Rossi counts on home support at San Marino MotoGP
Misano Adriatico (Italy) (AFP)
Local hero Valentino Rossi can count on partisan support at Sunday's San Marino MotoGP as the Yamaha star looks to keep chipping away at Marc Marquez's championship lead.
Rossi, born in Urbino less than an hour's drive from the Misano circuit, trails Marquez by 50 points with six races remaining and is relishing his homecoming after claiming a hard-fought third place at Silverstone.
"Misano will be the most special weekend of the season, because Misano is 'my race', it's my home. Usually we are quite good there, so we hope to be competitive," said the Italian, a three-time winner at this weekend's track.
"There will be a great atmosphere: a lot of fans, a lot of people around and also a lot of pressure, so we have to try to give 20 percent more than the maximum."
Rossi's team-mate and defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo hopes a return to the Misano Marco Simoncelli circuit, renamed in honour of the late Italian rider, can revitalise his season, with the Spaniard having finished just once on the podium in the last six races.
Lorenzo, a winner in Qatar, France and Italy this term, has plummeted from first to third in the championship since his triumph at Mugello and trails Marquez by 64 points.
"Silverstone was another disappointing race where we could have gotten a good result. However now it’s time to forget about what happened in the past and focus on the next Grand Prix in Misano," said Lorenzo.
"This is one of my favourite tracks, so let’s see if we can turn the tide," he added, conceding his bid to retain his crown had been heavily compromised by recent results.
- 'Twisty and slow' -
However, Lorenzo has traditionally excelled at this venue, recording three successive wins from 2011 to 2013 and earning a top-three spot on every occasion prior to crashing out of last year's race.
Marquez, world champion in 2013 and 2014, won at Misano last season, and the 23-year-old is fully confident of competing for another victory on a track he describes as "twisty and slow".
"In San Marino I expect to fight again for the podium if we work well during the weekend," said Marquez, who came fourth at the British Grand Prix.
"All in all we got an okay result in England, as even though we didn’t make the ideal choice with the front tyre, in the end we lost just three points."
Spanish youngster Maverick Vinales claimed his maiden MotoGP win last time out, Suzuki's first victory in the category since 2007, and will aim to push on this weekend following his breakthrough performance.
He is fourth overall, 85 points adrift of Marquez but just ahead of three-time runner-up Dani Pedrosa on the second Repsol Honda.
Cal Crutchlow, who became Britain's first MotoGP winner since Barry Sheene 35 years ago at Brno last month, will try to maintain his impressive form of late which has seen also him finish second at both the Sachsenring and Silverstone.
In Moto2, Frenchman Johann Zarco is bidding to put back-to-back poor performances behind him with Alex Rins now just 10 points adirft.
South African Brad Binder can move a step closer to the Moto3 title as he holds a seemingly insurmountable 86-point lead over nearest rival Jorge Navarro.
© 2016 AFP