US MotoGP: Fitness concern for Valentino Rossi

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Valentino Rossi has admitted a lack of strength in his right leg and shoulder is a big cause for concern as he began preparations for the American MotoGP race yesterday with the sixth best time in first practice.

The 31-year-old returned from injury in glorious fashion at last weekend’s German MotoGP at the Sachsenring with a stunning fourth place.

But hopes that he would be able to build on that form at Laguna Seca this weekend hit a tough start.

It is still only seven weeks since the factory Yamaha rider suffered a compound fracture of his right tibia in a horrific practice crash at Mugello last month.

And Rossi found negotiating the right-handers at Laguna Seca a tough proposition, with his inability to put too much pressure through his leg to change direction his primary concern.

The problem was worst at the famous Corkscrew section, where Rossi has to put extreme pressure on his pinned right leg to flick his YZR-M1 quickly into the downhill right section.

He said: “It is a bit more difficult here compared to Sachsenring, especially for my leg and also a little for my shoulder.  What I am feeling is that the Corkscrew is a little more difficult physically to stop the bike, but especially when I go down to change direction and I have to push on the right leg, I have some pain.

"Now I will put some ice on the leg and relax and hope that tomorrow it is not worse. At the same time I don't think we showed all our potential on the track because we made a modification at the end of the session and I was able to do just two laps and then took the flag, so it would have been interesting if I had one or two extra laps.

"At the end I used the hard tyre but the hard tyre but today it was a little too hard, so maybe without he soft it was possible to go faster.”

Rossi ended with a best time of 1.22.660 to finish 0.961s adrift of Casey Stoner and he admitted the Australian’s early speed was ‘worrying’.

The nine-times world champion added: “The 21.6 by Stoner is a great lap time and he is already faster than the pole position of last year and this is a worry for everybody.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt