The story we published yesterday about Valentino Rossi having been spotted at Yamaha's European headquarters by former racer Niall Mackenzie turns out to have been incorrect. We, along with the French publication Moto Journal and the German-language magazine Speedweek were victims of a hoax. A Frenchman, speaking perfect English, had compromised the Twitter account of Niall Mackenzie and linked his own email address to it, so that the attempts we made to verify the news led to a single, incorrect source. The person having compromised the account later confessed to one of the journalists involved in researching the story that it had been a hoax, and apologized for the inconvenience he had caused.
Signs that the story was factually incorrect had come out earlier. Valentino Rossi's manager Davide Brivio posted a denial on his Twitter page late last night, saying "for sure he didn't visit Yamaha HQ - he is on holiday!"
So how did this happen? How did we fall for this hoax? The original post had come from the Twitter account actually used by Niall Mackenzie, as a wander down the timeline will verify. A follow-up check by email reached the same compromised source, and so the information being checked was being verified by the person who perpetrated the hoax. The details provided in the email conversation were convincing - the actual location of Yamaha's European headquarters, the plans for Mackenzie's second son Tarran to race in European Superstock 600 - but, in hindsight, easily researched. The entire MotoGP press is convinced that Valentino Rossi will sign for Yamaha for 2013 and beyond - the British weekly MCN splashed it throughout this week's paper, and the Italian daily La Gazzetta Dello Sport published a story laying out details of a possible deal between Yamaha and the Italian, among many, many other sources. Rossi had been expected to give Ducati an answer on whether he would be racing for them or not Other requests for verification were not received in time. "Publish and be damned," runs a famous axiom of journalism. We published, and were damned.
Our sincere apologies to all of our readers who believed this story. We published it as we believed it to be true, and are just as surprised and disappointed that it turned out to be incorrect. We have tried to be diligent about our reporting, knowing the suspicion with which internet news sources are regarded, especially by the traditional media. Unfortunately, the months of years of trying to work diligently have been at least partly undone by an error of judgement. We hope we can win back some of the trust we have gained in the coming months, by working harder to verify our sources.
We are still convinced that Valentino Rossi will leave Ducati and join Yamaha. However, we were wrong to report that he was at Yamaha's European HQ. We will await official confirmation of a move by the Italian. And double-check our sources.