Former five times MotoGP world champion has no plans to retire after the 2008 season.
Valentino Rossi may have lost the MotoGP World Championship for the past two seasons, and have just one year left on his current Yamaha contract, but the Italian has moved to stub-out rumours that 2008 might be his last season of racing.
The 28-year-old told Motosprint
that he wants to carry on racing for "at least another five years" adding:
"It's 100% certain I will race in 2009. I've never considered quitting, otherwise I would have done that in 2006 [when he was linked with Formula One]."
The big question that remains is for whom Valentino will ride in 2009.
The Italian legend, a winner of 62 MotoGP races since his 2000 premier-class debut, has dumped Michelin for Bridgestone tyres to try and regain his crown in 2008 - and few doubt he could do the same to Yamaha if next year's M1 isn't a title contender.
After the frenzy that surrounded his potential switch to Formula One for 2007, Rossi has previously sought to reduce speculation over his future by re-signing well before his existing Yamaha deal has expired.
Rossi finally ended the F1 speculation by announcing a one-year extension to his previous Yamaha deal on the 1st of June 2006, meaning he was confirmed until the end of 2007.
Then, in something of a surprise move - but prompted by the experiences of the previous summer - Rossi signed another
one-year deal (for 2008) on February 1, 2007, just eight months after his previous signing and before the new season had even started!
With hindsight, some may say that was an unwise decision, but it did ensure that Rossi faced few 'Where will you ride next year? Will you retire?' questions during 2007 and indicates the extent of his desire to remove such distractions.
Clearly it's much easier to sign an early contract with the same team, so - bearing the above in mind, and also that Rossi's Honda departure was only officially announced after the 2003 season had ended - here's Crash.net's
prediction of how Rossi will proceed:
If Rossi is staying with Yamaha for 2009 it will probably be announced by mid-season, or at least not long after.
Following the troubles of the past two years, Rossi will surely want to see how his new Bridgestone-shod Yamaha performs during actual races before agreeing new terms - making a repeat of this February's early extension unlikely - but he also won't want to wait too long to avoid unnecessarily fuelling speculation over his future.
if, however, Rossi still hasn't re-signed with Yamaha by the closing third of the 2008 season, then he probably intends - or is at least seriously considering - a change of team.
Given that Rossi used to joke that he 'didn't know what he was doing next week, never mind next year', the words "it's 100% certain I will race in 2009" are probably designed to at least remove retirement talk from the equation, while what could be a lengthy wait begins for a 2009 announcement.
Meanwhile, speaking to Studio Sport
, Rossi has given his opinion on MotoGP's first ever night race, which will open the 2008 season at Qatar on March 9.
"In my opinion you should spend your nights doing other things, not riding a motorbike!" smiled Rossi. "But everyone I've spoken to has said that, with the floodlighting, it's basically like riding in the day anyway.
"Nevertheless, I'm a lot wider awake at 11 in the evening than at 11 in the morning, so it could be good for me!"