Valentino Rossi says he heads for Qatar full of optimism and thrilled with his 2010 bike after his commanding performance in MotoGP preseason testing so far.
The reigning champion has been fastest on all four test days held at Sepang this month, and today beat his 2009 pole time at the Malaysian Grand Prix track.
"I'm really happy to have beaten my pole record, it's a good feeling to be this fast in testing," said Rossi. "I did this with an old tire, but we also got the chance to try a very good new tire from Bridgestone today, which I hope we will use from the first race."
He reckons Yamaha's 2010 YZR-M1 is a big step forward over the machine that carried him to last year's title.
"Our bike is in great shape; we need to do a bit more work on the electronics but, in general, everything is better, especially the rear grip and the engine," said Rossi. "Yamaha has been very clever to develop this new bike while keeping the best parts of the old one, I'm very happy about it."
The final winter test and the season opener both take place at Losail in Qatar, which has traditionally been one of Rossi and Yamaha's weaker venues – and a stronghold for Ducati and Casey Stoner. Rossi admitted that only in Qatar would it become really clear how much Yamaha had improved.
"Now we go to Qatar and then we will see our level because it is not one of mine or Yamaha's best tracks," he said. "But we're in great shape and this is very important at this stage of the season. I'm really looking forward to it."
Rossi was the only factory Yamaha race rider present at this week's test as his teammate – and 2009 title rival – Jorge Lorenzo suffered a hand injury while training on a motocross bike earlier this month. Lorenzo is now waiting to learn if he will be fit in time for the final test in Qatar.