‘The Doctor’s in the house

Virtual reality: Valentino Rossi (left) and Franco Morbidelli at the unveiling of Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team.

PETALING JAYA: MotoGP living legend Valentino Rossi was officially presented to the world as a Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team (SRT) rider joining Italian compatriot Franco Morbidelli at the team’s 2021 virtual launch.

Morbidelli, astride an older A-Spec Yamaha, enjoyed a breakthrough 2020 season with his MotoGP podiums, pole positions and three race wins on the way to second overall behind Suzuki’s Joan Mir.

With Morbidelli’s former teammate Fabio Quartararo taking over Rossi’s place at the factory Yamaha team this year, the nine-time world champion swapped places with the Frenchman.

It’s the first time since returning to Yamaha from Ducati in 2013 that Rossi has switched teams.

“It’s a new challenge for me. This is a very young team but in the last two years they have already been really competitive, ” said Rossi.

“I’m happy to see my new bike for this year and I really like the colours of the livery, leathers, helmet, etc.

“It looks awesome, ” added “The Doctor”, who will be out to prove that he still has plenty in his tank despite being the oldest rider on the grid at 42.

“My targets for 2021 is to be competitive, fight to win races, fight to achieve podiums and also fight for a good position in the standings at the end of the season.

“We are all very focused on our targets to make the best we can. I think that with Franco we are a very interesting couple as we know each other really well.”

Coming into the 2020 season, a satellite Yamaha team had never won a MotoGP race but the Malaysian team (in only their second season) went on to notch six victories with Morbidelli and Quartararo, more than any other team over the 14 rounds.

Team principal Datuk Razlan Razali said they hope to continue the momentum from last season where the Malaysian team snatched the Best Independent Team and Best Independent Rider awards.

“We are looking forward to the season ahead, eager to give Franco and Valentino the best opportunity.

“For Franco, it’s a fabulous opportunity to achieve even better things than his stellar season in 2020 and for Valentino, we are hoping a new team will give him the best opportunities to harness his talent and expertise.

“2020 was an incredible year for us but we are mindful that there are always areas where we can improve. We expect another tough fight on track over the season ahead, ” he said.

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