Reports are starting to flow from many European media that Yamaha will announce the return of seven-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi on Wednesday, Aug. 15, as members of the paddock begin to gather at Indianapolis for the Red Bull Indianapolis GP.
There's a bit of irony in the rumored announcement date: It's the same date in 2010 when Ducati announced it was signing Rossi, shortly after the finish of the Czech Republic Grand Prix in Brno.
Rossi's defection is a stinging shot to Ducati and Audi.
The dream marriage between Italian icons Ducati and Rossi so far has produced just two podium finishes and no victories in 1.5 seasons, with Rossi apparently exasperated at the glacial pace of development of the Desmosedici race bikes. Even the promise of increased funding and engineering support from German auto giant Audi, which completed its purchase of Ducati last month, apparently wasn't enough to keep the sole global supernova of Grand Prix motorcycle racing in red and white next season.
Ducati apparently tried to add one final piece of bait to its hook for Rossi by attempting to lure Masao Furusawa, the former leader of Yamaha's MotoGP project, to join Ducati to help accelerate improvements on its bikes. Furusawa declined the reported offer, not wanting to betray the traditional Japanese loyalty to the company that employed him.
Now focus will shift on Rossi's successor at Borgo Panigale. The two obvious candidates are Tech 3 Yamaha teammates Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso, whose spirited on-track battle this year has continued off track in the race for the only remaining factory seat.
Crutchlow apparently was ready to sign a two-year Ducati contract during the Italian Grand Prix weekend last month at Mugello, but paper never was presented for him to ink. Dovizioso's lobbying for a factory ride next season has intensified recently to match the volume of Crutchlow, and Dovi has four podium finishes to zero for Crutchlow on identical satellite M1's.
Meanwhile American Nick Hayden continues to test and race for Ducati in the eye of the media and marketing hurricane surrounding the team, awaiting word on his 2013 teammate like everyone else.