Rossi hopes new engine will keep him ahead of pack

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Yamaha will give Valentino Rossi a more powerful engine to test at Donington Park next Tuesday in an attempt to keep the world champion ahead of Honda in the MotoGP points race. Rossi has the advantage in handling, but he leads Camel Honda's Max Biaggi by only a point as he prepares for Sunday's British Grand Prix at the Leicestershire circuit.

"We will test some changes to the chassis, but I also hope they will bring me something for the engine," Rossi said yesterday in London. His Yamaha lacks punch from slow corners and top speed on long straights compared to Honda's five cylinder bike.

"We did a great job in the winter and set our bike up 100 per cent," Rossi said. "But Honda have now recovered from the problems they had with tyre chatter, and the last two races have been very difficult for me. So I need all the help I can get. I hope to have the new engine for the Czech Grand Prix later in the season."

The five-times world champion flew in from Italy yesterday to meet 5,000 fans at his traditional pre-Donington autograph signing session in Leicester Square. Some had waited for up to six hours to guarantee a front-row place at the open-air celebration.

"I like London because I can live a normal life here," said Rossi, who has a flat in Mayfair. "Some Italian people recognise me in London, but I can live a quieter life here than in Italy. It's impossible for me over there."

Rossi begins qualifying tomorrow on the 2.5-mile Leicestershire track, where he was disqualified from first place last year after inadvertently passing another rider under a yellow warning flag. That handed victory to the 33-year-old Biaggi, who will attempt to repeat that success on Sunday.

The World Superbike champion, Neil Hodgson, has warned his fans that the best that they can expect from him on Sunday is a 12th or 13th place. Hodgson is riding a year-old Ducati that is proving uncompetitive against new bikes from Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Ducati.

"I am riding as hard as I can," he said. "But it's disheartening to nearly crash on every corner and then come into the pits to find that you are still missing 1.5 seconds a lap. We tried everything we can to get a good set up for the bike. But now I have to accept that this is what we've got, and get on with it."