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Rossi focused on title target as speculation mounts in Malaysia

Rossi focused on title target as speculation mounts in Malaysia

Rossi focused on title target as speculation mounts in Malaysia

Valentino Rossi insisted he was fully concentrated on winning his third consecutive MotoGP World Championship in Malaysia this weekend despite mounting speculation about his future. The flamboyant Italian would retain the title with victory or second place in Sunday's race, whilst any position immediately behind his only remaining challenger Sete Gibernau would also be enough to maintain an insurmountable 50-point cushion over the final two races. Should Rossi fail to score any points at all, Gibernau must finish in the top seven in order to carry the battle to Australia next week. However, just as he did at Phillip Island in 2001 and at Rio last year, Rossi insists he wants to seal the championship in the best possible style.

"I like this circuit very much and I love to ride the bike here, so I think our target has to be to win and think about the championship afterwards," said Rossi today. "We came here in the winter and made good lap times, but that was also the case last season and when the race came around we were 1.5 seconds slower. We have to stay concentrated and make sure that doesn't happen again. I think in Portugal and Brazil we worked really well, but at Motegi we weren't 100% all weekend and we have to improve that."

When questioned about his plans for next season, which has been the centre of much speculation and gossip in the paddock today as the rest of the riders contemplate their own futures, Rossi commented: "The contract I was offered by Honda at Motegi was not good enough and I did not sign it. My manager will arrive tonight with a new one and we will have to see. I don't know what people are saying because I don't read the newspapers, but I can tell you that I have not signed for anybody, that is for sure. I think the best thing for this weekend is to concentrate on the race and the championship."

One of the main threats to a satisfactory weekend for Rossi could be his perennial nemesis Max Biaggi, winner of the last round at Motegi five days ago. Biaggi streaked to victory here last season riding the Yamaha M1 and is hoping for a repeat this weekend on the Honda. "Over the last couple of races we have got the bike working well and at the moment I am very happy," said Biaggi, who lies 25 points behind Gibernau in the championship. "This is one of my favourite places and I like this track a lot – it would be fantastic to win again because I have still got a chance of finishing second in the championship."

Biaggi later took the opportunity to hone his competitive edge with victory over a group of other riders at the go-kart circuit which forms part of the state-of-the-art facilities at the Sepang International Circuit. MotoGP rivals Troy Bayliss, Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden also took part in race, alongside 250cc riders Sebastian Porto and Chaz Davies and 125cc man Steve Jenkner.

Whilst his MotoGP rivals got some practice on the track, John Hopkins headed for the waves as he took an early flight down to Australia. The Suzuki rider, who is banned from this race for his involvement in a first corner incident at Motegi, will spend the weekend relaxing and riding jetskis as he prepares to make his return to action at Phillip Island next week.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2003, Marlboro Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix, Valentino Rossi

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