Rossi: Title race still wide open

MotoGP title leader Valentino Rossi isn't writing off rival Jorge Lorenzo's challenge at Motegi this week, despite his shoulder injury.

The Italian said he would have to wait until Friday's opening practice to get a proper idea of the impact the injury could have.

Lorenzo hurt his left shoulder when he fell while training on a minibike.

While X-rays have ruled out a fracture or the need for surgery, the Spaniard admits to feeling some pain, but Rossi is taking nothing for granted as he looks to protect his 14-point lead in the title race over the coming weeks.

“Sincerely for me it is impossible to know [how much the injury will affect Lorenzo],” said Rossi. “Also because I think that Jorge does not know yet. 

“Have to wait for his feeling when he rides the bike tomorrow morning because the shoulder is always difficult, a big pain, but depends on if [the pain] is for normal life or riding the motorcycle. Because sometimes you have pain just doing easy things, but on the motorcycle you have less problems. 

“I think it is impossible to say. He has to see tomorrow on the bike but, you know, one time Jorge raced straight after putting screws for a broken collarbone [Assen 2013], so anyway he is strong and we have to think of us and try to make the maximum to be competitive on Sunday.” 

Rossi admits his current lead in the championship leaves him feeling far from secure.

“Is very tough. It is still 100% open,” Rossi said. “Now have the last four races and for sure will be most difficult moment because everything is tighter and closer. 

"We have three races in a row, I like a lot the racetracks and starting from Motegi I won just two times in my career but apart from that I did some good races, on the podium, also last year. 

“Usually Jorge is very, very strong in this track. He won here for the last two years, but we just have to give the maximum and try the best.” 

Aside from Lorenzo's condition, the weather will be another unknown factor at Motegi this weekend, with forecasts predicting rain on Sunday.

While Rossi tends to shine in such conditions, he'd still prefer a dry race.

“My team said to me this,” Rossi said of the weather. “I don't know if I have to say happy or not. First of all, all the riders more or less, we hope it is dry. You never know if you are competitive or not in the rain. It depends very much on the setting. Sincerely I hope for the dry race.” 

Rossi was also asked about Nicky Hayden's departure from MotoGP to take up a new career in WSBK.

“It is a great shame for MotoGP to lose Nicky because he is a great rider but also a great guy. It's always good fun to share time with Nicky,” he said. 

“I have a lot of great memories and maybe I was the first to see Nicky when he arrived in Japan, for his first test with Honda.

“For sure we will miss him a lot, but I hope he can enjoy Superbike and I hope that the Honda is strong, because I hope to see him on the podium and fight for the victory.”