Valentino Rossi reckons the engine performance of his factory Yamaha YZR-M1 is now a match for MotoGP world title rival Casey Stoner’s Ducati.
When MotoGP introduced the new 800cc rule for 2007, Ducati stole a massive march on its Japanese rivals with an engine that at times was over 10mph faster on the straights.
Stoner dominated the ’07 title race and won ten races, while Rossi had a torrid time, his struggling YZR-M1 only good enough for the Italian to win four races.
Yamaha’s in-line four-cylinder contender dramatically improved in 2008, with Rossi capturing his first world title since 2005 with nine victories.
The Yamaha has now become the dominant brand in MotoGP, with Rossi and Fiat team-mate Jorge Lorenzo winning six out of the opening ten races in 2009.
The 30-year-old told MCN: "This story starts back in 2007. The performance started in the winter of 2007 when Yamaha decided to put in a great effort to improve the bike and last year it was already a great bike. But it was difficult to fight with Ducati and at times last season the Ducati was still a bit stronger than us.
"But we have improved again this year and I think we have the best team. We have the best riders because Lorenzo and me are very strong and this is not the case in the other teams. This is also good to work on the development of the bike with two riders very fast and now the M1 is very competitive."
Rossi said the key change in performance was largely down to Yamaha making big improvements to the power delivery and acceleration of this year’s YZR-M1.
The eight-times world champion added: "We have improved the engine a lot but we have really made big progress with improving the acceleration. It looks like the Ducati might still be a little bit faster, but we are more or less on the same level. Last year was different, and especially two years ago it was a lot different."