Rossi may delay potential rally switch

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Valentino Rossi could delay a possible switch to rallying after a ninth motorcycling world title failed to diminish his will to win on two wheels.

The 30-year-old clinched another MotoGP title with third place in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix but had kept his options open about what happens when his Yamaha contract ends in 2010.

A career in rallying has always appealed to the Italian and he recently fuelled rumours he would change sports sooner rather than later after saying his future in 2011 was a mystery.

However, the emotion of a seventh premier class title on Sunday prompted a suggestion he would stick with bikes until the end of 2012.

"If I had to decide today I would sign up straight away for another two seasons," he told reporters.

Having achieved almost everything in MotoGP, the only goal left for Rossi in the sport is compatriot Giacomo Agostini's record of 122 grand prix wins.

Rossi is on 103 and would have to race on for at least two more seasons to break the record, a difficult task given Ducati's Casey Stoner and Yamaha team mate Jorge Lorenzo will continue to learn from the master and race him hard.

"Next year I want to defend the title and have other good battles with Lorenzo and Stoner," he said.

"Maybe I can get close to that record of 122, it depends what I decide in 2011, if I take a one or two-year contract."

Italians would love the former Honda rider to smash the record on a Ducati rather than a Japanese bike but the chances of him moving to the Italian MotoGP team look remote.

He would be under a lot more media pressure racing for Ducati while Australia's 2007 champion Stoner, likely to stay with the Italian team after they stuck by him following a mystery illness this year, would not be the ideal team mate.

Rossi has already said that having a title challenger like Lorenzo as a team mate is not particularly desirable and it would be better for the best riders to be in separate teams.

"The Doctor" racing for Ducati would be a start, but what Italy really craves is a successful Italian driver in a Ferrari.

A move to Formula One was close at the end of 2006 and he had a plan to be a test driver in 2007 before racing in 2008.

Rossi decided to stay in MotoGP and a future switch to Ferrari now looks unlikely, even after the team sounded him out about racing in this year's Italian Grand Prix.

Italy's best paid sportsman turned down the opportunity and the chance might not come again with double world champion Fernando Alonso joining Ferrari next season and Felipe Massa itching to race again after a life-threatening accident.

"The more years that pass, the older he gets for F1. The chances are lessening is my opinion," Yamaha manager Davide Brivio told Italian radio. "We'll do everything to keep him."

Ferrari wanted three cars next year in a bid to make the sport more exciting, and Rossi was linked with a seat, but Formula One officials have largely rejected the proposals.

He has, however, tested for Ferrari in the past and another test as a present for retaining his MotoGP title could follow.

"I have already asked (Ferrari team boss Stefano) Domenicali via text if I can have another test," Rossi said.

A future career in rallying remains a strong possibility for Rossi, who is not as rich as he might have been after having to pay a 35-million euro ($53 million) Italian tax bill in 2007.

He said in April he wanted 10 years in a car after finishing with bikes and he will race a Ford Focus in March's Mexico rally having previously competed in other races.

He was especially keen to manage one race next season before world rally rules change in 2011 when car specifications will be different in a bid to further cut costs.

With so much changing and France's six-times champion Sebastien Loeb still dominating rallying like Rossi has MotoGP, the Italian looks poised to extend his stint on two wheels.