Valentino Rossi is convinced he will pose a stronger threat to dominant Spanish trio Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa when the new MotoGP campaign kicks off in Qatar this weekend.
The Italian veteran has been in impressive form throughout winter testing and he got a major morale boost when he finished second quickest at Sepang 1 and then shared the fastest time with Pedrosa at Sepang 2.
Rossi appears to have got over any lingering hangover from his disastrous two-year spell with Ducati and firmly believes he can be more competitive than in 2013.
The 35-year-old’s return to Yamaha yielded four podiums and one win in Assen, but the nine-times world champion was fourth in as many races that teammate Jorge Lorenzo won last season.
Rossi though is brimming with confidence that he can be stronger in 2014 in what could be his last season in MotoGP if he fails to seriously challenge the likes of Lorenzo and reigning world champion Marquez.
Rossi told MCN: “I am in better shape and this pre-season is more positive than last year. I was strong in Sepang 1 and 2 and also fast in Phillip Island. Last year I had a lot more problems but now I feel better with the bike, which we have improved and I can ride more at the limit.
"My target is to try and be more competitive than last year, which I know is difficult because the level is very high. The first three riders are very strong but I am confident I can battle with them.”