Rossi ready to take on local hero at Jerez

FORMER MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi expects a hostile reception when he bids for his first win of the season in Spain on Sunday.

The Fiat Yamaha rider knows Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa will get the backing of his home crowd at Jerez and sees the young Spaniard as one of his main title rivals.

Rossi and Pedrosa will be looking to hit back at Australian Casey Stoner who used the superior top speed of the Ducati Marlboro machine to his advantage to win the opening round in Qatar.

Rossi said: “I’m feeling confident for Jerez. I think it will suit our bike very well, even better than Qatar, and we were very strong there in the test.

“We know we lack a bit of horsepower but I think this will improve race by race and Yamaha are working very hard.

“Qatar was very quiet, which was a good way to start the season because there were no distractions for me.

“But Jerez is always a great party with a fantastic atmosphere, so now I am really looking forward to that and I hope we can give the fans a good show.

“I expect that Pedrosa will be very fast here, as he was in the test, and I expect a big battle with him at his home race.”

Britain will not be represented in the MotoGP class as the Ilmor team have pulled out of GPs while they resolve some sponsorship problems.

Ulsterman Jeremy McWilliams, who missed the Qatar race through injury, has been left on the sidelines until Ilmor return to GPs and said: “This is obviously a big blow to me and I’m very down about it. I’m hoping that this is only temporary and they can continue with the project.”

Oxfordshire teenager Bradley Smith is looking to build on his 12th place in the 125cc class at Losail and has been practicing his starts in a bid to improve at Jerez after a slow getaway hampered his chances in Qatar.

The Repsol Honda rider said: “The practice starts went well in Valencia and so hopefully it will not be a problem in Jerez.

“I know Jerez well and did well both in the official test last month and when we tested there in November. It’s a big race and a massive event. I just need that good start.”

Meanwhile, the Kent-based 16-year-old, Danny Webb, retired from the Losail 125cc race because of mechanical problems with his Molenaar Honda but hopes to make his mark in Spain.

He said: “We think the problem in Qatar was an electrical fault which was a great shame because I was just starting to relax a little after a nervous start.

“I’m looking forward to Jerez. I learnt a lot in Qatar and got a lot out of the weekend.”

Ulsterman Eugene Laverty had a steady debut in the 250cc class in Qatar with 18th place on the LCR Honda.

Laverty said: “Getting the 250cc grand prix debut under my belt is a great weight off my shoulders.

“I’m really looking forward to Jerez because I know the track and I’ve got my debut out of the way.”

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