MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi believes that this year’s championship battle promises to be the best he’s ever been involved in.
Rossi, seven times a champion in the top level of motorbike racing, scored the 200th podium finish of his career across all classes in Sunday’s Spanish GP at Jerez.
He finished third behind Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo and reigning world champion Marc Marquez of Honda, but extended his points lead over Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso to 15 points.
“I leave Jerez with more advantage on Dovi, but Jorge is coming back in the championship,” said Rossi. “He’s 20 points behind, but he’s very strong and this weekend he worked very well.
“The fight with Marc and Jorge can be the best championship – very difficult!”
“I struggled all weekend”
Rossi said third place at Jerez was the maximum he could achieve on a weekend where he struggled to find the sweet spot of his bike’s handling.
“I’m not satisfied, but I expected it because all weekend I struggled, it was difficult,” said Rossi. “I wasn’t able to ride well, we tried a lot to work a lot on the bike but I was never fast enough. I know it was a difficult race, but this morning we tried another thing so I thought we could stay close, not with Jorge but with Marc.
“In fact, I lost too much in the first laps. I was behind Pol [Espargaro], and Marc was behind Jorge, and he go [away]. But after, I had a part of the race where I thought I could recover, and it was not so bad.
“I arrived within a second [of Marquez] but after I had a problem with the front tyre, I was too much at the limit, so it was too risky to try [to pass him] so I slowed down.
“Anyway, it’s a podium, a third place, and more important points for the championship. But we need to improve, work and try to go faster.”
Better result expected at Le Mans
Rossi is now targeting a strong result in the next round at Le Mans, where he finished a close second to Marquez in 2014, to maintain his title bid from the front.
“Last year was good,” he recalled. “It’s always colder there [than in Spain], so there is different behavior from the tyre and the bike. It’s a good track for us, so we’ll try to do the same [as last year].”