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VR46: “On the last laps you forget strategy. It’s all heart”

The rider from Tavullia turned pole into the podium on hallowed ground at Mugello – and he gave it everything

“When you get on the podium in Mugello, in front of all the fans, it repays you for all of the effort you put in,” smiles Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), celebrating his third place at home at Mugello having fought it out right to the end - and becoming the first rider to score more than 5000 premier class points. “Yesterday was already a fantastic feeling, and pole position was crucial for today too.”

Experience Lap 1 at Mugello with Rossi in 360

That it was, and it’s been a weekend to remember for the nine-time World Champion. Fresh off the rostrum in Le Mans, pole on Saturday was the first celebration before the podium on Sunday put the cherry on top. The ‘Doctor’ says it was a very tough race, and there were times he didn’t think he’d be able to greet the yellow haze from the podium.

“We had to use the hard tyre, I never had a good feeling with it in practice but I had to use it,” begins the Italian. “It was one of the toughest races I can remember recently because the bike was so tough to ride without much grip, and when I was P5 I was worried. But I thought maybe I could have an advantage over Iannone and Petrucci at the end.” It was Iannone, ultimately, who fought it out with Rossi – when, the number 46 says, it came down to something simple: “In the last few laps, you forget strategy. It’s all heart.”

It was also unexpected in some ways and looking forward, Rossi says they need to improve – but that they have positives and, crucially, direction.

Rossi: "The pole position was crucial for the podium"

“I didn’t expect pole and I hoped for the podium but I didn’t know. But over race distance, where we have less grip and it does down, we suffer more compared to Honda and Ducati. For me the problems are very clear and I try to explain them, now Yamaha have to work and try and improve but it’s not easy. It’s long work, it’s not sure that you’ll try good things. […] It’s the third podium of the season and I’m second in the Championship which is very positive, but my best result is third, and I want to fight for the win. We’ve improved the balance of the bike for a hot lap but at the moment over race distance we suffer so I hope we can improve the bike and start challenging for the win in the second half of the season.”

Next up? The venue where the ‘Doctor’ won in 2016, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.