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MotoGP: Rossi 'still a contender' ahead of 19th season

Nine-time world champ buoyed by performance in testing

20 March, 17:15
MotoGP: Rossi 'still a contender' ahead of 19th season (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, March 20 - Italy's nine-time motorcycling world champion is out to show he is still a contender before the start of his 19th season grand-prix season in Sunday's floodlight race in Qatar.

The 35-year-old Yamaha rider was only fourth in last year's MotoGP standings, behind Honda's world champion Marc Marquez and his fellow Spaniards Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo.

But Rossi did manage to end a run of over two years without a victory at the Dutch Grand Prix in June and his strong showing in pre-season testing has spurred hope among Italian fans that 2014 could be the year of a resurgence.

"I'm so happy because we are finally here at the start of the first race weekend of the year," Rossi told reporters this week.

"We have worked very hard in the testing to make some of my issues from last year better and we have found some really good speed. "I have been able to be very competitive and been with the fastest riders during testing. "I'm very happy with the work done to my Yamaha M1 over the winter that has helped me to be fast.

"We have a competitive bike to fight for the podium this weekend".

Rossi separated from his long-standing race engineer Jeremy Burgess in November.

His hopes of a good campaign have been strengthened by the chemistry with his new crew chief Silvano Galbusera, with teams and riders having to get to grips with several changes to the regulations.

"There are a lot of new things for this year. It will be very interesting to see what changes," Rossi said.

"The races could be different to last year especially at the start and in the first part of each race".

The man to beat will be Marquez, who became the youngest-ever premium class motorcycling world champion when he prevailed in 2013 in his rookie season.

The 21-year-old's preparations have been disrupted though as he missed the pre-season tests after breaking his right leg while dirt-bike riding.

Last season Rossi returned to Yamaha - with whom he won four of his seven premium-class world titles between 2004 and 2009 - after two winless years at Italian team Ducati.

He is second in motorcycling's all-time race-win standings with 106 victories behind his compatriot Giacomo Agostini, who won 122 grands prix in various classes in the 1960s and 70s.

"I think a rider can race well until he's 40," Rossi said Wednesday.

"I feel in good shape and I hope to race better than last year".

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