Local racing fans were given a treat on Saturday when MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi visited Manila together with his new Yamaha partner, 2013 Moto3 champion Maverick Vinales.
Rossi and Vinales were at Robinsons Novaliches to attend the opening of the Yamaha Grand Prix, an annual local racing event aimed at discovering new Filipino racing stars.
Rossi said he hopes to one day train local prospects at his VR46 Riders Academy in his hometown Tavullia, Italy.
“We’re working together with Yamaha in the academy for young riders,” said 7-time MotoGP champion known as “The Doctor.” “If we discover some fast rider in the Philippines, we can bring him there.”
It was Rossi’s second visit to the Philippines. The first was back in 2014 to boost Yamaha’s Lend a Hand project for the benefit of the victims of super typhoon Yolanda.
Vinales, who signed with Yamaha for the 2017 MotoGP season, was delighted to see the local crowd.
“I didn’t expect so many people like this, it’s so much fun,” the 22-year-old Spaniard said. “(Riding with Rossi) is incredible. I was looking up at him since I was a kid. Now I have the chance to be fighting with him, try to be the best.”
Vinales placed 4th overall in the MotoGP championship after winning the 2016 British Grand Prix.
In Novaliches, Rossi and Vinales tore through the racetrack on a pair of Yamaha Sniper 150 MXi bikes, doing laps that wowed spectators. At the end of the chase, Vinales popped a wheelie, while Rossi rode close to the crowd.
The two vowed to work together to bring back the MotoGP crown to Yamaha.
Rossi said Honda’s Marc Marquez, the 2016 MotoGP overall champion, remains the rider to beat.
“(Marquez is) very strong, very competitive so we have to work harder to beat Honda,” Rossi said.
Vinales added: “The target is quite clear. We want to bring the championship back. It’s important that we have a good relationship, we work together, we ride on a really good level.”
Jude Camus, marketing manager for Yamaha Motors Philippines, said bringing the two superstars is their way of thanking their customers.
“We want to show how important our customers are,” he said.
Camus added that the presence of Rossi and Vinales will also inspire budding Filipino riders to follow the footsteps of the Yamaha racing stars.
“It’s really very important especially for our Yamaha GP participants because they are motivated. Nare-remind sila kung bakit sila kumakarera,” he said.
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