Valentino Rossi may have won exactly half of his first ten races as a Yamaha rider, but with Telefonica Honda's Sete Gibernau closing the point's gap by 5 (to 17), after victory last time out at Brno, the Italian admits he's under 'even more pressure' to halt the Spaniard's advance this weekend at Estoril.

"Things were going well in Brno until we had some rear tyre problems during the race, but I think that Estoril should be a circuit we can do well at," said Rossi, before adding a note of caution. "Having said that, it seems each time we go to a circuit we think we can do well at the opposite happens, and vice versa."

Whether his M1 suits the track or not, Rossi is eager to prevent Gibernau and Honda gathering momentum just as the exciting 2004 season reaches its most critical stage.

"The Estoril track is full of bumps and we have had some problems with this bike on bumps so I hope we can find a good direction early on during the weekend," explained the five-times world champion. "Honda was very strong in Brno and I'm sure the race will be tight again. The points gap has reduced so it's even more pressure to hold onto a point's advantage in Estoril.

"Apart from Motegi I think all the tracks we have left we have a good chance at, although obviously no one has any idea what Qatar is going to be like. I love all the other tracks we have left so I will try my hardest to fight for the championship," he declared.

Rossi, for his part, is now the third most successful premier-class rider in history with 38 race wins. But more significantly for this Sunday's race, the former 125cc and 250cc champion has taken the last three Portuguese MotoGP/500cc race wins in succession.

The Doctor's Estoril hopes will also be boosted by a pace setting performance in the recent two-day Brno test, where Rossi will hope the team's recent tyre degradation problems have been solved.

"We stayed on at Brno for a two day test and it had a very positive outcome," confirmed factory Yamaha team director Davide Brivio. "We continued to work on engine management maps and settings. Our lap times were very good on Michelin race tyres, even if some of the ones we used were softer.

"Estoril can be a good track for us because most of the circuit is corners and chicanes and the M1 suits this type of circuit," added Brivio. "I think we can do well there. Carlos was on pole in 2002 so it's a place he obviously gets on with.

"After the Brno test we go to Portugal with more information about the machine, especially on the engine management side. We look forward to maintaining our challenge, and most importantly keeping our lead in the championship."

 

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