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115 victories, 65 further podiums, nine World Championships; the numbers speak for themselves for Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and in 2019, could the elusive tenth title be his?
Rossi's almost perfect day
Well, if the 2018 Malaysian GP was anything to go by, then maybe. To quote a fellow multiple MotoGP™ World Champion: “Apart from the crash, I’ve never seen Rossi so consistent,” tweeted Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) after the race. “More than 10 laps in just 1 tenth at the hottest and longest track impressed me today. And some said he started to feel his age after last race...” Despite the end result, the proof was there that Rossi is still hungry and fit enough to challenge for the Championship.
But - of course - there are other factors. The sheer drive and passion the soon to be 40-year-old has to continue has never really been seriously questioned, but will the 2019 YZR-M1 be capable of mounting a season-long title assault on Honda, Ducati and potentially Suzuki too? Again, if Sepang - and Maverick Viñales’ (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) Phillip Island win - is anything to go by, then yes.
Return of the Mack! Viñales and Yamaha in love on the Island
Both the Iwata factory and Rossi are experienced title winners. After Sepang’s events, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director Massimo Meregalli said: “Honestly, I am a bit disappointed about the final results of the race today because we thought that we could win and we led with Valentino almost the whole race and, unfortunately, Maverick had to start from the fourth row but his pace was the same as Vale and Marc. We are heading back to Europe with some good results and motivation. We will see what we can do in Valencia but this gives us good motivation for next year.” Positivity from within the team is another sure sign that 2019 can be a successful one. After all, together, Rossi and Yamaha have won four premier class titles.
A tenth for Rossi and a fifth as a pairing with Yamaha will also mean beating the likes of now seven-time Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) over a season. A tough ask for any rider, nine-time World Champion or not. Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso is - arguably - Marquez’ closest rival on paper heading into next year, so beating his fellow Italian will also be a challenge for Rossi. Then there’s Jorge Lorenzo’s move to Repsol Honda to look out for, teammate Viñales, and riders like Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar). And that’s just to name a few.
Rossi and Viñales talk about Folger as a Yamaha test rider
Rossi possesses all the credentials to go and claim that tenth title: the speed, the fight, the sheer hunger to succeed, the race craft, the experience. Can Yamaha give the Italian that last piece of the jigsaw puzzle?
MotoGP™ is a difficult game, but rider and team know how to play. The first 2019 preseason test in Valencia on November 20th and 21st will give us the first indication of where Rossi is compared to the competition, and you can watch it all live in motogp.com.
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