MotoGP: Why Rossi is a true title contender

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Valentino Rossi says he’s confident that he can fight for the 2019 MotoGP title on consistency alone, building on the form in recent seasons where he took second in the championship in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Finishing last weekend’s Grand Prix of the Americas a strong second and fully exploiting Marc Marquez’s crash (he’s certain that he can be in the mix again.

While Rossi might have been outgunned by Alex Rins in the final stages of last Sunday’s race, he’s had a strong start to the year, coming second in both Texas and Argentina and fifth in Qatar.

Now he needs to make sure he can keep that momentum going. Don’t forget, Rossi started the season strongly last year only to get left behind as the championship headed to Europe. The key, he says, lies in improvements coming from Yamaha during the season.

“It’s too early to say what will happen, but we’ve had some positive things, I didn’t make

two second places this early on last year. But on the other side, it depends very much on what happens next. At the minute MotoGP is very much like Formula One, where everyone works and improves all the time,” he said.

“In 2017 after Austin I was first in the championship, but when we arrived to Europe and Honda and Ducati improved, the second half of the season was a disaster. We need to take the points and the results now, but keep concentrated and keep pushing Yamaha to work and to improve the bike. Normally everyone makes a step in the second half of the year and we need to do that, too. But we’ve been strong in the opening three races and we need to continue that.”

The good news for Rossi is that Yamaha team boss Massimo Meregalli insists there’s plenty still to come from the factory this season as they build on a strong base package that’s leagues ahead of last year’s M1.

“We will receive some updates when we go to Jerez, but for me what we’ve already done so far is good. We also had a decent start in three or four races last year, but in Jerez things started to go wrong. This year Jerez will be the proof of what we’ve achieved, and I’m optimistic,” said Rossi.

“Over the last few years, every Grand Prix was a new starting point and we would change many things during a weekend. So far this year, the base has been really good. For sure we’d like to improve the power but it’s hard to do that once the engine is sealed, but we can manage what we’ve got better and improve the acceleration. Let’s wait and see what happens at Jerez.”

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer