Tuesday, 4 February 2014 | MYT 10:55 PM
Rossi still revving it up after 19 years
Valentino Rossi rides on his Yamaha bike in the first session of testing ahead of the new MotoGP season in Sepang on Feb 4, 2014.
SEPANG: Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi will be vrooming into his 19th season in world motorcycle championship racing but the fire is still burning strong inside the Italian’s heart.
An ever popular figure on and off the track, Rossi made his first foray in the 125cc world championship in 1996 where he finished ninth. The following year, he won the the category.
When the MotoGP class was introduced in 2002 replacing the 500cc class, Rossi was first off the block to the title.
“I just realised that this will be my 19th year in the world championships when a journalist mentioned about it earlier today.
“One part of me is very proud of it but another is very worried, as it means I’ve been around too long,” said the Yamaha rider.
Yamaha presented their factory teams and an Open class team they will be supporting for the 2014 season at a press conference in conjunction with the first pre-season testing at Sepang International Circuit on Tuesday.
Besides Jorge Lorenzo who is partnering Rossi in the Yamaha factory team, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team riders, Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro, were also presented.
Yamaha-backed Open class team, NGM Mobile Forward, presented their riders Colin Edwards and Aleix Espargaro.
On the new season with new regulations involving standardised electronic control unit (ECU) and less fuel capacity (from 21 litres to 20 litres), Rossi is hoping to keep improving before the season starts with the Qatar Grand Prix on March 23.
In the first day of testing on Tuesday, Rossi was second fastest in 2:00.804 behind reigning world champion Marc Marquez of Honda (2:00.286).
Rossi finished fourth overall in last season’s championship after returning to Yamaha from Ducati in 2012. This year, he is hoping to battle it out for the rider’s overall title.
“I’m very happy with the timing on the first day of testing but it is just the first day and everybody will be improving from tomorrow onwards.
“My target this year is to be stronger and faster than last year.
“Last year I tried very hard to be close with the top three guys and today’s test result is very encouraging,” he said.