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Rossi enters a new era with Yamaha debut in Sepang

Rossi enters a new era with Yamaha debut in Sepang

Rossi enters a new era with Yamaha debut in Sepang

After a wait of over two months since the end of the 2003 season, and a further hour for photo-calls for the amassed media throng this morning, MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi finally opened the throttle for the first time on the Yamaha YZR-M1 motorcycle, as the 24 year-old Italian begins a new era of his already illustrious career. The flamboyant star has won the MotoGP World Championship for the past three years on board a Honda, dominating his opponents during that time. However, having made the decision to leave the Honda factory to pursue a new challenge, he now finds himself as the spearhead for their traditional rivals, Yamaha.

After his first test-day on board his new bike at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia, Rossi was already top of the time sheets and revealed that he was happy with both his and the bike's performance. "This is obviously a very important move for me, and I was very excited before getting on the bike," said Rossi. "My first impressions are quite good. You have some ideas about the other bikes when you run with them on the circuit and, sincerely, I expected more big problems, but more or less the bike is okay. It has some things less than Honda, but also some good, and it is basically not so bad."

Rossi's Crew Chief Jerry Burgess, who made the switch with him from Honda after 20 years with the Japanese factory, commented: "We didn't really do much more than get him familiar with the bike. It takes a while to get eye co-ordination back after a long lay-off and we just made minor refinements to deliver what Valentino wants from the bike. What we're looking for is information to work out the direction we need to go in - and we're all working together in that."

Rossi and his team-mate Carlos Checa were joined by Yamaha colleagues Marco Melandri and Norick Abe today as the teams and bikes were unveiled for the first time. Melandri and Abe will ride for the Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 Team, the privately-owned French team run by Hervé Poncharal, all running the latest spec Yamaha YZR-M1. All four riders spent the whole day getting comfortable on their machines, with temperatures lower than usual due to a light breeze and the cloud cover over the region. All were pleased with the first day back in the saddle, although Melandri complained of soreness after undergoing a shoulder operation in the winter.

"I've spent almost 100 days without riding," said the Italian. "But my shoulder should loosen up tomorrow and I will improve. Even so I was a tenth of a second faster than my best race lap here last year."

The Yamaha tests continue for two more days at the Sepang circuit.

Unofficial lap times

Valentino Rossi – 2'03.80 (58 laps)
Carlos Checa – 2'04.10 (53 laps)
Marco Melandri 2'05.40 (48 laps)
Norick Abe – 2'05.84 (50 laps)

* Exclusive video web footage of Rossi's Yamaha debut is available in the Bzone or by clicking on the links underneath the photo. If you are not already subscribed to one of our pay per view packages then you can watch Rossi's historic debut for the bargain price of just 1 EURO (approx 1.25USD).

MotoGP, 2003, Valentino Rossi

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