Valentino Rossi has signed a new two-year contract extension with the factory Yamaha team, ensuring he’ll remain in MotoGP until at least the end of 2020.
Even though the Italian's existing contract was due to expire at the end of 2018, he has been expected to remain with the Japanese manufacturer for some more time. The seven-time premier class champion dropped a clear hint that he would continue racing in the most recent Qatar test, when he ruled out his VR46 team stepping up to MotoGP before 2021.
Rossi turned 39 last month, which means that he will continue racing until the age of 41 under his new agreement – making him the first MotoGP rider to race into his 40s since Colin Edwards, in 2014.
He will partner current team-mate Maverick Vinales, as the Spaniard had already concluded a new agreement to remain with Yamaha until 2020, earlier this year.
"When I signed my last contract with Yamaha, in March 2016, I wondered if that would have been the last contract as a MotoGP rider," said Rossi. "At that time, I decided that I'd take that decision during the following two years. During the last two years I came to the conclusion that I want to continue because racing, being a MotoGP rider, but especially riding my M1, is the thing that makes me feel good."
"I want to thank Yamaha – [team boss] Lin Jarvis and [team manager] Maio Meregalli in particular – for their trust in me, because the challenge is difficult: being competitive until I'm 40 years old!" He goes on to say. "I know it's going to be difficult and it requires a lot of effort from my side and a lot of training; but I'm ready, I am not lacking in motivation. That's why I'm signing for two more years."
The news of Rossi staying at Yamaha extends a partnership that has yielded a total of 56 MotoGP wins, as well as the 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009 titles.