'Another era' - Rossi podium 23-years after debut!

Valentino Rossi marks the 23rd anniversary of his grand prix debut with a MotoGP podium return in Argentina.
'Another era' - Rossi podium 23-years after debut!

Valentino Rossi broke his longest podium drought as a Yamaha rider in style, by snatching a last-lap second place in the Argentina MotoGP.

To add to the occasion, Sunday marked the 23rd anniversary of his very first grand prix race, the 1996 125cc Malaysian GP, which he finished in sixth position.

"I saw the images [from 1996] this morning and it was quite funny because it's like another era, it was in black and white on the television!" smiled the 40-year-old.

Reflecting on his record-breaking career, Rossi said it could be divided into two parts.: The first where he won with comparative ease and a second where he chose to keep fighting, rather than retire in the face of 'younger and stronger' opponents.

"In the first part of my career I won a lot of races, a lot of championships, and you arrive in one point that is more difficult because arrive younger and stronger opponents," he said.

"So in that moment maybe you have to decide if you prefer to stay at home and look at your trophies and be happy about this, or you prefer to continue to fight because you enjoy it. I think this is my case."

Rossi may have stood on the podium 233 times since the Shah Alam world championship debut, but Sunday was special for more than just the anniversary date.

"I'm very happy because it's been since Sachsenring last year so a long, long time not on the podium," said The Doctor, absent from the rostrum for the ten races since last July's German round.

"Also in the last two races of last year in Malaysia and Valencia I was strong, I could arrive on the podium, but I did two mistakes and sincerely the championship finished with a bad, bad taste in the mouth.

"It also arrives in an important moment for me, my team and Yamaha. It was a good weekend from Friday, we worked well on the setting of the bike, on the tyres and I rode well from FP1. I was in good shape."

Second to runaway race winner Marc Marquez on the opening lap of the race, Rossi soon found himself involved in a race-long duel with Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso.

"The race was good. Sincerely I expected to be a bit faster, so I tried to overtake Dovi to go in front, but with the hotter temperature today I was more in trouble and not very strong.

"So after Dovi stayed in front of me for the majority of the race, but I was able to stay with him because I have some points where I feel very good with my bike, but I know that to beat Andrea I had to be very precise."

While some may have been tempted to settle for third, given the podium absence, Rossi executed a surprise pass to snatch the runner-up spot.

"I tried in Turn 7 where I had a good entry. I didn't go wide. To win a fight with Andrea is always great and to win a fight pn the last lap in general is very exciting."

The foundations for Rossi's podium return had been laid in qualifying, where he secured fourth on the grid compared with 14th in Qatar.

"It was crucial," he said. "The qualifying is always very difficult because really everybody is able to squeeze the tyre and bike at 120% for one lap. And if you do 110% you are on the third row.

"So starting from the second row is a lot better, but it was also possible because I arrived ready for qualifying because I already had a good pace."

5-2 finishes so far this season means Rossi is third in the early world championship standings heading to Texas in two weeks.

"In MotoGP now the situation changes from one day to the other. One day you are in the top five and the next you are out of the 15, so you can imagine how much it changes from track to race track. So we have to take it race-by-race.

"Now we go to Austin which maybe the most difficult and tricky track of the season, but I like it because it's very technical and last year I was quite strong. So we'll try to make a good job also there."