ROSSI REIGNS Valentino stuns ri­vals with flag-to-flag vic­tory in Jerez – tak­ing him one step closer to Agos­tini’s all-time vic­tory record

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Sport - By Simon Pat­ter­son MO­TOGP RE­PORTER

Just when he looked like he had no re­al­is­tic an­swer to the blis­ter­ing pace of his team-mate Jorge Lorenzo or cham­pi­onship leader Marc Mar­quez, Valentino Rossi pro­duced a vin­tage rid­ing dis­play to dom­i­nate Sun­day’s Jerez Mo­togp race.

The 37-year-old ar­rived in Spain as a dis­tinct un­der­dog to Lorenzo but in­stead of be­ing out­gunned Rossi was un­touch­able, tak­ing his first vic­tory since the Bri­tish GP last year.

His ut­ter con­trol of the race was more akin to a Lorenzo dis­play, where his ri­vals are forced to watch him dis­ap­pear and are left fight­ing for sec­ond place. Lead­ing from first corner to last, apart from one very short-lived over­take pass by Lorenzo, Rossi even­tu­ally stretched his lead to five sec­onds de­spite the Spa­niard’s best in­ten­tions.

Speak­ing af­ter the race, an ec­static Rossi said: “In my mind, I knew I could be very strong at Jerez – but it was more a hope than a pre­dic­tion!”

There are many rea­sons as to why Rossi was able to win, but the key fac­tor in such a de­ci­sive vic­tory is his clear and growing affin­ity with the new-for-2016 Miche­lin tyres.

“I feel so good with the Miche­lins be­cause I grew up with them,” ex­plained the Yamaha rider. “They feel fa­mil­iar to me. Bridge­stone had a very high level, but I was al­ready quite old when we started us­ing them!

“In the first Miche­lin era, I was al­ways very fast at this track, but I never got a good re­sult here with Bridge­stone. Last year I was strug­gling all week­end. This time I felt good from the start and we worked very well. It looks like this year I am stronger, es­pe­cially in qual­i­fy­ing, with the Miche­lins.”

The tyres suit Rossi’s rid­ing style more than the Bridge­stones, which re­quired rac­ers to have un­con­di­tional con­fi­dence to the front tyre. De­spite a DNF at the previous round, he seems bet­ter than many of his ri­vals at un­der­stand­ing the fine line be­tween hero and zero with the new tyres. He may be the old­est man on the grid, but he is al­most cer­tainly the wis­est, and he’s us­ing his vast ex­pe­ri­ence to get the max­i­mum from the lat­est tech­ni­cal change.

His pace has been aided by Yamaha’s mas­tery of the new con­trol elec­tron­ics. With the team able to com­mit more per­son­nel to the prob­lem than any­one else but Honda, it re­mains a key fac­tor in Rossi’s abil­ity to con­trol the Miche­lins so well.

In­cred­i­bly Jerez was Rossi’s first ever flag-to-flag vic­tory in Mo­togp and he left rel­ish­ing his achieve­ment: third in the cham­pi­onship stand­ings, just seven points be­hind Lorenzo in sec­ond.

“What I lost a lit­tle bit in 2015 com­pared even to 2014 was the num­ber of laps I spent in front.

“I won four races last year, but I spent more laps in front in 2014. Spend­ing 27 laps at the front in Jerez to­day was very im­por­tant for us.”

And that’s go­ing to prove to be a sig­nif­i­cant worry for Rossi’s ti­tle ri­vals in the com­ing weeks. With Jerez nor­mally a good in­di­ca­tor for the Euro­pean cir­cuits that now dom­i­nate the re­main­der of the sea­son, Rossi has now es­tab­lished him­self as a ti­tle con­tender with much more au­thor­ity than he did at this point last year.

There’s an­other tar­get for Rossi as well, though. By show­ing the pace to win races once again, it’s telling that when asked about Gi­a­como Agos­tini’s all-time win record of 122GPS now only nine wins away, Rossi, who is nor­mally happy to dis­cuss it, fell silent.

“We can’t talk about that!” he told the as­sem­bled press with alarm af­ter the race, “I’m su­per­sti­tious!”

‘ In the first Miche­lin era, I was very fast at this track, but I never got a good re­sult with Bridge­stone’

Rapid Rossi proved that he was at one with the new Miche­lin rub­ber Ma­jor cel­e­bra­tions with the squad and team boss Lin Jarvis (right mid­dle) Why isn’t there a man in a chicken suit when you need one?

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