Curious and positive is how Valentino Rossi arrived in Assen today ahead of arguably the most important weekend for the Italian since he returned to Yamaha’s factory squad in 2013.
Tweaks to the front-end set-up of his YZR-M1 machine during test sessions at Catalunya and Motorland Aragon last week have boosted Rossi’s confidence that he can break up the fight for the podium currently being dominated by Spanish trio Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez.
Rossi hasn’t been on the podium since the opening round of the season in Qatar and he has struggled with braking and corner entry this season.
Rossi said he made a major breakthrough during a one-day session at the Motorland Aragon last week and he is curious to see whether the modifications carry over to this weekend’s legendary Dutch TT.
He told MCN: “It is an important weekend to understand because at the test in Aragon and Barcelona we made a different setting. We have the different swingarm like Jorge and a different front fork setting to improve the feeling in braking and corner entry.
"In the opening races I had problems in this area with the new tyres. I am very positive and curious to understand if we have raised our level because the target is to fight with the top three guys. We are behind but not so far.
"This weekend will be interesting to understand if I can go faster. With this set-up the target is to try and go faster with the new tyres at the beginning of the race and also in the qualifying when I have to push more on the front, brake deeper and enter faster. If I can improve these areas I can go faster."
The nine-times world champion is confident the set-up changes will work in Assen but he has vowed to carry on working if he can't thrust himself into podium contention.
He added: “We will continue to work and try something else. We need time because we are not at the same level as Jorge and if we don’t improve with this way we will find another way."
Rossi said that he had anticipated a return to race-winning contention taking such a long time on his return to Yamaha, particularly to try and match the stunning pace of teammate Lorenzo, who has won half of the six races in 2013.
Rossi added: “I thought it was possible to take this time. The first race was good but I know that to arrive at the level of Lorenzo, which is now very, very high, I would need time. Now it looks like we are in a good way but we have to see if it is true or not."