Motorcycling legend Valentino Rossi is in Aragon, Spain, this weekend on a twin mission — to win back-to-back MotoGPs for the first time since 2009 and make up further ground on runaway leader Marc Marquez.
On a high after his victory in San Marino, the irrepressible Rossi moved to within one point of second-placed Dani Pedrosa in the world championship standings.
Marquez still holds a commanding 75 point lead with five legs of the season remaining, and Spain’s precocious defending champion will be intent not to cede any more ground in the title race, especially with his legion of home fans looking on.
The last time Rossi rattled off two wins in a row came five seasons ago when he won in Catalunya and Assen en route to his last world championship.
Two years in the Ducati doldrums ended on his return to Yamaha, with his fortunes changed to such an extent that he now arrives in Spain entertaining growing hopes of a 10th world title.
“Heading to Aragon after winning my home Grand Prix is really nice,” the flamboyant 35-year-old from Urbino said. “We had a good race, we worked well all weekend and the result was spectacular. Now we must try to repeat what we did in Misano.”
“The main objective is to continue like this, fighting for important positions every weekend,” he said. “I am just a point behind Dani in the championship and I want to fight for this position. I also especially want to be strong everywhere.”
As well as boosting his title hopes, Rossi’s win in San Marino earned him a new record of the longest winning career, as this success came 18 years and 27 days after his debut win in Brno when Marquez was still in nappies.
While Rossi is now in the twilight of his career Marquez, at 21 is only just warming up.
A lowly 15th in San Marino after a crash, Marquez won in Aragon 12 months ago, and — ominously for those plotting to dethrone him — he describes Aragon as “my favorite track.”
“After a disappointing weekend in Italy, it will be nice to return home to race in front of our home fans in Aragon this weekend and also my fan club will be coming,” Marquez said. “We’ve had good results here in the past three years, so I hope to continue this way.”
His Honda teammate and compatriot Pedrosa, third in San Marino, is anxious to draw a line under last year’s Aragon nightmare when he failed to finish after an unfortunate clash with Marquez.
“Last year obviously wasn’t the best for me, but apart from that I’ve always done well in Aragon and I’m looking forward to racing in front of our home crowd again,” Pedrosa said. “The support is always great and gives you motivation.”
“Obviously Marc has a huge lead in the Championship, but there is only a single point between me and Valentino, so my priority is to win races and open that margin to take second in the standings.”
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