Runner-up in the last two rounds, Valentino Rossi arrives for the start of the hectic European MotoGP season holding a close second in the world championship standings.

This weekend's Jerez round could prove a good indication as to whether the Italian can sustain a title challenge, as some of his main rivals believe, or if Yamaha's form will once again fade.

Rossi is a seven-time premier-class winner at the Spanish Grand Prix, but the track has taunted his M1 for the past two seasons, crossing the line tenth in 2017 and fifth (after Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Dovizioso collided ahead of him) in 2018.

The Doctor could only set the eleventh fastest lap time (+0.651s) during November's closely-matched test at the circuit, but subsequent resurfacing means riders and teams start with a lack of data this weekend.

Nonetheless, in general the M1 responds well to high-grip conditions, which the new asphalt should provide.

"I love racing in Europe because the tracks are fantastic, and I know them very well. We start at Jerez, which has been a difficult track for the Yamaha in the last two years, but we did well at the last two races, so it will be very interesting to see if we can be strong there," said Rossi, who lost out on victory at COTA by less than half-a-second to Suzuki's Alex Rins, but nonetheless became the oldest rider to score back-to-back premier class podiums since Jack Ahearn in 1966.

"We have had a little break and from now on it's 'bam, bam, bam', a very packed schedule until the race at the Sachsenring. We're good, strong, and we are working well. It looks like the bike improved a lot. For sure, there are some areas that we need to work on. We need some time for that, but we can be competitive."

Team director Massimo Meregalli added: "Our bike has been competitive at the previous rounds in Argentina and Texas, so we want to continue to show that form this weekend, especially after two difficult years here. As per usual, preparation will be key: the Friday free practice sessions will be important, because we need to start the weekend off the right way.

"It will be a full-on week, even more so because the Spanish GP is directly followed by the one-day Official IRTA Jerez Test. But after the minibreak between COTA and Jerez, we're happy with the additional track time and the opportunity to get extra work done."

Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso currently leads a championship top four covered by just nine points. Rossi's team-mate Maverick Vinales is twelfth in the standings.

Six MotoGP races will be held during the next two months, until the summer break begins after Sachsenring on July 7.

 

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