“The first three races have been won by Ducati, Honda and Suzuki. But also Dovizioso, Marquez and Rins, I'm the only one missing!”, Valentino is not hiding away at Jerez. And the fact he hasn't won since Assen 2017? “it feels like 10 years since my last win” he confesses.
For a champion, there is nothing worse that not being able to look down from the top step of the podium and Rossi is no exception.
“I was really sorry not to be able to do it at Austin, I had a great opportunity after Marquez crashed, but Rins went one better. The important thing is to maintain that level and try to create other opportunities. Winning would be the best”.
Is that your goal this season?
“Essentially, I'd like to fight for the title right to the end. Last year I finished third in the championship, but Marquez already had a huge advantage mid-season. If Marc hadn't crashed at Austin though, he'd have already won two out of three races”.
Does the championship depend entirely on him?
“It depends first and foremost on us, on me and Yamaha, we need to prove we are fast. Also, I think we'll start to see riders who have struggled up until now, like Vinales and Lorenzo. Then a lot will depend on Marquez, the championship is so open because he made a mistake in Texas. It was interesting to hear his explanation of the crash, the small problem that caused it. But I don't think that crash will make much difference to him”.
Back to you: what do you want from Jerez?
“I want to score as many points as possible on Sunday and understand whether the improvements to the M1 also work at this track. In recent years, this has been one of the toughest tracks for the Yamaha, because it amplified our issues. Now it's been resurfaces, in theory there should be more grip and that's usually better for the M1”.
But you've won here in the past…
“I've always liked Jerez, my last win was in 2016. The next year I was leading the championship when we got here and was sure I'd be fast but then our technical issues began”.
So this will be an important test bench…
“We've definitely been competitive in the first three races and we'll be able to see how much we've improved. I'm pleased with how I've started the season, the atmosphere in the garage has improved and now an important part of the championship begins, with many good tracks for me”.
Folger has tested at both Mugello and Misano, does this mean you'll have something new here in Spain?
“It's important to have a test team based in Europe, the Japanese tracks are too different from those we race at. I think we'll tryi something that Jonas has tested, but that'll be during Monday's test, not over the race weekend”.
Talking of the race, you're on 198 podiums, very close to a milestone figure…
“But it's impossible to get there in just one race (he laughs). Reaching the podium is the most important thing for me, my main aim. It's nice to finish with champagne, celebrating. It would be great to reach 200”.