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Ignite Asset Management is a new name in the MotoGP paddock’s lexicon, as well as the new sponsor of Ducati’s “junior” team. While each year sponsors come and go, Ignite is a bit different from the usual batch of names plastered on the side of a GP bike, and the investment firm is getting some interesting play in the otherwise unassuming motorcycle world. If you are not sure what an “alternative asset management” investing firm happens to be, then the American company’s self-description as a “management firm led by a group of hedge fund industry veterans and supported by private investors that are driven by the undiscovered alpha” is going to really leave you really wondering what slicks-back the hair on these Wall Street types.

It has been an intense week or so for speculation about the next and biggest cog in MotoGP’s Silly Season merry-go-round. The question of Valentino Rossi’s future has filled the media, with multiple, and sometimes conflicting, stories appearing in the international press. So, that Rossi should dominate the headlines is logical. After all, with Casey Stoner retiring, and the futures of Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez all settled, Rossi’s decision will determine not just where he lands, but also to a massive degree it will determine who will fill the rest of the seats in MotoGP next year.

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.

Besides the Rossi-Ducati situation, how Casey Stoner will fare with HRC’s 2011 bike is on everyone’s mind, not least of all Jorge Lorenzo’s, who was just quoted as saying Stoner, not Rossi, would be his main competition in 2011. Stoner’s rookie MotoGP season showed flashes of brilliance, ruined repeatedly by a Michelin front tire that was not up to the demands Stoner placed on it.

Back on a Honda, Stoner will have the magnificent Bridgestone front tire without the Ducati’s temperament to manage at every corner, plus several years’ experience and a world title in his pocket since that rookie season. Given what Stoner got out of the Ducati, he should be very dangerous indeed on HRC’s final 800cc bike.”

The Portuguese GP is only a handful of days away, and already the talk about the return of Casey Stoner to MotoGP racing is becoming a fervor. Absent for over a month now, Stoner’s return to the MotoGP is expected to be both anti-climatic in results, but monumental in quieting the circulating rumors.

Likely to disappoint any remaining fans, the young Australian is out of any points contention for the Championship, and isn’t expected to be on his A-game come this Sunday. Making matters worse are the clearly strained relations within the Ducati team and Stoner, as well as with title sponsor Marlboro cigarettes. Recently Maurizio Arrivabene, the most senior executive inside Philip Morris’ motorsports division stated he hopes “Stoner has the decency to apologize to the team in Portugal.”