[2008.7.21 R.11 Laguna Seca, California, USA // Yamaha official website]
Fiat Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi took his first career win on American soil today, emerging victorious after an epic duel with Casey Stoner at Laguna Seca. The Italian, who signed a new two-year deal with Yamaha this week, has now won four races this season and is 25 points clear at the top of the championship.
Rossi started from second and was able to pass Stoner on the brakes during the first lap to take the lead. From then on it was clear that the pair were in a class of their own today as they gradually pulled out a gap from the chasing pack, trading passes with one another but with no one else able to stay with them. Stoner was often faster than Rossi on the straight but the seven-time world champion had the advantage in the twisty parts of the track and he was able to gain the lead back on the brakes each time the Australian passed him. With only 100ths of a second between them most of the time it looked like being a nail-biting race to the end, but on lap 24 of 32 Stoner made a mistake and ran off the track and into the gravel. This allowed Rossi some breathing space for the final eight laps and he eventually crossed the line 13 seconds clear of Stoner, who had been able to remount and still finish second, such was the gap the pair had pulled out from third-placed Chris Vermeulen.
It was a black day for the other side of the garage however as Jorge Lorenzo, Rossi’s team-mate, took a huge tumble on the first lap and broke the third and fifth metatarsal bones in his left foot. He now faces a battle to be fit for the next race in Brno, in a month’s time. With Dani Pedrosa missing the race this weekend, Stoner has now moved into second in the championship behind Rossi with seven rounds remaining.
Valentino Rossi – Position: 1 Time: 44’04.311
“What a race today! We made some modifications to our bike after warm-up and these gave us the last few tenths that enabled me to fight with Casey today; the result was just fantastic. I got a good start and I was able to pass him in the first lap, but I knew I had to try and stay in front of him and it was impossible to relax even for one second. My M1 was brilliant and so were my Bridgestone tyres; I really only made one mistake, at the corkscrew when I went a bit wide but in fact the dirt had quite good grip also! Casey was a bit faster on the straight than me but I was stronger on the brakes so I had to make all my passes there. I don’t know how many times we changed the lead but it was a lot and it was great, great racing for me and I think also for the fans, because it’s been a while since we’ve been like this. To stay in front I had to do high 21s at least on every lap and I want to thank my team and engineers for giving me a bike that could do this. I had a great rhythm and I am really so happy to win for the first time in America. About the passes, I am sorry that Casey thinks some of them were a bit strong but I really don’t agree; I passed only on the brakes, I braked in the same places every time and we never touched. Of course this was an aggressive race, but it was definitely a fair one. Now we have the summer break and I am looking forward to relaxing a bit, but not too much because it’s going to be a hard fight for the final seven races and we must keep the concentration!”
Davide Brivio – Team Manager
“Although it was not there, we saw the “heart” on Valentino’s helmet again today! This is a great victory because throughout the entire weekend we were at a disadvantage, but nobody ever gave up and we worked until the very last minute to find a way to help Valentino to fight with Casey. We tried to optimize everything we had and at the end “The Doctor” completed the operation! This was a race Valentino did not want to lose. This is Valentino, one who never gives up and fights until the end. I would like to make big congratulations to him and thank the team and all the technicians! It is good to go on holidays with a 25 point advantage and now we must recharge the batteries for the last seven races. I hope to see battles like this one until the end of the championship. On another note, we’re very sorry for Jorge today and we wish him the best and look forward to seeing him back in Brno.”