Valentino Rossi will continue his quest for a MotoGP podium return as the world championship makes its race debut in Thailand this weekend.
Despite that drought the Italian, who has scored points in every event this season apart from Argentina, holds third in the standings, 15 points from Andrea Dovizioso. The other factory Ducati of Jorge Lorenzo, plus Rossi’s team-mate Maverick Vinales, are 29 points behind The Doctor.
“After so many European races, it’s time to go to Thailand,” said Rossi, who was only twelfth fastest at the pre-season Buriram test (+0.730s), but there will be different rear tyres for this weekend’s race.
“We did a pre-season test there in February. Buriram is not one of my favourite circuits but it will be another important weekend to improve our bike and a good opportunity to meet the Asian fans, who are very passionate about MotoGP.
“As always, we will do our best to make it a good race weekend. My goal is to return to the fight for the podium and get some good results overseas.”
Rossi rode from 17th to 8th last time at Aragon, when Vinales suffered his ‘worst race with Yamaha’ as he dropped from 10th to 14th.
“Aragon was sincerely a GP to forget. Now I want to just look forward and be as focused as possible to finish the season in the best possible position,” said Vinales, who was eighth fastest at the February test, half-a-second from Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa.
“We will start the Asia tour by going to Thailand first. The Chang circuit is very demanding because of the high temperatures. But it makes me very happy to ride there as it will be the first time we get to race in Buriram.
“We were already there during the pre-season test, but we did not go very fast, because we were still looking for the correct set-up of the bike. Still we‘ll arrive with great expectations. We want to improve day by day.”
Team manager Massimo Meregalli added: “During the pre-season test we were very impressed with the [Buriram] track and the facilities of this new circuit on our calendar. Unfortunately, we came a few hours short during the test to fully complete our schedule, so this weekend we have important work to do.
“We want to find a good basic setting as soon as possible, to make our riders feel comfortable and enable them to fight competitively in front of the Thai crowds who come to support our team.”