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.