Ducati CEO Confirms MotoGP's Worst-Kept Secret: Rossi And Hayden At Ducati For 2011 - UPDATED

It is hard to pin down at exactly what stage a rumor stops being a rumor and becomes news, a fact demonstrated by Valentino Rossi's impending move to the Ducati MotoGP team. The very first rumors emerged around the weekend of Mugello, the story broken by veteran Italian journalist Paolo Scalera of the Corriere dello Sport. By the time the MotoGP paddock arrived at Assen, the paddock was positively buzzing with rumors, and at Barcelona, speculation switched from whether Rossi would switch to Ducati to when he would announce it. At the German Grand Prix in the Sachsenring, Rossi cleared up that detail as well: any announcement on his future, he told the pre-event press conference, would have to wait until Brno.

Unfortunately for the nine-time World Champion, his thunder has been stolen by his new boss. In an interview with Bruno dePrato for US magazine Cycle World  -ostensibly about the new Ducati Mega Monster, and the factory's new V-twin they will be contesting the World Superbike series with -  Ducati CEO Gabriele del Torchio let slip that they have already fixed their rider lineup for 2011 in MotoGP.  "This season will not bring to Ducati any crown in the sport," Del Torchio said of 2010, "but I look forward to Valentino Rossi teaming up with Nicky Hayden."

Finally, we have confirmation of Rossi's move - and Hayden's re-signing - from an official source at Ducati. There had been plenty of off-the-record comments and remarks - every journalist in the paddock seemed to have a source confirming Rossi's arrival, and such stories were swapped enthusiastically, the names always changed to protect sources - and so Rossi's impending switch to Ducati had already moved far beyond being a mere rumor. The fans and the media had been left hanging in limbo, awaiting an announcement enforced by factory politics - Rossi's move was reportedly pushed back to Brno by Yamaha, who wanted Rossi riding in Yamaha colors at the US GP at Laguna Seca, an event Yamaha is heavily involved in with sponsorship - yet one which had been signed around the time of the Catalunya GP in Barcelona, according to Asphalt & Rubber.

Now, though, the cat is out of the bag, and as expected, Valentino Rossi will line up alongside Nicky Hayden at Ducati in 2011. Rossi will still hold his press conference at Brno - Hayden may wait until the Red Bull Indianapolis GP two weeks' later to make an announcement - but the announcement will no longer be news. Instead, Rossi will still face a barrage of questions from the assembled media - on how big a risk the move is, on whether he believes he can turn the Ducati around, on whether he feels he has been chased out of Yamaha by Jorge Lorenzo, and a million other details - but speculation will now focus on whether Rossi will be bringing his pit crew - the group of people who have surrounded him since he entered MotoGP in the year 2000 - with him to Ducati. Long-time racing veteran and paddock insider Dennis Noyes believes he will, but crew chief Jerry Burgess has refused to comment, saying that he will make his own decision towards the end of the season.

With Rossi now "officially unofficially" signed, and Casey Stoner already confirmed with Honda for 2011, that leaves only two of MotoGP's Fantastic Four unsigned. Dani Pedrosa had been widely expected to announce he had renewed his contract with Honda after the Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca, but after crashing out in the race, the Spaniard was disinclined to make a formal statement. Jorge Lorenzo, meanwhile, is almost certain to sign up with Yamaha again, where he will be paired with current Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider Ben Spies. Although Lorenzo has been coy on his future, there is no reason for the Spaniard to leave, and with the possibility of Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica - or their mobile network subsidiary Movistar - stepping in to replace the departing Fiat (who Rossi will also be taking with him to Ducati), there are plenty of financial and marketing incentives to stay.


Motoblog.it has added a note to their story saying that Ducati has denied that Del Torchio made the reported comments about Rossi and Hayden. Whether this is a case of backpedalling after a slip of the tongue or an error on the part of Cycle World's European editor is up to the reader to decide.

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No matter what they say, the racing world has silently hoped and wished for this, but somehow always dismissed it loudly.

Now, it is getting closer to reality and it just boggles the imagination to think that at the start of the first race next season, Rossi will be in Italian Red. Possibly with Fiat joining the fold - completing the Italian triumvirate that Aprilia in Superbikes have so successfully engineered.

It will be great to be an Italian race fan next year, that's for sure.

I sort of knew this was too big for Rossi to keep under his hat (officially, at least) until Brno.
I am sad to see his relationship with Yamaha end. I guess the lure of an Italian on a Ducati was too much to resist though. That and the ignominy of taking a salary cut for Jorge.
In the end I think Yamaha are stupid for not finding a way to keep them both.

...heard on belgian TV by the MotoGP commentator (Didier de Radiguès, personnal friend of one of Rossi's mechanic, the belgian Bernard Anciau): "I can't wait to see Bernard in red" seems to imply that Rossi will come with at least one of his guys.
Burgess ? His silence begins to be noisy and actually make him look rather silly :)

It is not up to him to make announcements so for me his silence is one of the many reasons he is the best. His job is to make the bike work and nothing else and that is what he does. An absolute god of the sport he may be but PR and Marketing are definitely not his game.

I have to admit I was still a little wary of all the rumors, even though they became pretty persisten. But I am glad I for once made a right prediction last year - although I did not foresee Lorenzo playing such a big part in it.
And Fiat Ducati? Really?

Good on Mr del Torchio for letting the cat out of the bag, whether intentionally or not. He's the paymaster, it's his prerogative to announce who his employee's are.

Just because he signs the cheque, that doesn't mean he gets to do whatever he wants.

If the deal has been made, why do you suppose is hasn't been confirmed publicly? There must have been some sort of contractual restraint or a gentleman's agreement about the timing of the announcement.

Now del Torchio shoots his mouth off while he gets cozy with a moto journo. I guess he's either a gossip who can't keep a secret, or an elitist who thinks he doesn't have to honor his commitments. Either way, it's poor form.

Kevin Schwantz was quoted in MCN saying the Vatican will have to re-think their sunday services as all of Italy will be watching MotoGP!

JB and VR taught Yamaha to out Honda Honda, assuming JB goes it will be interesting to see if they can teach Ducati to out Honda Yamaha!!

As a Yamaha fan, a VR fan, and a JL fan I would of liked them to stay put but funnily enough neither party even called me.

Good luck to them all.

... to go with Rossi to Ducati means that he may have a chance to work with Hayden, after all.  Since he was robbed of the opportunity at HRC, this is, perhaps, incentive to have a long-term deal for his services as part of the negotiations in Bologna.

official (counter) statement from Ducati Corse:

Press release - official statement

Regarding the recent allegations attributed to Gabriele Del Torchio - Ducati CEO and President, Ducati states that no agreement has been reached with the riders Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden for the future Moto GP season, although our interest in these riders remains.

We would like to say that the recent news which has appeared on the US website Cycle World and other websites has been misreported and must be attributed to the many rumors circulating lately.

Whether and when an agreement is reached, official press releases will be issued.

DUCATI riders salary bill to triple ! Will they get 3 times the results? I dont think so. And, definitely not with HAYDEN.

So, MARLBORO have got the wonder kid. Should be interesting. Looks like I transfer my allegiance back to HONDA. Hope STONER blitzes them them all.

For all intents and purposes, del Torchio remarks are confirmation that Rossi has signed, but you do have to consider the possibility that del Torchio is not accustomed to the GP game, and that his remarks are a result of the "telephone" effect. I'm assuming that Claudio Domenicali is directly involved in Rossi's signing. Imo, del Torchio can't be more than 1-degree of separation from the actual contract.

However, it's still very difficult b/c Corse is an independent outfit within Ducati, and I've always heard that it is run by intransigent engineers and racers who are quite territorial and who resist corporate influences from Ducati. Did Domenicali intentionally omit the details in order to make del Torchio happy, and get him out of the way?

If del Torchio doesn't know enough not to confirm that Rossi is riding for Ducati, he can't be that closely involved with the racing department which lowers his credibility, imo. Technically, he did not say Rossi had signed either.

However, Ducati denied that del Torchio made the comments, not that they are inaccurate. Perhaps this is the real confirmation?

Proposal...'I'll think about it and tell you two weeks from now'. Now Ducati are already out on the town celebrating. Rossi feeling the coersion. 'Should I stay or should I go'?
Rossi will probably enjoy a swan song by busting Lorenzo on the Yamaha as much as he did winning his title back from Stoner,perhaps more than winning on a third manufacturer's bike.
What a stupid slip of the tongue by Ducati,whichever way you look at it.
Pre-empt Rossi's announcement by two weeks ? Rossi has such a massive ego,he's probably seething.
Probably sees this potential move as an unacceptable proposal and a future marriage made in Hell.
Realistically,he won't beat Jorge on a Yamaha to a Championship. Casey on the Honda will probably also be a bridge too far.

Seems to me that the only party trying to keep a lid on this are Yamaha for whatever reason. Why would Del Torchio give a **** what Yamaha want?

Rossi and Burgess are still Yamaha employees and must tow the line but Del Torchio can toy with the press as much as he wants. I seriously doubt that this was a gaff, he's just jabbing Yamaha in the ribs.

Ducati are playing along as part of an agreement to allow Rossi to test the Ducati at Valencia, reportedly. If they don't, he would have to wait till Sepang in February. Testing is going to be very limited again, and they need Rossi on the bike.

I don't understand. If Rossi signs with Ducati for 2011, why would Yamaha prevent him from testing in red at Valencia? Just to spite Ducati? Do contacts only end on Dec 31st?

All the riders that have left one manufacturer for another and tested at the end of a season have always had to have permission?


I believe that riders are contracted on a calender year basis and that Rossi would technically be contracted to Yamaha until the end of the year.

There has always been a kind of gentleman's agreement between the teams that they will release riders after the end of the racing season but technically they don't have to.

It would be highly unusual for Yamaha to not allow Rossi to test the Ducati after Valencia and would make them look bitter and petty. Most teams and riders are ready to move on as soon as the racing stops.

That's what I thought, so "Ducati playing along" really makes no sense.

None of it does actually...I was actually leaning towards a translation error, myself. Like rumerz.com said.

Maybe you folks have forgotten that happened after the 2003 season.
Rossi had signed to ride for Yamaha in 2004, but Honda held his contract until the end of 2003.
And Honda did not allow Rossi to test the Yamaha. He had to wait until January of 2004.

The last person to be prevented from riding the bike after switching manufacturers was one V. Rossi. Honda prevented Rossi from testing until after his contract expired - on December 31st, like almost all MotoGP contracts do, as you correctly point out. Then, it wasn't so bad, as there were 6 or 7 tests after the winter break. But in 2010/2011, there'll be just four tests before the season starts again, and if Rossi is not allowed to ride at Valencia, he'll be down to just three tests.

I would have bet money the term "translation error" would appear somewhere in the article, or comments here.

where does that leave marlboro? marlboro are known to pay most of ducati corse's budget, surely they aren't going by the wayside?

is fiat going to be a minor team sponsor or perhaps just rossi's personal sponsor on his leathers or helmet?

Marlboro fronts most of the money for Ducati's MotoGP program. Fiat's sponsorship of Yamaha is probably a third or less of Marlboro's contribution to Ducati. So the bikes will be red, and they'll find a spot to put a Fiat logo on there somewhere.

I'd stick with Yamaha. I wouldn't want my brand diluted with Tobacco. It wouldn't be a good match. If FIAT is serious about their Dodge relationship with the 500 release (I don't believe they are) I wouldn't budge from Yamaha. Hell, Spies may even be a great spokesperson in the English speaking world for them. It's not like they'd be trotting out Hayden to impress the masses with his public speaking skills. Plus, they could probably stay with Yamaha for a bargain now that Rossi is gone. Poor Jorge may get a championship and not a base salary raise now that his leverage is diminished.

IMHO you are either under estimating Nicky or over estimating most Americans. I don't know what Fiat will choose to do, but if they go with Nicky, I'm certain it will be a successful advertising campaign. In my Fiat ad, Nicky is driving a 500 highlighting its handling prowess: on a track, on a mountain road, on the Interstate, and finally cutting through city traffic before pulling into a filling station for a brief stop/go - having noticed the fuel gauge is still almost on full - then accelerating back into traffic without needing to fuel up. "Hi. I'm Nicky Hayden, and I approve of the 500's performance." is all Nicky would have to say.

Ben is a great guy, but you can't accuse him of being overly charismatic. He is a great talent, but at this moment I am not sure he's a better salesman than Nicky is.

I think Nicky has great appeal to 'good ol boys' but I doubt any amount of editing could make him sound believable to people outside that group, who would never buy a 500 anyway as a giant giant pick up truck is more the vehicle of that demographic.

But I also understand that the sponsorship considerations are unlikely to be considered outside of the scope of Italy or Spain. Just think, could Brett Favre sell TVs in Barcelona?

Italian money leaves, Spanish money takes its place. Fiat were interested in Rossi mainly for their domestic market. When they go, a large Spanish company (probably mobile phone carrier Movistar) will step in to fill the gap. Their contribution will probably match Fiat's, and cover Lorenzo's salary without too many problems. 

While I can see you're logic, it's pretty much unthinkable that FIAT wouldn't follow Rossi to Ducati.

A lot of people seem to be wondering how Ducati can afford the salary demands of Rossi but miss the link to Ferrari who have been saying for years that they would put up the money to see Rossi on a Ducati, or better still, in one of their F1 cars.

FIAT owns 85% of Ferrari which has also had Marlboro sponsorship for over a decade so the connections are already very strong between these companies and no conflict exists.

The only reason this Italian dream team has never happened before is purely down to Rossi's resistance to the pressure from FIAT & Ferrari to join Ducati. It has actually been quite baffling to most Italians why Rossi didn't do this years ago.

Anyway, the notion that FIAT wouldn't follow Rossi is quite absurd but of course I could be completely wrong!

When Rossi finally speaks publicly about the change to Ducati, he will cite the collective good of the sport or he will reference MotoGP's dire financial situation.

This is how we will know that Dorna have transferred him. I'm not sure if it will happen in the initial press conference, but he will say it on record at least a half dozen times.

Do you think the move is being driven by Dorna? I dont. I think its an ego battle between Rossi, Yamaha and Jorge. I think Rossi is letting his pride get in the way of sportsmanship. He should have stayed at Yamaha and attempted to beat Jorge on equal machinery, and if he couldnt beat him, oh well.

That said, I understand why Rossi would feel insulted by his pay cut being given to Jorge. Yamaha should have waited until Jorge defeated Rossi (assuming that it happens) before teeter-tottering the pay scales. Then the change would have been warranted. Decreasing the Champs pay before he was dethroned was premature.

Difficult situation for all three parties for sure.

If Dorna pay the teams to hire riders from certain countries in order to increase the financial TV contracts within Europe, it is logical to conclude that Dorna are also in the business of subsidizing Valentino Rossi's salary since he is worth approximately 20% of the TV audience.

Furthermore, we all understand that Valentino Rossi's marketing value is likely far in excess of 9m euros. I'd suspect that Rossi generates those kinds of revenues for Yamaha simply through merchandising and sponsorship. The sales revenues are probably even greater. I find it very difficult to believe that the man from Europe's biggest motorcycle market (by far) is having his salary cut in half when he pays for himself 10 times over. It is more likely that Dorna have decided to stop paying Yamaha for Rossi's services b/c Dorna have decided that they get more bang for their buck if they shake things up by subsidizing Rossi's salary at Ducati. Yamaha cannot respond b/c their corporate coffers are empty.

Jorge's big raise could also be Dorna sponsored b/c he will be (knock on wood) only the second Spanish premier class champion in the history of the sport. His position on a championship winning Yamaha is extremely important for Spanish TV money. Does anyone really believe that Yamaha would pay Rossi and Jorge the same amount when 1 guy has 7 championships and sells tens/hundreds of thousands of motorcyles, and the other guy might win his first world championship and he might sell tens of thousands of motorcycles? I don't. The deal makes no sense. I reject the possibility that Lin Jarvis is an incompetent boob so I have to go in search of other explanations. Yamaha's current offer to Jorge and Rossi makes perfect sense for Dorna who need to maximize Spanish and Italian TV revenues. Dorna cannot tell Yamaha what to do so they must introduce financial incentives in order to create the version of the sport they want.

Imo, Dorna are paying part of Jorge's salary in order to keep him on a championship winning bike for the Spanish TV companies. Imo, Dorna are sending Rossi to Ducati to shake up the sport and make the Italian TV companies happy. Yamaha are unable to respond b/c their corporate coffers are empty.

I dont understand this...

"Dorna are sending Rossi to Ducati to shake up the sport and make the Italian TV companies happy."

Arent the Italian TV companies happy as long as Rossi is in the series? Are those TV companies going to write bigger checks to DORNA because Rossi is on a Duc? I doubt it. They may be happier because an Italian is on an Italian bike, sure, but I doubt they are happy enough to pay extra.

What does "shake up the sport" mean?

IMO, we fans were destined to see some of the best battles in years with Rossi and Lorenzo on equal bikes.

I agree that Rossi vs. Lorenzo would be lucrative for Dorna if the racing were good; however, if Dorna have it in their minds that revenues need to be raised (this seems to be consistent with the zeitgeist according to Suppo's comments and Noyes' and Krop's reporting about the commercial condition of GP) they only have a limited sphere of influence in which to act. Dorna don't control the technical regs and they certainly cannot tell the riders how fast to go, but Dorna can influence where the riders go, imo, b/c they subsidize the salaries of certain riders for commercial reasons.

So if you were Dorna, and the only thing you could do is bait the riders to different manufacturers, that's what you would do. If Dorna were going to bait anyone to any particular manufacturer, convention would compel them to move Rossi to Ducati. I'm not saying it's a good idea or that it will create the desired effect, I'm simply saying conventional wisdom (however wrong it may be) says that Rossi to Ducati is a slam dunk money-making media frenzy.

Imo, Dorna is the epitome of convention so it looks like their fingerprints are all over this. Rossi is the antithesis of convention. He's never expressed any desire to switch, in fact, he's said on numerous occasions he just wants to ride with Yamaha 'til he retires. Yamaha are not dumb enough to put him out to pasture. Jorge's offer is artificially high, and Rossi's offer is artificially low. The hand that feeds Rossi is leading him elsewhere, he's struggling with whether or not he will go.

Shake up the sport simply means move the pieces around at the 3 major factory teams. Things have been roughly the same since 2007 except for the addition of Lorenzo.

With all due respect and consideration of your often thoughtful and insightful post here... That's a lot of hot air you are blowing.

Assuming the switch to ducati is true, then his motivation is simple. He's switching because Yamaha pissed him off with Lorenzo and he will have a better chance of beating Lorenzo when 'yourgay' has to develop his own ride. It's that simple.

Why did he leave honda? Because honda pissed him off and he's Valentino Rossi.

Why do we need to invent a big complicated conspiracy theory?

With a difference I would say.
Honda was arrogant and they turned out to be wrong.
Yamaha, if they will not win the WC next year, will come out as ... just stupid.
Before VC/JB they had an awful bike, now they have a winning one. JLo ability to develop one is completely unknown (though he maybe good, who knows?)....
Honda took a risk to show that their bike was the best by far and the manufacturer is what it really matters. Yamaha is taking a risk for nothing. Money are by far not an issue, Rossi brings in 4 times his cost.
And they will now be remembered as the vendor where Rossi did not finish his career at.

You characterize Yamaha exactly as I do.

I don't believe Yamaha are actually stupid though, and I don't believe Jarvis is an incompetent team boss. Imo, there is more than meets the eye to the 9m euro salary offers to Rossi and Lorenzo.

Les, perhaps you are right about hot air, but I have made my prediction and we will know in a few weeks time (when Rossi has answered all of the press' questions) what the deal is.

Dennis is right by my estimation. Del Torchio is probably not directly involved in the the contract negotiations between Marlboro, Ducati, and Valentino Rossi. When Domenicali reported to del Torchio he likely told him that Yamaha had passed and that Ducati were simply working out the minor details with Rossi.

This is a far cry from having a signature on a piece of paper, but in del Torchio's mind, hiring Rossi is an inevitability. The CEO is always operating in the future so Rossi to Ducati is gospel truth in his world, damn the details.

I think del Torchio's remarks mean that Rossi's switch is 99% confirmed (slightly higher than what everyone thought before), but it doesn't mean that Rossi's signature is on a finalized contract for 2011. What we do know is that everyone at Ducati is telling del Torchio that Rossi will definitely be hired. This is more than we knew prior to de Prato's article.