When the lights go out in Sunday's Qatar MotoGP it will mark the start of Valentino Rossi's 19th grand prix season.

At 35 years and 35 days, Rossi will be the oldest former premier-class world champion to take part in a premier-class race since Giacomo Agostini in 1977.

Rossi has won seven of his nine titles in the elite 500cc/MotoGP category, ending a two-year win drought at Ducati with a record 80th top class victory in last year's Assen round.

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But The Doctor was only fourth in the championship and often unable to challenge Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa and his own team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.

The biggest change for Rossi personally in 2014 is the arrival of new crew chief Silvano Galbusera and Rossi has been buoyed by strong performances in all three pre-season tests.

"I'm very satisfied about pre-season testing because I was quite strong and fast in Sepang and Phillip Island. I feel in good shape and I'm especially very happy about the work in the garage," said Rossi. "We improved a lot some weak points of last year, we are good with both the soft tyres and race pace so I feel ready to start.

"Our competitors are also quite fast and so I think there are going to be some very exciting races. I am really looking forward to some great battles and fighting for the podium."

Rossi added that the new-for-2014 Open class rules could change the character of races this season. The likes of Forward Yamaha and Ducati have access to a softer rear tyre that should help them move up the grid in qualifying, then mount an early charge in the grands prix.

"There are a lot of new things for this year. It will be very interesting to understand what changes. I believe Aleix and the Ducati riders will be very strong both in terms of lap times and their race pace. So the races could be different to last year especially at the start and in the first part of each race."

Rossi's present Yamaha contract expires at the end of this season. The #46 repeated his desire to remain in MotoGP beyond 2014, providing he is competitive.

"I want to continue but also be competitive with the top guys, so the results will be important to decide the future."

Lorenzo and Rossi, who finished one-two respectively at Qatar last season, unveiled their new Movistar Yamaha colours at Losail on Wednesday.