Alex Rins 'for sure' a title threat – Valentino Rossi
Valentino Rossi says Americas Grand Prix winner Alex Rins is 'for sure an opponent' for the 2019 MotoGP title, and admits he is “very difficult to beat” now in races.
Rins beat Rossi by just under half a second to claim his first premier class victory in last Sunday's race at the Circuit of the Americas, and now sits just five points from the championship lead in third.
Reigning world champion Marc Marquez pegged Rins and Suzuki for a title tilt in 2019 at the end of last season, after his fellow Spaniard scored three podiums in the final five races to take fifth in the points.
When asked if he thought the Suzuki rider was now a credible title threat after his Austin win, Rossi concurred, highlighting how he rides in a “very clever” manner and the speed he showed in the second half of 2018.
“I think for sure he is an opponent for the title, because it's not [just] one race [he has been quick],” said Rossi, who is now second in the standings.
“It's from the second part of last season that he's always in front, and he's always very fast in the race.
“Also, [even] if sometimes struggling in the practice - and I'm very happy about this because we are more or less in the same boat.
“But for me he rides very clever, in a clever way and he's very smooth in everything, which is important to save the tyre.
“In the second half of the race he is very strong. He's very difficult to beat.”
Pramac's Jack Miller, who finished third in Austin, echoed Rossi's comments, claiming Rins' victory is “just the start of something big for him and Suzuki”.
“Every time I sit down with the team and make a plan for the race, we always say Rins and Valentino, they're going to be there in the race,” added Miller.
“It doesn't matter where they qualify, you know they're going to be there. So, I think the Suzuki is working really well at the moment.
“We had a great battle in Argentina and I was able to see some things. In this race, once he came past me he was able to click up a gear.
“When he saw Marc go down [at Turn 12 on lap nine], it put the red rag to the bull. I think this just the start of something big for him and Suzuki.”