Seven-time MotoGP world champion and bike racing titan Valentino Rossi says an 80th premier class victory in 2013 would be a ‘watershed’ moment in his breathtaking career.
The Italian superstar has moved back to Yamaha alongside reigning world champion and old sparring partner Jorge Lorenzo after two failed seasons at Ducati.
Still MotoGP’s hottest commodity, the eyes of the world will be on Rossi at Sepang in Malaysia on Tuesday as he begins a three-day test on the 1000cc YZR M1.
His eagerly anticipated first outing on the bike prior to the onset of the winter testing ban at Valencia in November was thwarted by wet weather.
However, this week’s shakedown should provide some of the answers to the questions on everyone’s lips as Rossi attempts to roll back the years and prove to his detractors that he is not yet a spent force.
The charismatic racer has been stuck on 79 500cc/MotoGP wins since he last rode for Yamaha in 2010 and although Rossi concedes he “does not know” how competitive he will be on the M1 this season, he identifies a return to the top step as a minimum requirement of his new two-year deal with Yamaha.
Rossi, who turns 34 this month, said: “It will be hard to be as strong as [Dani] Pedrosa and Jorge. Not once, but regularly. With the M1 I will be more competitive, but for what? Fourth, podium, victory? I do not know.
“The goal is to win a GP for the first time since 2010.
“If I do not win, but finish on the podium every Sunday then that would still be good. But a victory would be the watershed moment.”
‘The Doctor’ left Yamaha to form a much-vaunted partnership with Italian marque Ducati, but Rossi and his legendary crew chief Jerry Burgess were unable to turn the Desmosedici into a race-winning machine.
His best overall championship position was sixth and Rossi concedes that it was a failed venture, acknowledging that he was unable to adapt to the handling characteristics of the Ducati.
“We were not able to adapt the bike to my style and I could not adapt myself to the bike,” he added in an interview with Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I left a bike that is always difficult to take to the limit, it never gives you the feeling that it’s under control.
“But they have good riders and they can do well. We’ll have to see what road Audi will take to make the bike better.”