Randy Mamola believes Valentino Rossi's MotoGP rejuvenation is down to 'a lot of hard work', including dirt track and involvement in the VR46 Riders Academy.

The seven time MotoGP champion emerged from two dark seasons at Ducati to claim a record 80th win in last year's Dutch TT.

It was the highlight of Rossi's Yamaha comeback season, but the Italian ended the year a soul-searching 93-points behind team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, who won eight races despite injury.

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Then came a self-imposed ultimatum: Get closer to the top three in 2014 - Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa and Lorenzo - or retire. A split from career-long crew chief Jerry Burgess proved Rossi was serious.

With rookie champion Marquez sure to be even better, and Pedrosa and Lorenzo at the top of their game, there were plenty who doubted that Rossi would be a bigger threat in 2014.

They were wrong. The 35-year-old has led the Yamaha challenge since winter testing and, while no one has beaten Marquez in a race, Rossi has finished runner-up on four occasions.

Rossi starts the second half of the season, at Indianapolis this weekend, locked in a close fight with Pedrosa for best of the rest behind Marquez in the world championship.

That is despite Rossi failing to qualify on the front row at any of the nine races.

Speaking at Indy, four-time 500cc title runner-up Mamola, who won 13 grands prix between 1979-1992, explained:

"We know that Marquez has been very dominant this year. The question always is who is going to be able to beat him. Valentino has definitely rejuvenated himself. That comes down to a lot of hard work by Valentino.

"He actually takes a stationary bicycle with him now to make sure he's on top of things. At 35 years old, going out there and racing with these young guys at 21, 22 years old is no easy feat.

"The thing with Valentino is he has a good [rider] academy now and he's got a good racetrack; dirt track [at his ranch] in Italy. He's been riding a lot off-road.

"If you talk to Nicky [Hayden], Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson and myself, everybody who comes from America came from dirt track. We were always very fast at adapting to things. Rossi's definitely made it easier on himself by doing that.

"And if you follow him on Twitter and things like that, you can see that he's working with a lot of young people. That keeps the youth."

Rossi has re-signed with Yamaha for a further two seasons.

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I've said it before, at this point in his career, what motivates Rossi is a pure love for his sport. It's much more enjoyable watching a race knowing that the people out there are putting at least as much passion and effort as us mere mortals would given a chance.