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Rossi ready for fresh battle at Phillip Island

Rossi ready for fresh battle at Phillip Island

Rossi ready for fresh battle at Phillip Island

Valentino Rossi is predicting another tough battle as he looks to extend a four-year unbeaten run at Phillip Island in this weekend's fifteenth round of the MotoGP World Championship. Rossi, who sealed the title in Malaysia two rounds ago, has enjoyed some of his most famous successes at this unique circuit and has contributed to some incredibly close racing – his final lap pass on Sete Gibernau last year still remembered fondly by locals as the riders were welcomed to the island by typically brisk spring temperatures this week.

With Marco Melandri and Nicky Hayden both hitting form and an intense six-rider struggle for second place in the championship taking place behind him, the Italian is expecting more of the same this Sunday.

"This is like a magic circuit for me, I have had some great, great battles here in the past," reflected Rossi. "Two years ago I managed to escape from Capirossi but last year was a hard fight with Gibernau until the last lap, also in 2001 it was a great fight with Biaggi. This time I'm sure Hayden and Melandri will be strong, but I have many rivals who can do well here so we will see this weekend. Phillip Island is a great track, maybe my absolute favourite, and I have some wonderful memories, especially winning the 500cc championship for the first time in 2001 and also for Yamaha last year, which was probably the best title of them all."

One man who doesn't expect to be challenging Rossi for victory, but who nevertheless has high hopes for the weekend, is local favourite Chris Vermeulen. The 23-year-old is scheduled to make his MotoGP debut as a replacement for injured compatriot Troy Bayliss having recently finished as runner-up in his rookie season in the World Superbike Championship. Bayliss, who was replaced by Shane Byrne for the past two rounds, is recovering from a wrist injury and is currently fighting to be fit for the remaining races at Istanbul and Valencia, giving Vermeulen his first true taste of the Grand Prix paddock.

"I'm really excited about the opportunity to ride in MotoGP, especially here in Australia," said Vermeulen. "I had a test scheduled for the end of last season but had to miss that because of an injury, so I'm really happy that this chance has come round again - I've made no secret of the fact that MotoGP is where I want to go with my career. Phillip Island is one of the best circuits in the world; it's fast and flowing and that really suits my riding style. You get a great view of the ocean coming down the start-finish straight but maybe I won't get the chance to appreciate that so much on a factory Honda machine at something like 320kph!"


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