We're sure that none of you saw this one coming, right? To the surprise of absolutely nobody paying even an ounce of attention, Valentino Rossi has officially announced that he will ride for the Ducati factory team for the 2011 MotoGP race season. It's a veritable dream scenario for Italy, as an Italian rider will take to the track at the pinnacle of motorcycle racing aboard a bright red Italian motorcycle. Bellissima!

It's expected that American Ben Spies will take over Rossi's vacated paddock at the Fiat Yamaha factory team, joining 2010 title-leading rider Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo himself told us as much in an interview ahead of the U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca a few weeks ago. Rossi's teammate at Ducati is very likely to be American rider Nicky Hayden, giving the Italian team a duo of riders who have each won world championships – in Rossi's case, an impressive nine of them, in fact.

Of course, we already knew that current Ducati rider Casey Stoner was transitioning to Honda at the end of the 2010 season, where it's rumored he could share space with both Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso. Read Vale's own emotional statement about the move to Ducati, which was made shortly after the end of the latest MotoGP round in the Czech Republic, after the break.

[Source: Valentino Rossi]
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"It is very difficult to explain in just a few words what my relationship with Yamaha has been in these past seven years. Many things have changed since that far-off time in 2004, but especially 'she', my M1, has changed. At that time she was a poor middle-grid position MotoGP bike, derided by most of the riders and the MotoGP workers. Now, after having helped her to grow and improve, you can see her smiling in her garage, courted and admired, treated as the 'top of the class'.

"The list of the people that made this transformation possible is very long, but I would like to thank anyway Masao Furusawa, Masahiko Nakajima and 'my' Hiroya Atsumi, as representatives of all the engineers that worked hard to change the face of our M1. Then Jeremy Burgess and all my guys in the garage, who took care of her with love on all the tracks of the world and also all the men and women that have worked in the Yamaha team during these years.

"Now the moment has come to look for new challenges; my work here at Yamaha is finished. Unfortunately even the most beautiful love stories finish, but they leave a lot of wonderful memories, like when my M1 and I kissed for the first time on the grass at Welkom, when she looked straight in my eyes and told me 'I love you!'"

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