Two wins from the last two races have removed what had been growing pressure on reigning world champion Valentino Rossi's shoulders, and - with his third world title looking ever more likely - the Italian now feels confident enough to admit his mid season slump was due to a lack of concentration, and subsequent errors.

"I am very happy after the last two GPs with good results," began the 2001 and 2002 premier class champion. "We worked very hard on the bike with the team and after the summer break we came back and concentrated at 100%. I think earlier in the season maybe we lost a little bit of our concentration. We made a few mistakes but now we are coming good for the important part of the season."

Indeed, a Rossi in full flow is an awesome sight to behold, and his personal record of five Rio wins, spread through all solo classes, is a telling statistic for his rivals to consider ahead of this Saturday's race.

"We have had good success in Rio and I have many good memories of this track in the past," said the Repsol rider. "We hope to make more of the same results that will be good for the championship."

However, Rossi will have more than just racing on his mind this weekend: He is still to officially sign a Honda contract for next season, and - although they won't admit it publicly - it seems more than a coincidence that Ducati have yet to reveal who Neil Hodgson will ride for next year, or even who his team-mate will be.

Should the details of Hodgson's ride (almost certainly a Luis D'Antin run Ducati) be announced after any Rossi/Honda deal, its probably safe to assume the Bologna based company were in talks with 'The Doctor' - something which of course would be confirmed if Rossi were to shock the paddock and sign to ride a Desmosedici in 2004.

Stranger things have happened in MotoGP...



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