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Qatar podium goal for Valentino Rossi

“I would like to get on the podium: that's my goal” – Valentino Rossi.
Valentino Rossi has his sights set on a top-three finish during his Yamaha MotoGP return in this weekend's Qatar season opener.

The Italian legend, seven times a champion in the premier-class and the record holder for race wins, often made success look effortless at Honda and then Yamaha from 2000-2010.

But the decision to start a new challenge at Ducati proved a step to far. Rossi has not won a race since leaving Yamaha, collecting just three podiums on the Desmosedici.

Yamaha meanwhile continued to win races - and last year's world title - with now double champion Jorge Lorenzo, the young Spaniard whose increasing opposition had been a major factor in Rossi's decision to leave in 2010.

The Ducati woes appear to have put such issues into context and the driving force behind Rossi's return was simply the chance to be back on competitive machinery. The 34-year-old also appears to be enjoying 'underdog' status - for the first time in his career it is the rider on the other side of the garage who is expected to beat him.

Lorenzo did just that for most of pre-season testing, but Rossi topped day two at the final rain-interrupted Jerez test and went on to finish second overall behind Cal Crutchlow (Tech 3 Yamaha). Lorenzo and last year's runner-up Dani Pedrosa (Honda) still look to be a step ahead in terms of consistent speed, with Rossi and Pedrosa's rookie team-mate Marc Marquez best of the rest.

Rossi might therefore find himself battling Marquez for the final podium spot on Sunday, but as races such as Laguna Seca 2008 proved, if Rossi can get near enough to upset the leading rider's rhythm, anything could happen.

"I'm very happy with the work done in Jerez and over the winter. I was fast and everything worked fine and we have a competitive bike to fight for the podium,” said Rossi, who won on his most recent Yamaha Losail appearance in 2010.

“I believe that in Qatar will not be so easy; it is a track that is a little difficult for me, but I think I can defend myself and get a good result. I would like to get on the podium: that's my goal.




Related Pictures

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Rossi, Jerez MotoGP tests, March 2013
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Smith crash, Jerez WSBK/MotoGP tests.November 2016
Smith crash, Jerez WSBK/MotoGP tests.November 2016
Smith crash, Jerez WSBK/MotoGP tests.November 2016
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Sam Lowes, Jerez WSBK/MotoGP tests.November 2016
Redding, Jerez WSBK/MotoGP tests.November 2016
Redding, Jerez WSBK/MotoGP tests.November 2016
Redding, Jerez WSBK/MotoGP tests.November 2016
Redding, Jerez WSBK/MotoGP tests.November 2016
Redding, Jerez WSBK/MotoGP tests.November 2016
Pirro, Jerez WSBK/MotoGP tests.November 2016
Petrucci, Jerez WSBK/MotoGP tests.November 2016
Petrucci, Jerez WSBK/MotoGP tests.November 2016

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