Motorcycling: Ellison has chance to join Rossi team

Britain's James Ellison today starts three days of tests on a factory Yamaha, in search of a place alongside the world champion, Valentino Rossi, for the 2006 MotoGP championship.

Ellison, 25, will ride the 990cc machine on the 3.4-mile Sepang circuit in Malaysia. If he performs competently and wins a Yamaha deal he will jump from the slowest bike on the MotoGP grid, the 200-horsepower WCM, to arguably the fastest, the 240hp YZR-M1.

"I'm not going to try and impress anyone. I'm just going to ride the best I can," Ellison said. "They will want to see how I work with the team as well as what I do on the track."

Ellison's four-cylinder bike will be similar to the one on which Rossi has won the past two MotoGP championships, but with Dunlop tyres rather than Michelins. Dunlop helped Spain's Gregorio Lavilla to this year's Bennetts British Superbike Championship on an Airwaves Ducati, but lack Michelin's MotoGP record.

Ellison has proved with the WCM team that he gets the best out of the equipment he is given. "We couldn't have asked for anything more from a rider," WCM's Peter Clifford said.

Ellison's chance comes as proven winners such as the four-times 250cc world champion, Max Biaggi, and the Brazilian Alex Barros are struggling to keep their places on the MotoGP grid. Ellison has been offered three bikes for next year - a Ducati from d'Antin, a WCM powered by a KTM engine and the Yamaha.