MotoGP racing is closer than ever, with half-a-second covering the top eleven riders in qualifying at Assen and then the top nine last time at Sachsenring.

The Dutch round also saw the closest top 15 in history and an estimated 175 race overtakes. Five different riders were credited with leading a lap.

One of those was Valentino Rossi, the only rider on the grid to have raced 500cc two-strokes and one of only two current riders - along with Dani Pedrosa (retiring at the end of this season) - to have experienced the first generation of 990cc four-strokes.

Rossi was a world champion on both types of machine, then won his sixth and seventh premier-class titles in the 800cc era. 

Valentino Rossi's top 10 most dramatic victories

Further technical changes, such as a single tyre supplier, 1000cc engines and single ECU, were to follow. But Rossi feels the biggest difference from a rider's perspective compared to the early years of his career is the level of professionalism.

That mean's working on 'small details' of bike set-up and electronics, so every drop of speed is squeezed out of each corner and braking zone.

"I think one of the biggest differences compared to 15 years ago is that now we are always very close during the practice," Rossi said.

"I think that compared to 15 years ago, the level of professionalism of the sport has raised a lot. Now, the team but especially the riders, try to work in all the small details. You try to learn, try to understand corner-by-corner, braking-by-braking. 

"15 years ago it was more romantic! You would ride your bike, have your feeling. But it is not like this now, you have to work more. Maybe it is a bit more boring! 

"I think this is one of the biggest differences, but it is good for the championship."

'We grew up together'

One thing that hasn’t changed, despite not winning a title since 2009, is the number of VR46 fans that flock to each and every circuit to support their Italian idol.

"I'm always very lucky in my career, because I have great support, also outside of Italy," Rossi said. 

"I think it's mainly because of the results in my career, and also for being more than 20 years at the top. 

"I think that a lot of people around the track are growing up with me, also watching on television. So we grew up together, and it's always a great feeling. 

"But apart from that, I don't why!"

Rossi, who holds the all-time premier-class win record with 89 victories, has been title runner-up on three occasions since 2009.

The Doctor is currently second in this year's championship, 46 points from Marc Marquez, but Yamaha hasn’t won a race in over a year.