Valentino Rossi broke away from the script when delivering a prepared answer to the question 'why does the Dutch MotoGP take place on a Saturday'.

"Because the track was close to a church and the priest didn't want noise on Sunday, so they decided to hold the race on Saturday. This is the reason," Rossi told the assembled media at the start of Wednesday's official pre-event press conference.

But the Italian then quipped: "It's strange because Superbike is on Sunday - so maybe the priest prefers Superbike!"

The Dutch TT at Assen is the only event from the inaugural 1949 world championship still present on the MotoGP calendar, although the circuit has been substantially modified over the years.

"It is for sure a special place and I am lucky because I raced at the old circuit on 125, 250 and also the 500," said Rossi. "I did the old Assen with the NSR500 and it was fantastic.

"Unfortunately in 2006 they modified the track [removing the North Loop at the start of the lap]. It is for sure 'less' than before but anyway it is a great track, especially the last part. It is very fast and in MotoGP it gives a lot of adrenaline every lap."

Assen has certainly been good for Rossi over the years with six wins in the premier-class, including last year's emotional triumph, when the Italian put two miserable seasons at Ducati behind him with a record 80th 500cc/MotoGP win.

While Rossi hasn't won since, he returns to Assen in far more competitive shape, having finished runner-up to reigning champion Marc Marquez in four of the seven races to hold second in the world championship.

"Last year I wasn't fast and strong like this year, but here at Assen was a good weekend," Rossi recalled. "We found a good setting for qualifying and it was my best race of the season.

"For sure this year is a lot better. I am in better shape and able to go faster more or less everywhere."

Unfortunately for Rossi, Marquez has also improved - winning every race so far this year.

"Marc is faster than last year, with one year more experience, so to try to arrive in front we have to raise the level," confirmed Rossi.

"We are quite worried because Marc was able to win at Mugello and Barcelona which, on paper, are two tracks which are very good for Yamaha.

"Also here, last year the Yamaha was very good. Better than Honda I think. But I'm worried because this year Marc with more experience but also the Honda improved their weak points. So it will be hard but we have to try."

So far in 2014 Marquez has beaten Rossi, Lorenzo and Pedrosa in last lap battles.

"Marc always brakes very deep and more or less always has the situation under control and is very clever," explained Rossi. "At the end of the race he can modify his line to stop the attack of the guy behind. He is always under control and knows what he has to do.

"I've been second to Marc four times. The battle in Qatar was maybe my best chance to beat him. At Barcelona [last time] I wasn't so far but Marc and Dani had a bit faster pace, especially entering the corner, so it was difficult to attack. This weekend we'll try to be faster and stronger to battle more."

Looking to the future, Rossi has long made clear his intentions to remain for another two seasons at Yamaha, but a deal is yet to be announced.

"I'm very, very close with Yamaha to continue another two seasons. That is my target and I think Yamaha agrees. Not this weekend but soon. We are not ready but not so far."

Free practice for the Dutch TT starts on Thursday morning, with qualifying on Friday and the race on Saturday.



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