15 September 2014
MotoGP Misano: Victorious Rossi 'at the best of my career'
“I think now I am the best Valentino of my career. I don't feel that I'm slower than when I won ten or eleven races in a season" - Valentino Rossi.
Shortly after winning his first home MotoGP race in five years, Valentino Rossi declared that he is riding better than ever.
Speaking at Misano on Sunday, the 35-year-old declared: “I think now I am the best Valentino of my career. I don't feel that I'm slower than when I won ten or eleven races in a season. The bigger problem is that my rivals are stronger. They are younger and are the next generation. They are more professional and more focussed.”
This season has seen Honda's reigning champion Marc Marquez flatten the opposition with eleven wins from twelve races, his team-mate Dani Pedrosa the only other winner prior to Misano.
But inspired by his first front row start of the year and willed on by his adoring home fans, Rossi went 'bar-to-'bar with both Marquez and team-mate Jorge Lorenzo to take the lead on lap 4 of 28 of Sunday's race. Marquez was also soon past Lorenzo, but slid off while pushing to keep pace with Rossi.
“Yesterday we understand that here our bike is very strong,” Rossi explained. “A small advantage compared to the Hondas. So in days like this - after Marquez has won a lot of races - it is an excellent motivation because you can see it can be the day for the win.
“But on the other side Jorge has the same bike as me, so I know it is always difficult. I started the race with - not pressure - but a strong feeling. Because if you make a small mistake it is finished.
“I had a very good battle with Marc and Jorge. I knew Marc wanted to stay in front because if I was in front I could go faster. When I understood something happened to him it was more easy because there was a small gap to Jorge. But I had to stay concentrated and constant.”
Pole sitter Lorenzo had opted for the hard front tyre and should have been stronger at the end of the race. Instead Rossi held his advantage at around 2.5 seconds to claim a record 81st victory in the premier-class.
“To think this happened five years after my last victory at Misano - which was also another battle with Jorge, with a small advantage until the end - I'm very proud because I worked hard to be here after five years.”
Rossi's 2009 Misano victory had marked the final triumph on his way to a seventh MotoGP title. The Italian broke a leg the following year, then spent two winless seasons at Ducati before returning to Yamaha and the top step of the podium at Assen 2013.
But he had not won since and Rossi, who also claimed his first victory with new crew chief Silvano Galbusera, admitted: “I was worried that this year I cannot win one race and I've always won one race since I raced in the world championship, except the Ducati seasons. Also Silvano Galbusera never made a season without any victories.
“I am happy because it is a strong victory and I arrived step-by-step. Every Sunday is very difficult, to fight with these guys, but I always trust that this can happen.”
Indeed, Rossi revealed that he and his team had 'found something important' with the set-up of his M1 this weekend and is confident the outcome would have been the same even without Marquez's accident.
“Like this is more easy and I cannot say for sure, but I think I can arrive in front of Marquez anyway,” he said.
“This weekend we found something very important about setting, about the way to go faster with my bike. This will remain also for the next races. But at the same time I think Misano helped the M1.
“For some reason the Hondas have some problem here. Marc is not as strong as usual. So this can change in the next races, but it looks like we worked very well in the team and in the last races we have reduced the gap.”
Rossi's classed this year's victory as more 'solid' than the similarly emotional 2013 Assen triumph.
“Assen was more of a surprise, also because Jorge had broken the collarbone,” he said. "But this time I'm faster, I'm stronger, I've finished second four times behind Marquez, so I know I can stay at the top.”
While Marquez is out of reach, The Doctor is now just one point behind Dani Pedrosa and second place in the world championship.
“I have some important targets for this part of the season. The first one was to win a race and I did it today. The main target now is to make the maximum and fight for the podium every race. And after, try to fight with Dani for second in the world championship.”
Asked to pick the most memorable moment of Misano 2014, Rossi replied: “In the race the battles with Jorge and Marquez, but sincerely the lap after the flag with all the people - the crowd, my friends and family. This was the best moment.”
The slowdown lap saw Rossi congratulated by his opponents - including Lorenzo and Marquez - then soak up the celebrations from a sea of yellow in the grandstands and grass banks, followed by an equally rapturous podium ceremony.
His message to those that have stood by him? “Thanks for the support! I'm very happy to continue to try the maximum and I know that it will always be more hard. I will have to work more. But I have another two and a half years and I'll try to continue in this way.”
Rossi certainly has no intention of backing off, having signed with Yamaha until at least the end of 2016. "I think that to ride MotoGP, if you have a good life and have good training, you can arrive to 37," Rossi stated.
With his 107th win in all grand prix classes, Rossi has edged a little closer to Giacomo Agostini's all-time record of 122.
“Too difficult,” Rossi said of reaching that tally. “It's different now. I don't race for the record. I like to make the weekend, give the maximum and try to fight with the top three and try to ride the Yamaha at 100 percent. This is the main reason. The rest is not very important.”
With that in mind, Rossi was already turning his thoughts to the next round at Aragon.
“Every race is a different story. So we have to restart from zero at Aragon and try to arrive in front again...”
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