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Road Racing Notes: Rossi Leaves Aprilia for Honda NSR500 Ride; Corser in Talks with Aprilia; Doohan Looks Likely to Retire

Several important stories are unfolding this week in the world of international road racing. Aprilia’s young star, and two-time World champion, Valentino Rossi, has officially left Aprilia’s employ. Aprilia’s official statement is terse: “After many negotiations, Valentino Rossi decided to continue his career with another constructor in the 500 class. Aprilia thanks Valentino Rossi for these four years together, and we hope to see Aprilia at the top also in the new challenge.”

Where is Rossi going? Who has the biggest checkbook? Honda, of course. Rossi, who is almost a god in Italy, and other parts of Europe, has reportedly signed (or is near signing) with Honda to ride in the 500 class in 2000 – aboard Honda’s NSR500. Other reports indicate Rossi’s crew chief will be Jeremy Burgess, who is Mick Doohan’s long-time racing paddock mate. This raises the question: Will Doohan come back from serious injury to race without Burgess? Probably not.

Everyone knows by now that Doohan has struggled to recover from serious injuries received earlier in the 500 GP season this year. He is still struggling and, apparently, sees no definite date when he can get back on a 500 and race competitively. He has been in recent talks with Honda, however, and, undoubtedly, these talks played a role in Honda’s decision to spend the money (reportedly $2 million a year) to sign Rossi, and assure the services of Burgess for Rossi (not Doohan).

Although no official confirmation has been received from Honda regarding the signing of Rossi, this is beyond the rumor stage, and it dovetails perfectly with Aprilia’s official announcement. We’ll let you know when we hear something more.

In the World superbike series, Troy Corser’s future has lead to lots of speculation, including recent rumors that he will sign with Yamaha. Corser is known to have been negotiating with Aprilia, and Aprilia’s new RSV1000 superbike could certainly benefit from the long-time Ducati rider’s input. Corser, who is a former World Superbike champion and AMA Superbike champion, nearly won a second WSB championship in 1998 before bad luck and injuries worked against him toward the end of the year. In 1999, however, Corser was simply uncompetitive with his teammate Carl Fogarty – who ran away to a huge lead in the series and, ultimately, won his fourth World championship. With Fogarty coming back, Ducati decided to let Corser go and sign Ben Bostrom.

If Corser were to sign with Yamaha, it would be a big gamble for Yamaha. Corser has been on a slow-revving V-twin for quite some time, and his one year venture into 500cc two-stroke racing in the GP class was a disaster. The relatively quick revving four-cylinder R7 might not fit Corser’s riding style.