Though it is the San Marino Grand Prix at Misano that is often regarded as the ‘home’ venue for Valentino Rossi, the man himself admits competing at Mugello for the Italian MotoGP is just that bit ‘more special’ to him.

While adoring fans of Rossi pack grandstands around the world, it is the two Italian races at Mugello and Misano that understandably raise the emotion level for Rossi, who will be beginning his 20th premier class race at the Tuscany circuit this weekend.

Though good results on home soil haven’t come so easily for Rossi in recent years, he was famously unbeaten at Mugello for seven consecutive races between 2002 and 2008, while fans were left misty-eyed in 2016 and 2018 when he put the Yamaha on pole position.

“Mugello is the most special race of the season for me, though more or less it is for all the Italian riders. It is a historic day and the Misano GP is great and close to home, but this is more special because the track is fantastic and different to the others.

“The atmosphere, all the fans around the track… when you look [out there], especially on Sunday, it is a very emotional feeling. It is important to give more than the maximum.”

Coming into this weekend’s race, though Rossi still gets a buzz racing at Mugello, he is more tight-lipped on where Yamaha will fare in the pecking order compared with Ducati, Honda and Suzuki.

“It is always difficult to understand before the weekend but every year is different. Last year was not too bad and I was quite strong during the weekend, so we have to see. It looks like we improve in some areas but the bike has improved very much so it depends on many things.”

Rossi is fourth in the overall standings after five races, 23 points adrift of leader Marc Marquez, but 42 points ahead of struggling team-mate Maverick Vinales.

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