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Valentino Rossi signs two-year contract with Yamaha

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Doha (AFP)

Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi signed a new two-year contract with Yamaha on Thursday, scotching any rumours about his immediate MotoGP future.

The veteran Italian, who celebrated his 39th birthday last month, will now remain in the sport until at least 2020.

His existing contract runs out at the end of 2018, his 23rd season.

"When I signed my last contract with Yamaha, in March 2016, I wondered if that would have been the last contract as a MotoGP rider," said Rossi in a statement following the announcement of the contract ahead of this season's opener in Qatar.

"At that time, I decided that I'd take that decision during the following two years.

"During the last two years I came to the conclusion that I want to continue because racing, being a MotoGP rider, but especially riding my M1, is the thing that makes me feel good."

Rossi is still arguably the sport's biggest draw, despite finishing fifth in last season's championship and his last world title coming back in 2009.

He has claimed 56 race victories with Yamaha, the Japanese team he was with from 2004 to 2010, and then returned to in 2013 after a two year spell with Ducati.

It also means Rossi will continue partnering Maverick Vinales, who finished third last year, at Yamaha as the Spaniard has also signed a new contract taking him up until 2020.

This year's season gets underway in Doha on Sunday. Rossi finished fourth in last year's race at he Losail circuit.

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