During a media conference by Yamaha Motorsports at Sepang International Circuit, nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi fired the first salvo of the season, with a message to his rivals he is not to be taken lightly in 2019. Asked the question as to what plans he had to deal with reigning MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez and long time rival Jorge Lorenzo both riding for Repsol Honda Racing this year, Rossi said, “I think it is better they have a plan to deal with me.”

Rossi had a lacklustre year with Yamaha in 2018, with 198 points from 18 starts, giving him third in the championship standing. With one second place and four third place finishes in 2018, the previous year might be one that Rossi would rather forget, battling issues with the Yamaha YZR-M1 all through the racing season.

Now aged 39, Rossi is rapidly approaching the age where a career change is on the cards for most motorcycle racers, despite having signed with Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing till 2020. Chasing a possible tenth world championship title, Rossi faces Marc Marquez’ currently strong form as well as challenges from contenders such as Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso and Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales, who finished second and fourth in the championship last year.

With Winter Test moving into its second day, Rossi currently sits fourth in Session 2 at mid-day, with a time of 1.59.625. Ahead of him and at the top of the table is Andrea Dovizioso at 1.59.562, Cal Crutchlow just 0.004 of a second behind and Maverick Vinales at 1.59.597 with the top eight riders all clocking sub-two minute laps of Sepang circuit with track temperatures hovering at 56 degrees Centigrade.