Valentino Rossi anticipating Honda charge

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Valentino Rossi expects Honda rivals Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez to pose a bigger threat for the remainder of the Italian MotoGP weekend after Yamaha dominated the opening day of practice in Mugello.

The home crowd favourite, who is chasing an incredible eighth premier class victory at the spectacular Mugello track, finished second fastest today with a best time of 1.48.409 that was only beaten by 0.034s by factory Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo.

With in-form Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammate Cal Crutchlow finishing third to give Yamaha a clean sweep of the top three, Rossi said he is expecting a stronger challenge from Honda duo Pedrosa and Marquez.

World championship leader Pedrosa was only fifth fastest today and over a second off Lorenzo’s pace while rookie sensation Marquez was left down in 14th after he escaped serious injury following a horrifying crash moments after he braked from over 210mph for the first corner.

Rossi, who has not finished on the podium since he raced to a brilliant second in the season’s opening round in Qatar in early April, said: “It was a good day for me because we had a full dry practice and I felt good with the bike and I stayed at the top all session.

"The times are not so bad. At the end I tried the hard tyre, which is important for Sunday and the pace was quite good. But it is just Friday and like in Le Mans I was very strong on Friday but we suffered more on Saturday and I'm sure our rivals will improve a lot tomorrow.

"We need to go faster for the race. It was a good day for Yamaha though. Jorge and I are first and second and with M1s in the first three positions. I feel good and I ride in a good way.

"The grip of the track is not fantastic but with Yamaha we have a good base where we can start going fast immediately but at other tracks we have seen the Hondas suffer more on Friday and then become more competitive. Tomorrow the Hondas will arrive at the top for sure.

"In Le Mans on Friday I was very strong in third and very close to the Hondas. To stay in this position here tomorrow maybe we have to go one second faster."

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt