JANUARY 11, 2006
Tobacco companies and bikers
There is a right royal mess going on in motorcycle racing which could end up depriving Ferrari of its sometime test driver - and rumoured 2007 driver - Valentino Rossi. Last year Rossi rode with the Gauloises-sponsored Yamaha factory team. The split was thought to be over Rossi's desire not to ride for a tobacco-sponsored team, although he showed no such reticence in driving a Ferrari, which lest we forget is funded by Marlboro.
While all this was going on, rival Honda was busy falling out with its sponsor Camel over the future of Max Biaggi. The Japanese did not want Biaggi and Camel insisted upon him being the rider. The result was that Camel pulled out of the deal, leaving the Pons team with no backing. Now Yamaha and Camel have got together to do a deal which will see Rossi and his team mate Colin Edwards riding in Camel colours. It remains to be seen whether this deal will preclude Rossi's involvement in Ferrari testing but it is hard to imagine that Japan Tobacco-owned Camel is going to be happy watching Rossi promoting its rival Marlboro when he could be driving around in a Renault F1 car promoting Mild Seven.
In the meantime Gauloises has decided to dip out of motorcycle racing and has signed a deal to be the sponsor of Sebastien Loeb and Xavier Pons in the Kronos Total Citroen World Rally Championship team.
The one person who has been left out in all this mess is Max Biaggi who has just announced that he is quitting MotoGP. He hopes to switch to the World Superbike Championship.
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