Yamaha confirms Valentino Rossi.
Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. has concluded an agreement with 2003 World Champion Valentino Rossi to head its MotoGP line-up in 2004 and 2005. Rossi will join Yamaha's wholly-owned factory racing team from 1st January and will begin the 2004 championship on board the Yamaha YZR-M1 in South Africa on 18th April.
Rossi eventually won nine of the 16 races in this year's MotoGP World Championship having sealed his third consecutive premier class title with a victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix on 12 October. He celebrated the feat with emphatic race wins the following weekend in Australia and at the season finale in Valencia, Spain on Sunday, 2 November. The 24-year-old Italian's three MotoGP crowns followed a glittering career in the smaller classes that saw him take 125cc and 250cc World Championships before stepping up to motorcycle racing's premier series.
Rossi and Honda held a joint press conference at the Valencia circuit after last weekend's race to announce the end of their four-year relationship. The formal announcement cleared the way for Yamaha to conclude an agreement with Rossi.
"We are all extremely happy that Valentino will be joining Yamaha in 2004," commented Mr Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing. "In our discussions with him it is clear that he relishes the challenge of achieving our goal in MotoGP as much as we do. He is an incredible talent and will make a huge difference. Obviously there is a lot of hard work ahead of us, but we are confident that we can give Valentino the means to achieve more World Championships and we look forward to the challenge ahead. This is a very important step in our plan to re-establish Yamaha as a leading force in Grand Prix racing."
Rossi will be joining Spaniard Carlos Checa in the Yamaha factory team based near Monza in Italy and run by team director Davide Brivio. Checa's current team-mate, Italian Marco Melandri, will move to the Tech 3 Yamaha team (currently the Gauloises Yamaha Team). Managed by team principal Hervé Poncharal, the French based squad is a close partner of Yamaha. The combination ensures a strong line-up for Yamaha in 2004 and both teams will continue under the Yamaha-Altadis umbrella sponsorship agreement with the Gauloises and Fortuna brands. Final colours and co-sponsors for the 2004 season have yet to be announced.