Valentino Rossi: 2017 Yamaha MotoGP bike better late in races

Valentino Rossi says Yamaha’s 2017 MotoGP bike is stronger late in races than it was last year, even with his early-season struggles.

Switching to the 2017 M1 and Michelins’ reprofiled tyres has hurt Rossi’s feeling and confidence on corner entry, with the Italian saying it felt “a lot more natural” on last year’s package.

After lagging down the order in testing and even practice sessions, Rossi has managed to finish the first three grands prix on the podium and leads the championship, which he says is a “big surprise”.

The 38-year-old’s second places in Argentina and the United States were sealed by late-race passes on Cal Crutchlow and Dani Pedrosa respectively.

“After the tests we were quite desperate,” Rossi said.

“We were trying to think about using the old bike and everything, but we did the right choice, I think.

The problem was for me and for my team that we need more time to understand this bike, the way to ride and the way to set it.

“The bike has something positive, especially at the end for the races, I’m able to push to be strong.

“In Argentina with Cal, and [at Austin] with Dani, I could attack.

“Last year I was always very fast at the beginning, but afterwards I suffered a lot.”

Rossi concedes it will be “very, very hard” to stay at the top of the championship, in which he leads new Yamaha team-mate Maverick Vinales by six points and Honda’s Marc Marquez by 18.

Having taken his first win of the 2016 campaign at Jerez, scene of the coming weekend’s Spanish GP, Rossi is now setting his sights on joining Vinales and Marquez as a race winner this season.

“When I start a season, in all my career, my first target is to try to win a race,” he said.

“This year is the same. To stay at the top with Marquez and Vinales will be very hard, but we have to enjoy the moment. It’s already good like this.

“Now we go back to Europe, arriving at a very good part of the championship because we have Jerez, Le Mans, Mugello, Barcelona, Assen.

“They are tracks that give to me fantastic memories, are very enjoyable with MotoGP, and the atmosphere is the real MotoGP world championship.

“Apart from that, we have to continue like this, stay concentrated and try the maximum.”

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