If Valentino Rossi wants to battle for a landmark 100th grand prix victory in front of his home fans at Mugello on May 31, then he'll first need to claim his 99th win this weekend at Le Mans.
Rossi arrives in France leading the world championship by a comfortable eleven points thanks to his first win of the season last time out at Jerez, when he caught and overtook all three of his nearest title rivals - Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa.
Le Mans has traditionally been one of Yamaha's best circuits and last year saw a clean-sweep of the podium with Rossi on top, team-mate Lorenzo second and Tech 3 Yamaha rider Colin Edwards in third.
“My memories of Le Mans last year are amazing because it was my 90th career victory and I made the lap of honour with Angel Nieto on my bike with me, because I equalled his record,” recalled Rossi, who also won at Le Mans in 2002 and 2005. “Also there were three Yamahas on the podium, which was very special.”
After struggling in qualifying at Jerez, the Italian and his crew are adamant that they have found the right set-up for the 2009 M1 and control Bridgestone tyres to allow them to fight for victory at every round.
“Things are great in our team at the moment, we made a big step forward in Jerez; my bike was fantastic and it was great to win again,” he said. “Le Mans is a very different track but the Yamaha is always fast there; this year a lot of things have changed but I hope we will still be quick! It's good to have a rest between races after two together and now we will arrive in Le Mans fully relaxed and ready to work on maximum power.”
“We're coming in good shape and once again our priority is to remain on the podium because this consistency is what's going to be important for the championship,” added Rossi's Fiat Yamaha team manager Davide Brivio. “Of course if there's the possibility to win we will try as well! We have great memories of the track and now we hope to make some more this year.”