Ladies and gentlemen, we are in the thick of the MotoGP Silly Season, where the best rumors come to light the light of day. Some of the rumors are the tip of the iceberg of truth, while others are grounded in something more resembling idle speculation. Meanwhile, some silly rumors are just bona fide lies disguised as link bait and used to sell paper. It is all part of what we lovingly refer to as silly season, and this latest rumor definitely lives up to that nomenclature.

One of the latest musings to emerge from the Spanish press is the rumor that Valentino Rossi will be leaving Ducati Corse for a satellite Yamaha squad, which features a factory-spec bike sponsored by tobacco giant Marlboro. With the OEMs sticking to the four prototype bikes per manufacturer in MotoGP, and Monster Tech 3 Yamaha surely accounting for two of the Yamaha’s on the 2013 grid, the rumor would presumably mean a single-bike in the official Yamaha Racing factory team, and one in Rossi’s splinter faction.

With Yamaha already locking up Jorge Lorenzo for the next two seasons, there has been a sizable battle for the last remaining seat, which is currently occupied by Ben Spies. With the America struggling thus far in the season, both from factors within and outside of his control, Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow have both been in the running to take over Spies’ ride. However having Spies in the factory team is important for Yamaha USA, and it is not like anyone questions Mr. Elbowz potential or talent on two wheels.

The conundrum has been an interesting one to watch, as Dovizioso is clearly a talent on the Yamaha M1, and Crutchlow continues to mature rapidly into the sport of GP racing. With each rider having a plausible reason why he should get the last spot on the factory team, the question marks about Valentino Rossi’s future throw a wrench into the whole situation. While Rossi is tipped heavily to stay put at Ducati Corse, there has been chatter all season about his possible return to Honda and Yamaha.

Veteran voices in the paddock dismiss these ideas for a multitude of reasons, yet the rumors persist — either out of actual happenings or wishful thinking. There has been talk of a factory Honda in Gresini, a satellite Yamaha with Coca-Cola footing the bill, and now a factory Yamaha with Marlboro’s wallet behind it.

While the conjecture regarding Yamaha’s factory team is convoluted at best, with a web of strings pulling on any decision being made there (Cal has been offered Nicky Hayden’s job at Ducati, Bradley Smith has been guaranteed a prototype bike at Tech 3, and the MSMA seems resolute on the four-bike rule), the most interesting piece of this story is the Marlboro backing. Banned from making its presence officially known in the MotoGP paddock (the highlight of which being the bar code logo on Ducati Corse’s machines), Marlboro has been the long-time backer of the Ducati Corse MotoGP effort, and is said to foot a very sizable portion of the team’s expenses.

Why the tobacco giant would jump ship after some many years of collaboration to support Rossi is an interesting one, if not an unthinkable proposition. While Spanish site muses over the idea with some detail and observations from the Italian GP, the more likely explanation for appearance of Phillip Morris’s Maurizio Arrivabene (VP of Global Communications and Promotion) at the GP is for the influential sponsor to put some pressure on Dorna and other parties to help Ducati and Valentino become competitive in MotoGP.

Never say never, but this Yamaha/Marlboro rumor doesn’t seem to be too likely — if not unconscionable. Our money says Rossi on a Ducati until he retires from MotoGP racing, though expect some heavy concessions on project management from Ducati Corse.

Source: Motocuatro; Photo: © 2012 Jules Cisek / Popmonkey – All Rights Reserved

  • johnc

    “With the OEMs sticking to the four prototype bikes per manufacturer in MotoGP, and Monster Tech 3 Yamaha surely accounting for two of the Yamaha’s on the 2013 grid, the rumor would presumably mean a single-bike in the official Yamaha Racing factory team, and one in Rossi’s splinter faction.”

    or, DORNA could pull one of there famous “we changed our minds” ruling changes, and allow factories to supply more than four prototypes. i mean, if DORNA can change their minds on the rookie rule to suit a certain spanish rookie that just signed with HRC, they can make a change in the rules to accommodate the biggest ticket draw in motogp.

  • The 4-bike rule is simply RETARDED. If another team with another sponsor can foot the bill for a factory to put more real prototypes on the grid, Dorna should be all for it. There is no other argument to consider.

    Unless, of course, you want a grid of CRTs.

  • Calisdad

    Only the GOAT could pull that off. His brand, his marketability is right now perhaps a challenge for Ducati. But I really think he wants to succeed on a Ducati.

    As dominating as VRYM could be he has lifelong relationships I think he would rather embrace.

    Adding to the circus would demish his stature.

  • jae

    we race fans are lucky to have any involvement of Big-Tabacco, albeit in a neutered role of sponsorship. the money they poured into the sport in the past is sorely missed (look at Yamaha these past two years). i hope Marlboro can stay in MotoGP in a way that is mutually beneficial for both brands.

  • Westward

    Now that Audi controls Ducati, I have a feeling their influence will be felt in MotoGP. VW+Audi+Marlboro+Tim +Ducati+Rossi could very well equal an amazing evolution in the championship financially and development-wise. If Ducati are not making their own chassis, I would like to see them give the Kalex try, or go back to the trellis. Capirossi nearly won with it, and Stoner did…

  • BBQdog

    Marlboro ?? In most countries tobacco advertisement (on bikes, circuits) is forbidden.
    So what use should that have ?

  • smiler

    Like him or not. There never seems to be a lack of rumours regarding Mr Rossi.
    As was mentioned Dorma seem to make it up as they go along and why restrict the number of factory bikes, if they have the sponsorship. Talk about trying their best to help kill the sport.

    Personally I cannot see whjy Vale and Hayden have not tested the steel trellis, perhaps they have? Until Stoner trashed it and demanded another type of frame for the 08 season. He has criticised the fact that two of the same build of bike could feel different because of the frame and it was not rigid enough. Served him well as he managed to 4th place in 08 and 09 then jumped ship.

    It had at least provided some good results with pilots who were not top of the field. Burgess does not know much about them but at least they provide the same type of feedback and if the rider can feel the difference then surely that must be half the battle.

    Just hope Rossi, Hayden and Ducati go the distance and bring better racing to the sport. There would be a great mixture of new talent, nearly new’s and old tarts fighting for the podium. CRT’s could then form there own series.

  • Daniel

    I really hope/believe this not gonna happen. For me there is only one Marlboro Yamaha, the Rainey’s one. Still love my little TZR 125 R Marlboro Rainey Replica (4DL model, I don’t think Yamaha imported the model to north America but bing it and you will amazed). Rossi is not a man enough to compare with that legend. Leave him at Ducati whining about Barbera being faster than him on a Ducati Zero

  • Johan

    There is not much talk about Suzuki anymore (On AR at least). Have they confirmed that they are NOT returning to MotoGP in 2013? I’m hoping for Hayden on a competitive Suzuki next year :)

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  • Anvil

    The steel trellis is probably not coming back, guys. Apparently, even with the power that the 800s were making, they were having a difficult time making each of them consistently rigid, so one bike could work very differently from the next. And as engine power continues to rise, it only gets harder.

    Also, Suzuki is tipped to return in 2014, probably not next year. There has even been some speculation that Michael Jordan and Kevin Schwantz might be involved. That sounds like pure rumor now, but it would be interesting to see. Even further speculation has raised the possibility of Hayden and Spies teaming up there. Imagine that.

  • MikeD

    I found this one more credible:

    Factory specs Honda + Satellite Team = Rossi jumping ship before his current one takes him and his carreer down too with it ?

    If what that French Moto magazine said is to be believed…(^_^)

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  • Westward

    @ Daniel

    Rossi is not a man enough to compare with that legend?

    Rossi has won the premiere class title on three different iterations of the MotoGP machine – 500cc, 990cc, and the 800cc. Not to mention he also did so with two different manufacturers. He is also one of three to accomplish said feat. He is also up there with Doohan winning the title 5 times in a row as well, no one has more victories in the premiere class either, not even Agostini, who by the way has 7 titles in a row. A number only matched by Rossi.

    The only pilot that even compares to Rossi is Agostini, and should the Doctor ever get 17 wins or more, or another title, then that may even put him over Ago…