ASSEN, Netherlands: Fresh from his second win of the MotoGP season, Valentino Rossi heads to one of his favorite circuits this weekend eager to pile more pressure on championship leader Marc Marquez.
The decorated Italian is confident of sealing an eighth victory around the Assen track in Sunday’s (Monday in Manila) Dutch Grand Prix, to go with his triumph in Barcelona last time out.
Rossi narrowly missed out on a 10th world title last season to Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, but his Catalan Grand Prix success pulled him to within 22 points of Marquez and just 12 points of Lorenzo, who crashed in Barcelona.
It leaves the title race wide open after seven races.
The 37-year-old Rossi beat Marquez and Lorenzo to win in the Netherlands last year, but accepts that this campaign has been very unpredictable.
“I used this short break to rest a bit and now I’m ready for the next race,” said Rossi.
“I love Assen, it is one of my favorite tracks, but that doesn’t mean anything because every race this year is very open and very uncertain. In Barcelona we had a good race and also the test went well. We just have to stay focused, try to work in the best way possible and see what happens,” he added.
Honda’s Marquez, 23, has won four times at Assen, including once in MotoGP on his way to a second successive title two years ago.
He struggled slightly last season against the pace of the two Yamahas and finished the championship in third place, but now looks primed to make it three riders’ crowns in four years.
“I’m happy that the time to go racing at Assen has arrived, as it’s a track I really enjoy and, importantly, the first in a series of circuits that suit my riding style quite well,” Marquez said.
“Step by step, we’re making some small improvements to the bike, so in Assen we’ll keep working hard from the first session to find a good setup and try and fight for the podium again. The weather is particularly unpredictable there, so we’ll keep an eye on that also and try to be fast from the beginning of the weekend,” he added.
‘Barcelona a great pity’
Lorenzo was knocked off top spot and slipped to 10 points adrift of Marquez in the standings after his Barcelona mishap.
The five-time world champion has had mixed results in the Dutch race, surprisingly with just a single win in 2010.
He is still well-placed though to end his eight-season spell at Yamaha with another title, before leaving to join Ducati.
“Barcelona was a great pity. I knew it was going to be a tough race especially after feeling that the tires were struggling after five or six laps, but then the crash ruined everything,” Lorenzo lamented.
“Now we need to forget the incident and try to fight again in Assen. Racing in Holland is always a kind of bittersweet feeling. It’s a track I love but on the other hand I’ve experienced both good and bad results,” he added.
Frenchman Johann Zarco will be looking to make it three wins in a row in the Moto2 race, after the defending champion hit back from a poor start to the campaign with victories in Italy and Barcelona.
Spaniard Alex Rins currently leads the way, eight points clear of Briton Sam Lowes, with Zarco two further behind.
In the Moto3 category, South African Brad Binder continues his seemingly inexorable march to the title, with an eighth consecutive podium finish in his sights.