The Fiat Yamaha racer rode to victory in the San Marino and Rimini’s Coast Grand Prix at the Misano Circuit in Italy, close to his home town of Tavullia. With the win, Rossi matches Agostini for the most career premier-class grand prix victories.
“Today is a truly fantastic day and I can’t believe that I have matched Agostini’s record! He was one of my heroes so it’s quite incredible to have made it to 68 wins,” says Rossi. “This was quite a difficult weekend for us from the start and there has been the added pressure of a home race, which makes it harder to concentrate because there is so much distraction.
More importantly, as far as the 2008 MotoGP season is concerned, Rossi extended his lead in the rider standings to 75 points over Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner, who crashed out of his second straight race.
As he did in the Czech Republic Grand Prix in Brno Aug. 17, Stoner put up impressive lap times in the practice and qualifying sessions before jumping out to an early lead. On lap seven, with Rossi gaining ground, Stoner lost the front end and crashed out.
“It is very disappointing for the weekend to end like this after showing such a high level of performance in practice,” says Stoner, who started from the pole for the seventh race in a row. “Basically we took the decision to put one lap on the race tire in warm-up this morning to get it scrubbed in: we’ve done it before and not had a problem but today I could feel from the first lap that the grip wasn’t right. After a few laps it started to feel better and I was gaining confidence but it let go.”
With five races remaining and up to 125 points up for grabs, Stoner’s hopes of defending his 2007 MotoGP Championship are slipping away. Making it more difficult for Stoner is an injury to a wrist bone. Stoner says he will ride through the pain for the rest of the season before getting surgery.
Rossi’s teammate, Jorge Lorenzo finished in second to return to the podium for the first time since he was the runner-up in the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, May 18 where he also finished behind Rossi. Since Le Mans, Lorenzo struggled with a series of injuries suffered in crashes. Lorenzo has completed just four of the last eight races.
“Seeing the party Valentino’s fans were making for him around the track today reminded me how much I want to start winning again, but as a start this second place is fantastic for us,” says Lorenzo. “To be one and two on the podium again, like in Le Mans, is wonderful and after four months of problems I am enjoying this moment very much – it’s perfect.”
Toni Elias of the Ducati satellite Alice Team finished third for his second consecutive podium finish.
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa finished fourth to move within two points of Stoner for second in the standings. Pedrosa raced in Misano on Bridgestone tires, making the switch from Michelin. Bridgestone will supply Pedrosa’s tries for the remainder of the season.
“I thank Michelin and Honda for their mutual understanding and for agreeing to my personal demands,” says Pedrosa about the switch to Bridgestone. “I am very conscious of the fact that I have made some excessively negative comments about Michelin tires, even though Michelin helped me make an exceptional start to the season.”
Pedrosa’s teammate, Nicky Hayden pulled out of the Misano race after the qualifying session to rest his injured right foot. Hayden injured his ankle while participating in the X Games and also sat out the Brno race. Hayden will have another two weeks to recuperate before the MotoGP season resumes at the Indianapolis Grand Prix on Sept. 14.
|MotoGP top five standings|
|1st||Valentino Rossi||Fiat Yamaha||262|
|2nd||Casey Stoner||Ducati Marlboro||187|
|3rd||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||185|
|4th||Jorge Lorenzo||Fiat Yamaha||140|
|5th||Andrea Dovizioso||JiR Team Scot Honda||118|