Rossi looks to wrap up MotoGP title

Fiat Yamaha rider needs third-place finish to clinch championship

By Motorcycle.com Staff, Sep. 26, 2008
Valentino Rossi is looking to wrap up the 2008 MotoGP World Championship this weekend at the Grand Prix of Japan.

Rossi comes to Motegi with an 87-point lead over Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner with just four races left. Should Rossi finish third or better on Sunday the championship will be his. The Fiat Yamaha rider has five premier-class titles in his career, with his last coming in 2005.

Should Rossi clinch the title, he would become only the second rider to regain the crown following a two-year gap – the other being Giacomo Agostini, whose all-time premier-class win record of 68 was broken by Rossi at Indianapolis last weekend.

Agostini, with eight titles, is the only rider to have won the MotoGP World Championship more times than Rossi.

Valentino Rossi can win his sixth MotoGP championship with a podium finish at Motegi.

Motegi has not traditionally been a successful venue for Rossi. Though he has six podiums at the Japanese circuit, his only victory came in 2001 before the advent of four-stroke MotoGP machinery.

“So, we have had a fantastic run of race and now here we are finally, with a ‘match point’ for the championship, and in Motegi once again,” says Rossi. “In 2005 I was in the same situation but I crashed and had to wait for Malaysia to win the title, and then last year we lost the championship in Japan. I really would like to win in Motegi, especially as it’s such an important race for Yamaha.”

Despite the long odds, Ducati Marlboro has not given up hope. The team has enjoyed plenty of success at Motegi and is hoping there is still some Ducati magic left at the circuit.

“Motegi is a circuit with so many great memories for us,” says Livio Suppo, Ducati’s MotoGP project director. “The first victory with Bridgestone in 2005, which came so many months after our first outright victory in MotoGP at Barcelona in 2003, has particular significance. Then there was the victory in 2006, when Loris was fighting for the title, and of course last year. It was entirely down to Loris because he picked the perfect moment to change bikes and take his third straight win there on the same day Casey was crowned World Champion! All in all, Motegi is a special place for us and even though we go there not in as good shape as last year there are still four races left and we’re glad that one of them is at this track.”

“I’ve had a mixed bag of results at Motegi - some good, some bad,” says Stoner. “Obviously the best memory is of last year with the title victory but as always I prefer to look to the future rather than reflect on the past. Anyway, it is a fun track and I think it can be good for our bike and tires.”

Stoner says the five-year-old wrist injury that was bothering him the last few races has shown signs of improvement recently.

“The wrist hasn't given me great problems over the last week and seems to be improving on the last couple of weeks so I can't wait to get back on the bike and try to get a better result than we've managed lately.”