Rossi: 'We can defend ourselves at Mugello'

Valentino Rossi confident he can defend against Yamaha's top-speed weakness at home Italian MotoGP.
Rossi: 'We can defend ourselves at Mugello'

Chatting in the paddock on Saturday evening at Mugello last year, after Valentino Rossi had become the oldest rider to claim pole position in the premier-class since Jack Findlay in 1974, one of his mechanics said:

'People talk about his age, how long he's been doing this and how he's still so motivated. But they forget he's also just plain fast. I mean, today the bike was good enough for the front two rows. He made the difference'.

The 39-year-old's lap of 1m 46.208s was a new all-time Mugello record despite a 10km/h top speed disadvantage to the Ducatis, who went on to finish first and second, with Rossi completing the rostrum above the adoring fans.

While Rossi hasn't taken a Mugello victory since the stunning unbeaten home run from 2002-2008, he's been on the podium and/or qualified on the front row for the past five years.

The Yamaha top speed deficit will be even more of a burden in 2019, with Honda set to challenge Ducati for supremacy on the fastest straight of the season.

But Rossi - who has opted for the older Yamaha fairing at most races this year, due to its lower drag on the straight (but also downforce) compared to the latest design - is confident they can 'defend' and few would rule out another dose of Mugello magic from the Italian during the weekend.

"I'm glad it's time for Mugello, it‘s a special weekend and a special race for all the Italian riders," Rossi said. "It has a fantastic atmosphere, but it's also a bit tricky to manage with all the fans, but it‘s really great.

"This is one of the most beautiful race tracks of the year. It's a track I really like, but it will be hard because everybody is very fast.

"Mugello does have less acceleration from a low speed, so I think we could be faster than in Le Mans, but it is also true that there is a very long straight. Surely this will be our weak point, but if we work well, we can defend ourselves.

"We need to try our best to be competitive and give the maximum."

The Doctor has taken two podiums and one front-row start this season, while leading eight laps and holding fourth in the world championship standings, 23 points from Marc Marquez (Honda).

Last year's Mugello pole ended a 25-event barren run for Rossi, who has now gone 32 races without a MotoGP victory.

“Valentino is always highly motivated, but this weekend perhaps even more so, if that‘s possible, because he is on home soil and he was close to a podium at the last GP," said team director Massimo Meregalli.

Petronas Yamaha's Franco Morbidelli is the next best Yamaha, in eighth, heading into Mugello. Rossi's factory team-mate Maverick Vinales is tenth in the standings.