Valentino Rossi's rumored ownership of a Moto3 team became reality Monday when he announced the formation of the VR46 team, which will compete in 2014 in the World Championship with Italian Romano Fenati as rider and Sky television as primary sponsor.
Fenati and another rider - still to be named - will ride KTM machines for team, which will be based in Rossi's hometown of Tavullia. Fenati became available because the Italian federation - in homage to Rossi's power within the sport - decided not to continue with Team Italia next season in Moto3 and instead let Rossi's team serve as the incubator for Italian talent.
Selection for VR46 is a defibrillator for the career of Fenati, 17. He looked like one of the most promising Italian riders since Marco Melandri or Rossi when he earned podium finishes in his first two Moto3 starts last season, including a victory in his second career start, at Jerez.
Fenati ended up sixth in the Moto3 standings last season, with four podium finishes. But the inconsistency that plagued him at times last year has been a constant companion this season. He is 15th in the standings on a Team Italia FTR-Honda, overrun by the onslaught of dominant KTM.
But Fenati is only the fourth-best Honda-powered rider this season in the introductory class. So he needs to get his career back on track quickly. There should be no excuses available next year for Fenati, with a KTM and strong financial backing from riding for a legendary, nine-time World Champion.
The new team also could put Rossi's post-retirement plans into clearer focus. It will be interesting to see just how much of a hands-on role he takes next year with the team while still competing for Yamaha Factory Racing in MotoGP.
If Rossi is seen more in the VR46 garage next summer than in the spring, does that mean he is giving more serious consideration to retirement after 2014? Media and fans will read those tea leaves very closely.