Newly crowned MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi returns to Japan safe in the knowledge that his current haul of 270 points is already unassailable. Rossi's confidence in his ability to take yet another race win will be buoyed by the fact that he was the winner of the first ever MotoGP of the new four-stroke era, coincidentally held in Japan, at the classic Suzuka circuit on April 7.

The Italian's renewed status as champion will allow him to concentrate solely on the job of winning races, unfettered by the need to keep one eye on the championship table.

According to the rider himself, the secret of Rossi's success has been simple, if far from easy in this tough and most important of all race classes. "This season has been great. Honda have made a fantastic bike," he said. "We arrived at the beginning of the season with a good advantage. Yamaha have come good later in the championship but we have made a good season, without any mistakes."

Rossi's historic win was his fourth World Championship success but that fact has not slaked his thirst for more champagne before the end of the year. "I really want to win more races, especially on Honda's own circuit," he added. "The weather can be changeable at Motegi but, as we have shown more than once, we can win in both the wet and the dry."

Rossi now has a more than realistic chance to re-write the history books in only his third year in biking's premier class. Despite his short reign at the very top, he now sits seventh on the all-time 500/MotoGP winners' list, and requires three more wins from four attempts to overtake legendary Honda rider Mick Doohan's 1997 record of 12 wins in a single season. A win at Motegi would equal Rossi's personal best of 11 in one season.

Rossi already knows what it takes to win at the impressive 4.801km Motegi circuit, having been victorious last year on the way to his 500cc World Championship. Still the current lap record holder at the circuit, with a 1min 50.59secs effort (set in 2000), he is a strong favourite to win in Japan for the second time this year, despite the enhanced number of Honda RCV four-strokes on the grid for this race.

"I know there will be another Honda RCV at Motegi (in the hands of Alex Barros) and that is obviously going to make things tougher, but for next year it seems everyone will have a four-stroke anyway."



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