PHILLIP ISLAND (AFP) - Valentino Rossi holds the edge over his Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo in the battle for second place in the motorcycling world championship, as the MotoGP season heads to Sepang this weekend.
Rossi energised his chances of finishing runner-up behind re-crowned world champion Marc Marquez for this year's MotoGP title with victory at Sunday's Australian race at Phillip Island.
The Italian legend, at 35 the oldest rider in MotoGP, has won six premier class races in Malaysia and is looking forward to adding to his record this week.
"I love Sepang, it's one of my favourite tracks, but the race is always very difficult, also physically because it is a little too hot for a MotoGP race," he said.
"But the track is fantastic and the tests in the winter weren't too bad so we have to try to do like this weekend and try to be as strong as possible for Sunday's race."
Rossi won his first Australian MotoGP in nine years after Marquez crashed out while holding a big lead on his Repsol Honda bike on the 19th lap of the 27-lap race.
He went on to beat Lorenzo by more than 10 seconds to open an eight-point lead over his Yamaha team-mate with two races left, in Malaysia and Spain.
Rossi revelled in his first triumph at Phillip Island since 2005 and his glory days last decade, with his 82nd victory at his 250th premier class GP.
While he has won seven premier class world titles he is keen to finish the season in second place behind the tear-away Marquez.
"It's not as important as winning the championship but it's second place and especially it's a great second place because I'm fighting with Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo who are two of the best four riders in the world," Rossi said.
"It's a very high level for second position and the target is to try to be competitive every weekend and to try and be strong on Sunday and chasing the second place is the motivation."
Lorenzo, who was critical of the wear of his Bridgestone tyres in Australia, said it was his "luckiest second place" given the circumstances.
He too is motivated in the race to be world championship runner-up.
"It's very important to just lose five points with Valentino because I can try to finish in front of him in the next few races," he said.
"So in normal conditions we hope we can be competitive (in Sepang) like we were before this race."
Marquez, who was on course to equal Australian Mick Doohan's record of 12 wins in a season at Phillip Island, has two more chances to surpass that in Malaysia and the season-finale at Valencia.
"There were many crashes in the race and it almost all happened the same way: the front wheel locking up," he said after his Phillip Island disappointment.
"It is better that this happened now, so that I gain experience for next year."