It appears the decision the world has been waiting for has finally been taken: According to MCN's Matt Birt, Valentino Rossi will be allowed to test the Ducati at Valencia. It appears that Rossi was told by Masao Furusawa on Saturday night that he would be allowed to test after the final MotoGP round of the year.
The decision had been almost inevitable, but Yamaha had been holding off on announcing for as long as possible. It has long been customary for factories to allow their departing riders to test for their new teams after the final race, the only exception in recent history being Valentino Rossi, after he left Honda to join Yamaha. Ducati had already set an example by releasing Casey Stoner early to test for Honda, the team he joins for 2011, and Rossi had expected Yamaha to do the same. Yamaha, however, had been playing their cards close to their chest, in part as this was the only leverage they had over Rossi to ensure he did not hinder his teammate Jorge Lorenzo's bid for the 2010 championship.
With Lorenzo's title secured at Sepang, that leverage was no longer needed, and Rossi could be told he was free to test the Ducati. The Bologna factory will be bringing two different engine configurations to Valencia for Rossi to test, a screamer and a big bang. The data from that test will then be used to assess which configuration will be raced in 2011.
In the end, this was a decision Yamaha had little choice in. The public outcry was already growing, and the situation could have turned into a PR disaster had Yamaha refused to allow Rossi to test. The reduced winter testing program also made it much more difficult to refuse: When Honda stopped Rossi from testing the Yamaha until December 31st, testing was almost unlimited, and Rossi had five or six tests in February and March before the season began. If Yamaha had refused to release Rossi, he would have lost two days of testing at Valencia, with only six more days at Sepang and a night test at Qatar before the start of the 2011 season. Allowing Rossi to ride the Ducati at Valencia gives Yamaha a PR boost, while meaning that Rossi only really gains two more days of testing. The advantage for Ducati is that they will have three months over the winter to work on the data which Rossi produces at Valencia.
The decision also brings to an end any speculation about the immediate future of Valentino Rossi. The Italian is now almost certain to finish the season, and ride at the last two races of the year in Estoril and Valencia. Speaking in the post-race press conference at Phillip Island, Rossi confirmed that he intended to see out the season, and then test the Ducati. He told the press he had a medical appointment scheduled for his return to Italy, to assess the state of his shoulder, but that he hoped he would be given the green light to ride. He will then have an operation to fix the problem as soon as possible after the test. Rossi also told the media that he felt it was a great gesture on the part of Yamaha to allow him to test the Ducati, and a token of their appreciation for all he has done for the brand over the years.