Valentino Rossi returns to the scene of his very first grand prix victory, at Brno this weekend, buoyed by a return to the MotoGP podium last time at Andalucia.

After struggling in the season-opener, the Italian and his crew convinced Yamaha to let them go in a new set-up direction for the second Jerez round.

Rossi instantly felt more comfortable and, as importantly, seemed to suffer less rear tyre degradation, clearing the way for a first podium since Austin 2019.

The nine-time world champion is also confident the set-up change, which has altered the front-rear weight balance, will also work around the much bigger Brno circuit.

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The Italian last stood on the Czech Republic podium (for a 14th time) in 2016, the season after team-mate Jorge Lorenzo claimed what has been Yamaha's only Brno win in the last nine years.

Rossi's personal victory record at the track began with his first 125cc win in 1996, followed by a 250cc victory in 1999, then 500cc victory in 2001 and 'MotoGP' victories in 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2009.

"It‘s time for Brno, which is always a special weekend for me. It‘s where I took my very first victory in the 125cc class, back in 1996, and that is something I can never forget," Rossi said.

"Normally the atmosphere is really fantastic at this track, but unfortunately we will have to race without the fans. But still, this is a very beautiful race circuit - it‘s a track I really like, so we will try to give the fans watching from home a good show.

"The podium at the last race was a great result and a big emotion, so we are going to push 100% to be competitive again this weekend and give the maximum."

Rossi is currently sixth in the early MotoGP standings, which are headed by fellow M1 riders Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Vinales, whom he joined on the Jerez podium.

The trio, plus Quartararo's Petronas team-mate Franco Morbidelli, will all be hoping that Yamaha has got on top of their engine reliability concerns.

Rossi, Vinales and Morbidelli have each suffered one failure already this season, with all four Yamaha riders given two brand new engines to use last time in Andalucia.

But that can't happen again in Brno, since Vinales has now opened all five of his engines for the entire season, with Rossi, Morbidelli and Quartararo on four out of five.

To put that into perspective, Rossi didn’t open his penultimate engine of last season until round 13 (of 19), with only one engine withdrawn during the entire championship.