American motorcycle great Kevin Schwantz has praised MotoGP star Valentino Rossi for changing his approach to the sport this year, as the nine-time world champion looks to combat runaway series leader Marc Marquez.
In his 19th season in the world championship, the 35-year-old Italian has enjoyed a career renaissance in 2014, finishing nine races on the podium and winning the San Marino Grand Prix earlier this month, Yamaha’s first victory in a season that has been dominated by Marquez and Honda.
Rossi’s 81st MotoGP win at Misano came 14 years and 67 days after his first premier-class victory at the 2000 British Grand Prix, setting a new record that bears testament to his speed and longevity.
Speaking to the ‘Keeping Track’ podcast, Schwantz, the 1993 500cc world champion for Suzuki, says Rossi has been forced to dig deeper than ever to become Marquez’s closest challenger.
“It’s something you hear Valentino talking about; you’ve got to try to get that bike up off the edge of the tyre as quick as you possibly can,” Schwantz said.
“The guys are rolling corner speeds and carrying lean angles that are just unheard of. He’s obviously tried to adapt to a new riding style that seems to be suiting him well, and he’s the same Valentino we’ve always known – he’s consistent, and he’s fast. He’s kind of made (Jorge) Lorenzo look silly for most of the season.”
Australian mechanic Alex Briggs, who has been a trusted part of Rossi’s inner circle for his entire MotoGP career with Honda, Ducati and Yamaha, told the ‘Keeping Track’ podcast that the arrival of Marquez has seen Rossi step up his game.
“We’ve been good enough to win since the very first race, although it’s been extremely difficult with Marc riding so well; the whole level has stepped up,” Briggs said.
“This year, Valentino’s really keen. He changed his chief mechanic (Australian Jeremy Burgess), so that was a big risk, but I think he wanted to put that pressure on himself. He trained hard, and with all of that combined, I think he’s found the fountain of youth. He’s riding as good as he did when he was 25.”
Briggs also spoke about more than two decades on the road working with Daryl Beattie, Mick Doohan and Rossi, while Schwantz commented on the rise of Australian teenager Jack Miller from Moto3 to the MotoGP class next year.
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