Rossi: Vinales a MotoGP title contender

Valentino Rossi has said that new Yamaha teammate Maverick Vinales should be among the favourites for the MotoGP title next year.

In his first test ride with Yamaha at Valencia, Vinales topped the timesheets, prompting the MotoGP title runner-up for this year to say that the former Suzuki rider would be among those in contention for the 2017 title alongside himself, Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo.

"I think the favourites for the title next year are Marquez, Lorenzo, me… then Vinales. Let's wait and see," Rossi said at the Monza Rally Show.

Rossi said Yamaha's two-day test at Sepang was good for the team.

"The situation is much clearer," Rossi said. "We worked a lot more on the new bike and it seems to have more potential than the bike we used in 2016."

Yamaha sporting director Maio Meregalli also commented on the tests in Malaysia from Monza.

“We decided to go to Malaysia because it's a complete track in terms of bike development. The weather was fundamental, especially considering what happened in the October race,” Meregalli said.

The Malaysian Grand Prix was on October 30 this year, with the 2017 race provisionally scheduled for October 29.

"On set-up day it rained then we had two sunny days. The asphalt offered great grip and we were able to complete our work programme."

“It's true, I don't hide the fact there were some doubts in Spain, but in Malaysia we dealt with those. Both riders had the same material available and chose the same,” Meregalli said.

Rossi was at the Monza Rally Show victory competing in a regular end-of-season four-wheel event.

He drove an M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC to victory at the Italian circuit by 18.4 seconds over Hyundai World Rally Championship driver Dani Sordo. Audi racer Marco Bonanomi was third in a WRC Citroen.

Rossi won the event for the fifth time.

"Taking the win in front of the grandstands with the great atmosphere here in Monza is very special to me," Rossi said.

"I am so focused for the entire season on racing, so when it comes to the end of November, after [the MotoGP finale at] Valencia, I can't wait to meet the team and drive my rally car."