, the teams and many, many fans. Those that hate the track are a small but well-defined group: anyone either wielding a camera or a racing a motorcycle have very few kind words for IMS.

So why the schism? It really depends on what you are doing at the track: the circuit has some of the best facilities of any circuit the MotoGP circus goes to all year, making the life of the media, the teams and the fans exceptionally easy. The photographers, on the other hand, hate the track because of the fences. As a circuit that mainly hosts car races, there are high chain-link fences all around the circuit, to prevent debris from wrecked four-wheelers from flying into the spectators.

At a few selected spots on the circuit, there are openings in the fences for photographers to poke their lenses through, giving them an unobstructed view of the circuit. There are lots of photographers and relatively few camera holes, leaving gaggles of photographers gathered around the available shooting spots like narwhals around a breathing hole in the arctic icesheet.

Hector Barbera will be forced to miss the Red Bull Indianapolis GP, after suffering a back injury during the morning session of Friday’s free practice for the MotoGP class. Barbera suffered a nasty highside at Turn 16, his rear wheel appearing to catch on a section of track which appeared still to be dirty, and in the ensuing crash, Barbera landed on his neck and fractured three dorsal vertebrae, D5, D6 and D8. He was taken to the local Indianapolis Methodist Hospital, and has been ruled unfit to race.

So what are we to make of Valentino Rossi’s not-so-shocking decision to leave Ducati and go back to Yamaha? The initial reaction from fans and media was that the biggest losers from the move are Ducati as a manufacturer, and Rossi’s reputation as miracle worker when it comes to bike development. There is some merit in both those arguments, but perhaps it is not quite so clear cut as that. Rossi’s two years at Ducati have done a lot of damage to both parties – as well as to MotoGP’s popularity and TV income – but in the end, this move could have some very positive long-term repercussions.

As we mentioned last week, Andrea Dovizioso agreed to take the factory Ducati seat vacated by Rossi’s departure for Yamaha. His signature, it appears, was subject to certain conditions, though. According to reports in the Italian media, Dovizioso demanded guarantees of support and development from Audi before putting pen to paper.

Italian TV station Mediaset is now reporting that Dovizioso has now received those guarantees, and has signed a two-year deal to ride for Ducati in 2013 and 2014. Ducati’s choosing Dovizioso over Cal Crutchlow – Dovizioso’s British partner at the Tech 3 squad had earlier been offered the ride at Ducati – is an indication of the the future direction of the Bologna factory.

The deal appears to signal that Ducati has accepted that they need to focus their development on building a bike to suit a traditional Grand Prix style, as displayed by the Italian. It is perhaps a signal to Ducati’s new owners Audi that they understand the magnitude of the problem, and that the loss of Valentino Rossi is being taken very seriously indeed.

After official confirmation from Ducati that Valentino Rossi would be leaving at the end of the season, now comes the official press release from Yamaha, announcing he has been signed to a two-year deal to race for them in 2013 and 2014.

The Italian will line up alongside Jorge Lorenzo for the next two years, and the press release makes their goal very obvious: winning the triple crown of rider, manufacturer and team championships. The press release from Yamaha can be found after the jump.

Valentino Rossi’s imminent return to Yamaha – to be announced on Friday morning, Yamaha and Ducati having been forced to move the schedule forward once news of the switch leaked – will accelerate the final movements in MotoGP’s silly season, with the remaining open grid slots on prototype machines likely to be filled in very short order once the Rossi announcement has been made. Rossi’s return to Yamaha will be heralded much as his departure for fresher pastures at Ducati was, only this time the roles will be reversed.

First, Ducati will issue a release thanking Valentino Rossi for his time with the factory, and shortly after – minutes, rather than hours, – Yamaha will issue a press release welcoming Rossi back to the fold. The difference, perhaps, is that this time a love letter such as the one Rossi wrote to Yamaha after he left in the middle of 2010 is unlikely to be forthcoming.

With Rossi at Yamaha, that leaves five prototype seats still open: The factory Ducati left vacant by Rossi’s switch to Yamaha; the as-yet unfilled second Monster Tech 3 Yamaha seat (the first seat is for Bradley Smith, who will be moving up from Moto2 as provided for in the contract he signed with Herve Poncharal in the middle of last season); the San Carlo Gresini Honda bike currently being ridden by Alvaro Bautista; and the Ducati junior team seats, in a yet-to-be-decided structure with one or more yet-to-be-selected teams. So who will be filling those seats? And where does that leave the riders left standing once the music stops?

It is a bit of a risk, announcing that Valentino Rossi will be switching to Yamaha just a couple of days after getting caught out by a hacked Twitter and email account. This time, though, confirmation is coming from multiple sourcesincluding our own. Rossi will be leaving Ducati for Yamaha at the end of this season, with an official press release expected from Yamaha on the morning of August 15th, the Italian national holiday of Ferragosto, and the day before the paddock assembles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Red Bull Indianapolis GP.

The story we published yesterday about Valentino Rossi having been spotted at Yamaha’s European headquarters by former racer Niall Mackenzie turns out to have been incorrect. We, along with the French publication Moto Journal and the German-language magazine Speedweek were victims of a hoax. A Frenchman, speaking perfect English, had compromised the Twitter account of Niall Mackenzie and linked his own email address to it, so that the attempts we made to verify the news led to a single, incorrect source. The person having compromised the account  later confessed to one of the journalists involved in researching the story that it had been a hoax, and apologized for the inconvenience he had caused.

Signs that the story was factually incorrect had come out earlier. Valentino Rossi’s manager Davide Brivio posted a denial on his Twitter page late last night, saying “for sure he didn’t visit Yamaha HQ – he is on holiday!”

UPDATE: Sources confirm that Valentino Rossi was not at Yamaha HQ, and the news of his appearance was a hoax caused by a hacked Twitter account.

Valentino Rossi is set to make a return to Yamaha, abandoning Ducati after two long and difficult years of failure. The Italian was spotted at Yamaha Motor Europe’s headquarters at Schiphol-Rijk, an industrial estate next to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, by former racer Niall Mackenzie, who was visiting the Yamaha HQ while negotiating a deal for his younger son Tarran to race in Superstock next season. The Scotsman posted the sighting – naming only a ‘well-known Italian’ wearing ‘a big smile on his face’ – on his Twitter page, but when contacted by Thomas Baujard of the French magazine Moto Journal, confirmed his report to the magazine.

The news of Rossi’s return to Yamaha has been slowly leaking out since last Sunday’s Red Bull US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca. Speculative reports have appeared in leading English and Italian media, with Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport reporting that Rossi has been offered a two-year deal with Yamaha in MotoGP, with the option of making a switch to World Superbikes, to lead the development of the all-new Yamaha YZF-R1 which is expected for 2015. Yamaha pulled out of the World Superbike series at the end of the 2010 season, citing the global financial crisis and failing to achieve their marketing goals with the production-based series.