Rossi names main challengers.
MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi is tipping 2005 runner-up Marco Melandri, class rookie Dani Pedrosa and Ducati Marlboro riders Loris Capirossi and Sete Gibernau as the main challengers for his crown this season.
Speaking immediately after the conclusion of this week's third and final Sepang test - at which Rossi set the fourth overall fastest time, behind Melandri, Shinya Nakano and Capirossi - the Italian said:
"Now we're close to the start of the season and it's already becoming clear who the main challengers will be; Melandri and Pedrosa especially are looking very fast and it also seems like Ducati are strong. I think it's going to be a very exciting year with some wonderful races!"
Rossi's best lap at the test, a 2mins 1.89secs, was set on day two (Wednesday), but he also managed to record a 2mins 2.06secs in between the day three rain - good enough for second on Thursday, behind only Capirossi.
The Doctor was pleased with his overall performance, stating that he and his team had made progress with their recent chatter problem - and revealing that he is hoping to receive an engine power boost before the Jerez season opener on March 26. Between now and then, there are two official IRTA tests - at Barcelona and then Jerez.
"Today we couldn't do much because of the weather but overall it's been a very interesting test. I am especially happy because we have made some good progress to solve the problem with the vibration. We have some new data now and we understand better why it's happening, and how to finally fix it. We're not yet at 100% and I think we can go faster, but I am feeling confident," he said.
"Before the Jerez GP we might receive a small improvement for the engine, and hopefully we will have a bit more power. The test in Barcelona isn't so important for us but the final one in Jerez is very useful, as it's just a week before the first race and the conditions will be similar," Vale added.
"We have concluded our overseas testing sessions and now we're going back to Europe for the final two tests," added team director Davide Brivio. "The conditions in Barcelona won't help us so much with the bike development but anyway we will try to make the most of it. The important test will be Jerez, which will be the final opportunity for some key preparation before the first race.
"At the moment we still have a small problem to solve with vibration but apart from that everything is going well. Now we have to work in cooperation with Michelin to find the best combination between the new bike and the new tyres, because both have great potential."
Meanwhile, Thursday marked Rossi's 27th birthday and the Italian made the most of the rain induced inactivity as he celebrated with a large birthday cake in the team garage. "27 years is quite a lot and I am definitely getting old, although most of the time I still feel like I am only 16!" smiled the seven times world champion..