Valentino Rossi has dramatically written off his 2019 title hopes despite finishing a battling fifth at Le Mans last weekend, saying that MotoGP’s fixed engine development means Yamaha cannot now coax enough power from his M1’s engine. After battling for two seasons with acceleration and grip issues, Rossi says that those problems are now largely behind him – but adds that without more horsepower, it’s unlikely he can be a championship contender.
The nine-time world champion finished Le Mans bottom of the combined speed trap times, well down on the advantage held by both Ducati and Honda and surrounded by fellow Yamaha riders. And with engines sealed at the start of the season and prevented from being updated, Rossi told MCN after the race that there’s little now that they can do to fight for the title.
“I tried to fight with the Ducatis for the podium all race but I wasn’t fast enough,” he said. “It looks like we have less problems with the tyre life at the end of the race than we did last year and we’ve made a small improvement in acceleration, which is very positive, but it looks like we’re suffering in the straights.
“We improved the tyre life this year with some different things on the bike and it’s very good to ride now. It looks like in braking I’m good, for example. But it looks like the others have made a big step, especially the Honda, and now the gap is big on the straights. All you have to do is look at the speed chart. In history, Yamaha has never been the fastest, but this year it’s even worse.”
And while it might be early in the year to write off the remainder of the season – especially with Rossi currently fourth in the championship race – he says the goal for the remainder of the year now is to concentrate on race wins instead of any attempt to halt the charge of Marc Marquez with that elusive tenth crown.
“We can improve a little bit somewhere, because I’m always the slowest of the Yamahas; maybe we can find something in acceleration that will help, but we’ll see. The problem is that the engine is what it is, and I don’t think we can improve a lot this year now. But this is the situation, and we have to give our maximum and fight to stay on the podium. The bike is good to ride and there are some positives, but the results will very much change from track to track. This is the reality now.”