<
>

Valentino Rossi hungry for more success with championship-chasing Sepang Racing Team

As the iconic Valentino Rossi prepares to embark on his 22nd season in MotoGP, he is adamant that his recent move to Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team is not merely a swansong but a legitimate opportunity for more glory.

After spending the last eight seasons with the Yamaha factory team, the Italian will ride for the Malaysia-based Sepang Racing Team - Yamaha's satellite outfit - this season, with rising star Fabio Quartararo heading in the opposite direction.

Despite enjoying legendary status in the sport, Rossi's last race win came in 2017 and he retired in five out of 12 starts last year, achieving just one podium finish.

The skeptics may believe that seven-time premier class champion is on his last legs but, as Rossi was unveiled in his new colours for the first time on Monday at Sepang Racing Team's season launch, he is excited at what the upcoming campaign holds.

"It's a new challenge for me," he said. "This is a very young team, but in the last two years they have already been really competitive.

"My targets for 2021 [are] to be competitive, fight to win races, fight to achieve podiums and also fight for a good position in the world championship standings at the end of the season.

"We are all very focused on our targets to make the best we can. All the whole team has a lot of motivation and I will give my maximum to achieve together the best possible result at the end of the calendar."

Sepang Racing Team have certainly punched above their weight despite making their premier-class debut just two years ago.

2020 proved to be a breakthrough of sorts as Quartararo took home the first two races of the season, with the team claiming a total of six victories to finish second in the team championship, with Franco Morbidelli - who will race alongside Rossi this term - also claiming a runners-up finish in the riders' standings.

It is such rapid improvement that gives team principal Razlan Razali hope that the new year could present even greater achievements.

"Anything is possible," said Razlan at Monday's virtual season launch. "And we have the strong belief that we can do the impossible: win the championship.

"2020 was an incredible year for us, but we are mindful that there are always areas where we can improve.

"We are looking forward to the season ahead, eager to give Franco and Valentino the best opportunity. For Franco, it's a fabulous opportunity to achieve even better things than his stellar season in 2020 and for Valentino we're hoping a new team will give him the best opportunities to harness his talent and expertise.

"We expect another tough fight on track over the season ahead and we will be pushing at every step to support Franco and Valentino and ensure they have all the tools at their disposal."