Valentino Rossi is a man on a mission.
Rossi’s career hit the skids during his tenure with Ducati, but he started to turn things around last year with his return to the Yamaha factory squad. This year, he proved he still had what it took to hang with the front-runners by climbing the points standings. Then, he won at Misano.
With his victory still fresh, Rossi’s next goal is to pick off Honda’s Dani Pedrosa in the standings, and a strong performance at this weekend’s Aragon race will be essential to that plan.
“We must try to repeat what we did in Misano. The main objective is to continue like this, fighting for important positions every weekend,” Rossi said. “I am just a point behind Dani in the championship and I want to fight for this position.”
Pedrosa has 215 points and Rossi has 214 points. Neither seems likely to challenge leader Marc Marquez’s lead (289 points), unless he crashes very badly and misses a bunch of the remaining five races.
Rossi’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (177 points) is also hoping to continue turning things around; after years atop the standings, he started the 2014 season in the toilet, with a string of disappointing races. He’s started to take podiums again, though, and could potentially end up in third overall if Dani Pedrosa runs into trouble.
Given Pedrosa’s bad luck and propensity for crashes and injury when the chips are down, Lorenzo’s chance of passing him is more likely than you’d think.
“I knew our problem was due to a combination of bad circumstances, but that does not mean that we have suddenly become losers or people who cannot do their job,” Lorenzo said.
“Some athletes, when they are in this situation, they just continue falling down and hit rock bottom, but fortunately not in my case. I think we will be able to win races again and that is what we are fighting for now.”
The Yamaha riders are sure to have a strong challenge from the Honda factory team; Marquez said he was looking forward to racing in front of his hometown fans at his “favourite track of the year.” Despite his DNF at Aragon last year, Pedrosa usually does well at the track and echoed Marquez’s feelings about racing in front of Spanish fans.
Moving a bit further down the standings – this weekend will mark Nicky Hayden’s return after missing four races due to wrist surgery. He’s been riding a small dirt bike around a flat track for training, but he says the real test will come this weekend.
“I am really happy to finally return to action this weekend. Racing motorcycles is not only my job but my passion and it hasn’t been easy for me to miss so many races,” Hayden said. “I just focused on getting back as quickly as possible but riding a MotoGP machine is not something you can test your fitness for until you try it.”