Valentino Rossis back in contention with only .4 of second behind the leaders on day one of the Sepang test.  Photography By: Gold   Goose

Photography By: Gold & Goose

SEPANG, MALAYSIA, FEB 5 - Yamaha's Valentino Rossi looked pained on his motorcycle, but he was smiling afterwards. The nine-time World Champion admitted to not being in race shape for the first test of the 2013 season. But after only a handful of laps back in the Yamaha fold Rossi was convinced that he could at least challenge the best riders in the world when the lights go on in Qatar in two months' time.

Rossi put his name near the top of the leaderboard early on, mixing it up with teammate Jorge Lorenzo and Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez. At the end of the day Pedrosa was fastest, nominally, with Lorenzo less than a hundredth back and Marquez a surprising third fastest at a gap of .044 to Pedrosa. Rossi was .383 of a second from Pedrosa.

After saying he was relieved to know that he could compete with the best riders in the world, he said the relief he felt was from the "feeling with the bike, the way to work on the bike and especially for me the important thing is the distance [in time to the leaders] on the third day compared to the first. This is the important. So, today 0.4 of a second, and I'm happy and we hope can make better and improving day by day. But this is the important. If I am second, third, fourth, is not a big deal."

Also encouraging was that Rossi said he was conserving his energy. The first day of the first day is the most taxing physically, with riders using muscles that had lain dormant most of the winter.

"So if you try too much today, you have a bad feeling tomorrow and the third day, so I try to save some energy. But I did [2.02.0] with 27 laps on the tire, so seven laps more than the race. For me [going race distance] will be not a big problem." But don't expect him to simulate a race. "This time, for me I'm not ready. Maybe next time," he said.

Pressed again about whether the two Ducati years had taken some luster off his brilliant career, he said, "Can happen. To me is not a big problem."

Long before he signed on with Ducati, he'd said he wouldn't. In the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, he said one more challenge would be to ride a Ducati, but that he never would because engineers at Ducati don't listed to the riders. Did they prove him right?

"I don't continue with the Ducati because I'm sure that is not my bike. This is the main reason, " he said.

 

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.

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