Italian MotoGP great Valentino Rossi has signed a two-year contract extension that will keep him at the factory Yamaha team into his 40s.

The nine-time world champion, who is starting his 13th season with the Japanese manufacturer, turned 39 last month and would have been out of contract at the end of the championship that starts in Qatar this weekend.

“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," Rossi said in a team statement.

“I want to thank Yamaha... for their trust in me, because the challenge is difficult: being competitive until I‘m 40 years old.

“I know it‘s going to be difficult and it requires a lot of effort from my side and a lot of training but I‘m ready, I am not lacking in motivation, that‘s why I‘m signing for two more years," he added. Reuters