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MotoGP: Rossi shows he's still a challenger

Italian shows still fast after winless stint at Ducati

MotoGP: Rossi shows he's still a challenger

(By Paul Virgo) Rome, April 8 - Valentino Rossi has expressed his delight at finished second in his first MotoGP Grand Prix since returning to Yamaha on Sunday in Qatar. The result suggests Italy's nine-time world champion still has what it takes to be a title contender after two winless seasons at Ducati. The 34-year-old never got to grips with Ducati's powerful but notoriously hard-to-handle race machines. But he seems to have immediately rediscovered his touch after rejoining Japanese outfit Yamaha, with whom he won four of his seven premium-class world titles during his 2004-2010 sting stint with them. In Qatar Rossi won a duel with Honda's MotoGP debutant Marc Marquez at the floodlit race to complete a Yamaha one-two behind his teammate and reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo. "I'm more than happy, very happy indeed because it was my dream to come back with Yamaha," said Rossi, who won four of his seven premium-class world titles during his first stint at Yamaha between 2004 and 2009. "To arrive on the podium in the first race had been my target since November and I put all my effort into being at my best here". The result was all the more impressive as Rossi only qualified seventh on the grid and had to recover after losing ground on the second lap while trying to overtake his replacement at Ducati, Andrea Dovizioso. "It was a difficult weekend, especially in qualifying, but I knew I had great pace so I tried to recover in the beginning, but I made a mistake and I lost time," Rossi said. "I had to do a great second part of the race and step-by-step I came closer to my podium. "In the end there was a great battle, especially with Marc for second place. "I'm so happy for me, for my team, for my friends, all my fans who stayed with me through two difficult years and also for Yamaha. "To start the season with first and second place is not bad. "They gave me another chance to be in this team and I think we will enjoy this season". Rossi is second in motorcycling's all-time race-win standings with 105 victories. His positive start to the campaign will have lifted his hopes of making inroads into the lead of his compatriot Giacomo Agostini, who won 122 grands prix in various classes in the 1960s and 70s. "What a terrific start to the season, we are of course very pleased with the result," said Yamaha Team Manager Wilco Zeelenberg. "There are 17 races to go and it looks like it will be a fantastic season. "The first race is always quite important to get a little advantage and have a good feeling. "To have your first win for Jorge and of course second with Vale is great for the team and for the spirit because it will be a long season as we know so for everybody it's a big boost".

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