Gauloises Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards swapped the racetrack for the snow today as they took to the slopes of Santa Caterina in the Italian Alps on Yamaha RX1 snowmobiles. The villages of Santa Caterina and Bormio are currently hosting the 2005 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, and Yamaha took the opportunity to bring the two sports together in spectacular style. After three days of testing in the heat of Sepang last week, the sub-zero temperatures on the slopes were something of a shock to the World Champion and his new team-mate, but both enjoyed the chance to show off for the press and the many fans who had gathered.
The press conference that preceded the on-slope activities was officially opened by the president of the Lombardia region of Italy, Roberto Formigoni, and the mayor of Valfurva, Idilia Antonioli.
Six-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, who will celebrate his 26th birthday this month, talked about his hopes for the 2005 Championship. "We are looking forward to another great season; last year was unforgettable for me and the entire team. It's going to be really hard, but of course we will try to win again! The bike last year was good, but we came to the limit with its development and now Yamaha has made us a bike that is almost completely new. It's already fast but of course there is more work to do on it. I think this will be a very exciting Championship; it's clear Ducati have made some improvements and of course Biaggi and Gibernau will be competitive, so there is a big challenge for us!"
Rossi's Texan team-mate Colin Edwards returns to Yamaha this year, having previously raced for the Japanese manufacturer in the World Superbike Championship. "I'm really glad to be back with Yamaha and it was an easy decision to make. It's all going good so far and Valentino and the team already had the bike pointing in the right direction when I joined! This is my third different manufacturer in three years and of course any change to a new bike is always a challenge. But I've been searching for a bike that suits my style and I think that the Yamaha is it."
Edwards is looking forward to the new addition to the MotoGP calendar in Laguna Seca this year and finally having the chance to ride in front of his home fans on a MotoGP bike. "I'm really excited about Laguna Seca; it should be a fantastic race with great fans, plus I get to spend more time at home!"
Gauloises Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio spoke about the recent changes to Yamaha's managerial structure, commenting, "There are big changes this year; Yamaha Motor Racing has moved from its previous home in the Netherlands to Yamaha Italia's headquarters here in the Lombardia region of Italy. So now the administration and management of the Factory Team is all in one place."
Brivio, who worked with Edwards in his World Superbike days, was enthusiastic about the American's return. "We're very pleased to welcome Colin back; he started with us in Superbikes in 1995 when he was very young and it was his first time away from the US! Now I think he's ready to achieve the best possible results with us and we have a great team with him and Valentino." Going on to speak about the new bike and the task facing his team to have it ready for the first race in April, he said, "The 2005 version of the YZR-M1 is very different, it has had an engine redesign, although we still have an in-line four according to Yamaha's philosophy. Yamaha has also changed the chassis and cowling and there are many other new details. Already we have made progress in the development of this new bike and we have five more tests to continue to improve, so we hope we will be ready."
Rossi and Edwards, both keen snowboarders, were pressed to reveal their predictions for Sunday's Men's Downhill event, the finale of the World Ski Championships. Edwards stayed loyal to fellow countryman and top championship contender Bode Miller, and Rossi agreed with Edwards, joking, "Bode is very fast and I think, just this time, the Americans will beat the Italians!"