Valentino Rossi made a perfect start to his record 400th grand prix by sweeping into the lead through turn one of the Australian MotoGP.

But it would end with a less impressive statistic, the Italian legend clocking 44 races without a victory, equalling his longest losing streak since joining the world championship in 1996.

That spanned Sepang 2010 to Assen 2013, and included the Ducati years, while it's also now been 14 races since Rossi stood on the rostrum (his longest podium drought is 16 events).

"It was a great start and a very good way to celebrate my 400th grand prix, to stay a little bit in front. It was a great emotion," smiled Rossi, who qualified fourth and went on to finish in eighth place.

"At the end, for sure the result is not fantastic, but I was not so far from Jack Miller on the podium and able to ride in a better way.

"I was more competitive compared to last weekend [at Motegi]. But anyway we need more. We need to be stronger. We need to work.

"Like always we have a lack of grip on the rear. I'm very slow in the straight but also in the acceleration I'm not able to exit from the corner very fast. This is the place where we have to work.

"But to race in Phillip Island is always great and at the end it was a hard battle."

After Maverick Vinales, Marc Marquez and Cal Crutchlow broke clear, Rossi was left in the thick of an eight-rider battle, see-sawing up and down the order.

"The problem is that we were a big group and every lap I lose one position on the straight," Rossi explained.

"So if I'm not able to resist or retake the position [lost on the straight] in the next lap, then the guy behind me overtakes. Because I was for sure the slower in the straight of all the group!

"So unfortunately in some places I was not strong enough to recover every lap. But at the end I tried to ride smooth."

Nonetheless, Rossi - greeted on the grid by former crew chief Jerry Burgess ahead of his landmark race - was able to gain two places on the final lap.

The first was by overtaking the Suzuki of Alex Rins, the second when team-mate Vinales crashed out of a victory battle with Marquez.

"On the final lap I fight with Rins and overtake him. After I was very close to Iannone but I'm not able to overtake," Rossi said. "Then Iannone overtook Dovi and they touched a little bit… so it was a hard fight, but fun."

Rossi remains seventh in the world championship but Fabio Quartararo's first lap exit means he is now just ten points behind the Petronas Yamaha rider heading into Sepang, where Rossi led much of last year's race.

 

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