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Rossi mounts final title assault with Edwards hopeful after testing

Rossi mounts final title assault with Edwards hopeful after testing

Rossi mounts final title assault with Edwards hopeful after testing

Five years to the week since he won the MotoGP World Championship for the first time, Valentino Rossi heads into the penultimate round of the 2006 season at Estoril in Portugal next Sunday aiming to finally overthrow Nicky Hayden from the top of the standings and set-up his sixth premier-class title in a row. After an amazing run of form for the Italian, who has made up 39 points over the last four races, he is now just 12 behind and on course to catch the American by the final round at Valencia.

The 27 year old has won the race in Portugal four times, including his first appearance there for Yamaha in 2004, whilst conversely for Hayden it is one of his least successful circuits - his best result coming last year when he finished seventh.

Rossi's team-mate Colin Edwards is hoping for a turnaround in fortunes as he looks to build on excellent recent progress with the set-up of his YZR-M1 machine, including sensational lap times in the recent one-day test at Motegi, and end his season on a high.

Rossi remains confident that he has the speed to beat Nicky Hayden in any situation although he admits that the upcoming circuits are not amongst his favourites. An intense summer of hard work by Yamaha's engineers on the YZR-M1 has given Rossi a competitive and adaptable package that he believes can adjust to the demands of both Estoril and Valencia and give him every chance of retaining the title, which he has made his own in recent seasons.

"Now we have two difficult tracks but I think our M1 can be fast at both of them," says Rossi. "Since Brno, when we finally understood everything about what we needed to do to make our bike work at 100% again, we've been very strong everywhere and on the podium each time. I think that we're as strong as our rivals now and when we're at the maximum we're always going to be fighting at the front. Of course we know we could have won more if we'd been like this earlier in the season but we can't do anything about that. Anyway we know our potential and when we've started from the front lately we've been on the podium each time, so we have to carry on like this.

"Everyone involved has helped bring us back to this level. I think the team's level of motivation and concentration is the best in the paddock, it's incredible, more than anyone else, so I have to say thank you again. I actually like Portugal - the ‘04 bike especially was very good there. It's twisty but we can go well there. In ‘05 we had some problems with the tyre, plus it was only the second race and early in the year so the weather was bad. I hope that it will be a bit warmer and won't rain, and that we can find a good tyre with Michelin."

Rossi's team-mate Colin Edwards is hoping for a turnaround in fortunes as he looks to build on excellent recent progress with the set-up of his YZR-M1 machine, including sensational lap times in the recent one-day test at Motegi, and end his season on a high.

"We made a big step forward at the test after the last race in Motegi and I was pretty much flying round the track that day," says Edwards. "We've only got two more races with this bike but it is always important to improve in testing so that you can translate that to race conditions, which is what we hope will happen in Portugal. Even though we haven't had the exact results we've hoped for at the last two races, the overall feeling with the bike has been much better and so with any luck the recent adjustments we made in Motegi will give us a competitive package in Estoril.

"I was unlucky to be one of the ones that went down in the rain last year but I did get back on and finish sixth, although I had better improve on that this time around! I don't have any particularly strong feelings one way or another for the track, it's got a bit of everything but I think it suits our bike quite well. As a place it's not bad either - the coastline is beautiful and the food is great. The only problem is the weather, but we've been fairly unlucky with that this season so hopefully it's our turn for some sunshine!"

Tags:
MotoGP, 2006, bwin.com GRANDE PREMIO DE PORTUGAL, Colin Edwards, Valentino Rossi

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