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When Casey Stoner was asked on Thursday about the key to his speed through Turn 3 – now renamed Stoner Corner in his honor – he refused to answer, saying only that he might tell everyone after he had retired. To anyone watching Stoner scorch around that corner and the rest of the track, the secret was plain to see: the Australian is completely in his element, totally comfortable and confident in every move he makes at the circuit.

Stoner left thick black lines round most of the left handers at the circuit, including daubing them all over the inside of the kerbs at Turn 3. It was a display of mastery that left even the injured Ben Spies in awe, watching at home on the computer. “I gotta say without a doubt Casey Stoner does stuff even GP racers watch and scratch their head at!” Spies posted on his Twitter page. Stoner ended nine tenths of a second up on second-place man Dani Pedrosa, the only man to dip into the 1’29s (just, his fastest lap being 1’29.999), and the only man bar Pedrosa to hit the 1’30s.

Coming down to an almost 50/50 split between raw salary and endorsements, Rossi is estimated to make a tidy $30 million per year, tying him for the 20th spot with Formula 1’s Michael Schumacher. The only MotoGP star to top the Top 100 on Forbes’ list, it just goes to show that MotoGP salaries and endorsement contracts aren’t always about results. The Top 20, and other notable entries from the Forbes’ research are listed after the jump.

A colleague asked me this weekend what it must be like be a walking a economy, to answer that question all we have to do is ask the man himself, Valentino Rossi. The nine-time World Champion is the 7th highest paid athlete in the world according to Sports Illustrated, and makes significantly more money than some other notable riders in MotoGP.

While earning nearly triple the salary of Fiat-Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo, Rossi also makes $15 million more in take home income (salary + endorsements) than tennis star Maria Sharapova, for example. Perhaps even more astounding is the fact that this is an off-year for Rossi, who was 5th on the SI list last year, but that’s what happens when you’re apart of an industry that nearly collapsed during the recession. Check after the jump for more MotoGP salaries.

Let’s avoid the the “scoops”, “exclusives”, and “OMG’s”, and just say that Asphalt & Rubber has received word from a trusted source that Valentino Rossi has signed a two-year agreement with Ducati, that’s set to be announced on Monday…and boom goes the dynamite (sorry, we couldn’t resist). The Rossi/Ducati fantasy has been put forth for years, with the fervor on the subject reaching its pinnacle this season, as Ducati reportedly wafted a €15 million salary (almost double Yamaha’s offer) in front of the nine-time World Champion.

The Italian press is buzzing about the latest silly season info regarding Valentino Rossi, and where he will be racing next year. According to Corriere dello Sport, Ducati has upped their offer to Rossi to €15 million and has included provisions that would allow the Italian to race later with either Ferrari F1 or Fiat Rally teams once he’s finished with motorcycle racing. Now…you’d expect Yamaha to up its ante on the nine-time World Champion, right? Not quite. Instead Yamaha has reduced Valentino’s Rossi contract price from the €14 million they current pay him each year to €9 million. More on the reasoning behind that after the jump.