As we reported earlier, Michelin has decided not to submit a bid to become the sole supplier of tires for MotoGP. The press released announcing the move read as follows:
"Michelin has decided not to submit a bid to the governing body of the MotoGP World Championship. At the same time, Michelin regrets not being able to contribute to the organizers' important discussions to improve rider safety and reduce costs.
The spirit of competition has always been central to Michelin. Motor sports at the highest level are useful because competition among several tire manufacturers is a valuable stimulus for developing increasingly high-performance tires that will one day equip customer vehicles. Tires play a key role in a vehicle's performance and can make a considerable difference. This competition among manufacturers helps to make racing exciting.
The radial tire, which was invented by Michelin, has been improved through racing, and the improvements have since been passed on to consumers. Michelin's dual compound technology for motorcycle tires was first tested in MotoGP racing and is today integrated into premium products for the brand's customers. The MotoGP Championship organizers have decided to use a single tire supplier for the coming seasons, which effectively eliminates the competitive environment that has led to so much progress.
The R&D resources allocated for MotoGP racing will be redeployed to support innovation, which is at the heart of Michelin's customer-focused strategy."
Michelin's decision leaves Bridgestone as the only bidder for the contract, and barring a revolution, certain to be awarded the contract. Indeed, it is entirely possible that the reason Michelin decided not to submit a proposal is because they knew they did not stand a chance of winning the contract anyway.
If the French tire maker had been awarded the contract, then open rebellion would have broken out among the riders currently contracted to Bridgestone, and riders such as Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa would have put pressure on Dorna to reverse the decision. Michelin may have decided to withdraw with honor, rather than go through the motions for what was essentially a sham.
Michelin's withdrawal also shifts the balance of power between Dorna and Bridgestone. As Dorna insisted that any tire manufacturer submitting a bid must already have experience in the premier class, that left only Bridgestone, Michelin and Dunlop. With both Dunlop and Michelin refusing to submit a proposal, Dorna is forced to accept the terms demanded by Bridgestone, rather than being in a position to put pressure on a tire supplier by threatening to switch to another manufacturer.
Just what that change in the balance of power might mean was hinted at in an interview which appeared on the official MotoGP.com website with Hiroshi Yamada, Bridgestone's Motorcycle Sport Unit Manager. When asked what effect being a single tire supplier would have on their ability to provide all of the riders and with tires and on the current allocation of 40 tires for each race weekend, Yamada replied: "We cannot continue with the current regulations, because we will have double the number of riders. These detailed conditions we put in our proposal. (...) I believe they can accept our proposal."
Although he did not say so in so many words, it seems fairly clear that Bridgestone will want to limit the number of tires supplied to the riders each weekend. Though the riders were almost unanimous in their support for a single tire supplier in MotoGP, once confronted with the ramifications of such a choice, they may well be less happy.
After Phillip Island had been treated to a very mixed bag of weather on Friday, with balmy and dry conditions in the morning making way for a very cold and wet session in the afternoon, the paddock and fans were delighted to be greeted by much more stable conditions on Saturday. The morning free practice session, which saw Nicky Hayden nudge Casey Stoner off the top of the timesheets in the dying minutes, took place in cool but dry conditions, and the official qualifying practice started out under sunny skies, but not much warmer.
The opening minutes saw lap times drop down quickly down into the mid 1'30s, with Dani Pedrosa the first rider to crack the 1'31 barrier, and Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner taking another half a second off just a few seconds later. As is his custom, Stoner then chipped away at the times even further, perfecting his race setup to set the bar at a time of 1'30.124 after just 10 minutes of the session.
For the moment, Stoner's time was out of reach of the rest of the field, with everyone focusing on getting the bikes ready for race day. In the first 20 minutes, Stoner was clearly fastest, but he had Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden all running not far off his pace, and as the session approached halfway, that group was joined by Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso and James Toseland.
With the existing pole position record standing at 1'29.020, it was clear that Stoner's time would not be good enough for pole, and we were left to wait for the first rider to stick on a set of qualifiers and make a bid to head up the grid. Just before the halfway mark of the hour-long session, Colin Edwards was the first to take the plunge, chasing round the track in a time of 1'30.088, gradually getting used to the mind-boggling grip levels provided by his soft Michelin qualifiers.
Edwards' time didn't look like it would last too long, as a minute later, Andrea Dovizioso was showing fastest times at all of the intermediate checkpoints, but as he exited the first of the final long left handers, and still going quickly, Dovi broke off his lap, and headed into the pits.
Edwards had been granted a little respite, but it would be only temporary. As the rest of the field ventured out of the pits on soft rubber for the first time, times started to drop rapidly. Still Edwards' time held, until 6 minutes later, Andrea Dovizioso went out on another fast lap, this time completing it to put in a more serious candidate for pole. His time of 1'29.675 looked much more like what it would take to start from the front of the grid, but there was still 23 minutes of the session to go.
A couple of minutes later, it was Nicky Hayden's turn to have a go at his own pole record. The Kentucky Kid, who has been strong all weekend, was quick enough to take pole from Dovizioso, but only by a few hundredths, setting a lap of 1'29.628.
By now, ever more riders were starting to approach the 1'29 bracket, with Colin Edwards improving his time to take 3rd, his team mate James Toseland a little slower, down in 5th. Valentino Rossi, on his first qualifier, was just shy of the 1'29 mark, setting a time of 1'30.014 to take a provisional 4th place.
That would not last long. A minute later, Randy de Puniet took Rossi's 4th spot from him, and The Doctor was pushed further down the running order by his team mate. Jorge Lorenzo knocked a signficant chunk off Hayden's pole time to take 1st, with a lap of 1'29.401.
The battle for pole position had now started in earnest. James Toseland took a shot, but came up short, setting 2nd fastest a tenth slower than Lorenzo, while a couple of minutes later, Andrea Dovizioso got close to Toseland's time, but fell just short.
But Toseland's 2nd position was not safe. Casey Stoner had put in his first qualifying tire, and even at the first attempt, the Australian was fast, taking 2nd place by a few hundredths. Nicky Hayden then knocked Toseland off the front row, heading rapidly towards pole record territory, taking provisional pole with a lap of 1'29.281.
Hayden's time was impressive, but it was soon under threat. Valentino Rossi had started the lap on his 2nd qualifying tire, and was well under Hayden's time at the first intermediate timing point, when disaster struck. Rossi ran a fraction wide on the exit of the Southern Loop, running off the rumblestrip and onto the grass, still wet and muddy from the recent rain.
Unable to get the bike back onto the track, as it headed left for Turn 3, and with little in the way of braking, Rossi turned his attention to the rapidly approaching tire wall, and what to do about it. As he hit the gravel trap, that question was answered for him: His Yamaha M1 pogoed, bucking Rossi off, landing painfully on his shoulder and head, wrenching his neck and tearing some muscles. In the end, he avoided the fate of Fabrizio Lai, stopping just short of the unprotected tire wall, but it took Rossi a few moments to get up, The Doctor clearly dazed, and in need of The Other Doctor, Dr Costa of the Clinica Mobile.
Rossi took a few minutes to recover, then slowly started on the long trek back to the pits, to be checked over, and to decide on whether he would take another shot at qualifying. With a best lap in the 1'30s, if he didn't, he could end up a long way down the grid for the start, and completely out of reach of Casey Stoner. On the other hand, with the 2008 title already in the bag, he could afford to let this session go, without risking further injury.
While Rossi had crashed attacking Hayden's pole time, Hayden's Repsol Honda team mate was staying on board. Matching Hayden's times closely round each section of track, Dani Pedrosa crossed the line just a few thousandths ahead, snatching pole from his team mate with a 1'29.277.
Pedrosa's time on pole position would be short. Just 35 seconds, in fact, before his archrival Jorge Lorenzo came charging. The Fiat Yamaha man was now seriously quick, and the pole record looked finally set to fall. And how: Lorenzo crossed the line nearly 3/10ths quicker than Pedrosa, taking pole with a time of 1'28.990, and the first man ever to lap Phillip Island in under 1'29.
There were 13 minutes in the session left, plenty of time for an assault on Lorenzo's new pole record, and the field were all back in the pits for fresh rubber. But the first wave of attempts fell short, no one able to match the Spanish rookie's pace.
With 7 minutes to go, the next wave struck. And this wave consisted of a pair of formidable warriors, Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden now on an all out charge. Stoner was the first to cross the line, but could not get into the 1'28s, improving his time and taking 3rd, but Hayden was close behind, and much faster. The Kentucky Kid rocketed accross the line to seize pole from Lorenzo, taking the top spot on the grid and another new record with a lap of 1'28.756.
Jorge Lorenzo would not take this lying down. On his next attempt, he improved his time once again, but only by a few hundredths, rather than the tenths that he needed to snatch back pole.
As the clock ticked down, leaving the riders just 5 more minutes to improve their starting positions, Valentino Rossi finally entered the pits. Rossi grabbed a new helmet while Dr Costa examined his neck, Rossi explaining just where it hurt. His spare bike was warmed up and waiting, while Rossi consulted with his team. The Italian seemed in no hurry, but all the while, time was slipping away.
The rest of the field seemed to be following Rossi's example. The track was quiet, as fresh tires were applied, and final adjustments were made, and a minute later, the growl of MotoGP bikes announced a mass exodus onto the track.
The final minutes saw the usual flurry of fast laps, riders giving it their all to improve their starting positions. As the last seconds of the session ticked away, Nicky Hayden's pole time came under serious threat. The American's time was looking ever more likely to stand, but Casey Stoner was pushing his last qualifying tire to its limit.
That limit was good enough for pole, Stoner crossing the line in 1'28.665, a tenth quicker than Hayden had been. Behind Stoner, more fast laps were coming. Jorge Lorenzo was quick, but not quite as quick as Stoner, just edging Hayden out for 2nd place, leaving the American down in 3rd on the grid.
James Toseland's final lap was impressive, taking him to 4th momentarily, before Randy de Puniet went fast enough to take 4th from the Englishman, pushing Toseland down into 5th. Toseland sits ahead of Dani Pedrosa on the grid, Pedrosa filling out the second row in 6th, unable to beat his earlier best time.
Colin Edwards heads up the third row, the Texan sitting in 7th spot ahead of Andrea Dovizioso. Shinya Nakano sits in 9th, ahead of his team mate Alex de Angelis, who completes the top 10.
Valentino Rossi did finally make it out for one last lap, but was just a few precious seconds late, crossing the line to start his flying lap after the checkered flag had been waved. This leaves Rossi down in 12th position, and with a mountain to climb.
Rossi's lowly grid position is a real shame, as the Italian's race pace is very good, easily the 2nd fastest man on race tires, and looking capable of taking the fight to Casey Stoner, whose race setup saw him setting the fastest times. But that doesn't mean that the race is Stoner's for the taking: Jorge Lorenzo was also setting great times on race tires, while James Toseland wasn't far off either.
Add in Dani Pedrosa, who has the pace to match Lorenzo, and Andrea Dovizioso, who is similarly close, as well as Nicky Hayden, whose times are a fraction slower, but who is outstanding at Phillip Island, the track suiting his style perfectly, and we could well see a serious battle for the lead. Unless, that is, Stoner gets a trademark rocket-propelled start, and disappears straight from the line.
While Valentino Rossi's 12th place start would seem to put him out of contention, the pace he has on race tires should see him able to cut his way through the field. Even if Stoner runs away with the race, we look set for a feast of passing, Rossi scything his way forward.
The one question which hangs over this is whether those carrying injuries will be able to comfortably see through the race. Casey Stoner struggled midway through the Motegi race, as his wrist injury started to take its toll, but Phillip Island is slightly more forgiving on wrists than the stop and go Motegi. And exactly how Valentino Rossi's neck will hold up to race distance also remains to be seen, the bruised and torn muscles making moving his head difficult.
And besides the big names, others are hurting too. Randy de Puniet will start from 4th, but like Stoner, is carrying a wrist injury, while Sylvain Guintoli starts from much further down the field, and will be riding with a cracked shoulder blade.
But perhaps we should feel the most sympathy for Ant West. The Kawasakis are hopelessly off the pace, by over 2 seconds on race tires, and at what is likely to be his final home Grand Prix, West will be forced to circulate at the back. His only hope is that he can beat his team mate John Hopkins and Ducati's Marco Melandri, both of whom are trapped in the doldrums with West. It's going to be a long day for all three men on Sunday.
West's day is unlikely to be saved by rain. The weather forecast is for a cool but sunny day, with very little wind, unusual at the Island. But with fair weather, and the promise of close racing, the fans should be very happy. And if Casey Stoner can take the win here, they will be even happier.
Michelin has just announced that they will not be submitting a proposal to Dorna and the FIM for the contract to supply tires as the single tire manufacturer. This means that Bridgestone will be the sole supplier of tires for MotoGP in 2009, as heavily predicted, and as favored by most of the riders.
More details as they emerge.
Though Toni Elias had already leaked details of the deal at Indianapolis, today, Gresini Honda officially confirmed that the Spaniard would be joining the team for 2009. And the specifics of the deal seem to justify Elias' decision to make a return to the team he left at the end of 2007.
For Elias is to be provided with a factory-spec Honda RC212V to campaign in the 2009 MotoGP season. This will bring the total number of factory Hondas on the grid to 3, alongside the 2 bikes which the Repsol Honda team will have for Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso.
With the amount of progress that Honda has made on their 800cc machine since its introduction, the factory-spec RC212V should be the best machine on the grid next year. With rumors rife that Dani Pedrosa has been given one more year to win a championship for Honda, or else seek gainful employment elsewhere, there can be no doubting that Pedrosa and his personal manager Alberto Puig will be putting as much pressure as possible on Honda to produce a bike capable of dominating the competition.
In the press release confirming Elias' signing, the Gresini team also confirmed a few other details. Alex de Angelis will be riding the satellite spec version of the Honda RC212V, though it remains unclear whether de Angelis would be given the factory spec bike should Elias be injured during the season. Gresini also announced that San Carlo, an Italian manufacturer of potato chips and other snack products, will be sponsoring the team again next year.
Gresini also confirmed its position as a key strategic partner with HRC. Fausto Gresini has worked very closely with Honda for several years, especially when Sete Gibernau and Marco Melandri were with the team. The relationship suffered a setback during 2007, after HRC switched its resources to focus completely on the factory Repsol Honda team, after it became painfully apparent that Honda had completely misjudged what it would take to produce an 800cc bike capable of winning races. Any new parts which became available went straight to the factory teams, and satellite teams were left with a very mediocre bike for a long time, a position they weren't used to being in.
That period saw Marco Melandri grow increasingly disillusioned with Honda, and may have been the catalyst which led the Italian to jump ship to Ducati. After that proved to be a positively disastrous move for Melandri, his experience with HRC during 2007 may also have made him reluctant to return to the Honda fold, despite their proven record of winning, and take a chance with Kawasaki.
The coming of a third Kawasaki to the grid has been talked about for a long time. But over the months, the option has gone from being a racing certainty, to off the table, to having a reasonable chance of success.
The uncertainty has arisen as a result of differences between Kawasaki and Jorge Martinez Aspar, the manager of the 125 and 250 Aspar teams, who was slated to run the project. Martinez had sponsorship to fund the project, but the sponsors were all Spanish, and demanded a Spanish rider to use to sell to their home market. Spanish media sources even intimated that just being Spanish wouldn't be enough, but that Martinez would be required to run a rider from the Valencia Autonomous Community (a region equivalent to a US state) to help promote the region to tourists.
At Motegi, the deal looked to be almost dead in the water, but now, Motorcycle News is reporting that it's back on again, with a surprising amendment. Matthew Birt's report states that Kawasaki is demanding that Shinya Nakano be given the ride over any Spanish riders.
There is no word as yet of Martinez' reaction to these demands, but an announcement is due before the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island. It remains to be seen whether Martinez can hang on to the sponsors for this project if they don't get a Spanish rider, which would put the project in jeapordy again unless the factory can come up with the money to fund it.
As for Nakano, this would most likely be a very positive move. The Japanese rider, once regarded as one of the most promising riders to enter the class, has seen his performance suffer since leaving Kawasaki to ride a Honda. Returning to Kawasaki would at the very least give Nakano a psychological boost.
It could help Kawasaki as well. Both Nakano and Hopkins like to carry a lot of corner speed, and place a lot of emphasis on the front of the bike. With two riders with similar styles on the Kawasaki, progress in developing the ZXRR could be accelerated.
After months of speculation, finally the deal is done. Ben Spies will not be riding in MotoGP in 2009. But the triple AMA champion will be leaving America: as reported earlier, Spies will be joining the factory-supported Yamaha Motor Italia team in the World Superbikes championship.
The move has been in the air for a while now. After Suzuki failed to secure Spies the ride in MotoGP he longed for, it was increasingly likely that Spies would look elsewhere for a ride. The American was linked for a while with JiR Honda in MotoGP, but once it became clear that Luca Montiron would not be given an RC212V to contest, that deal imploded.
Spies' motivation in the press release announcing the move is interesting, and worthy of note. Spies says "after considering my offers it became obvious to me that Yamaha would be a great home. Yamaha was excited about the possibility of me joining them and they just made me feel like I was coming into a great family. You look at how Yamaha treats its riders and how, even after their careers are over, they’re always part of the Yamaha family. That was really important to me. I’m looking forward to the challenge at hand and to work with Yamaha to produce a winning team and ultimately a World Superbike Championship."
These sentiments are very similar to those of Jorge Lorenzo, when he signed with Yamaha to ride in MotoGP. The Japanese factory has shown itself to be extremely astute when it comes to rider signings over the past years, carefully cherrypicking talent away from other factories. The signing of Spies is one such example.
But Yamaha's World Superbike team has taken a risk with the signing of Spies. The team will be fielding two rookies aboard a brand new racebike in the championship, and both BSB star Tom Sykes and AMA champ Ben Spies have a lot of circuits to learn. Any hopes the team may have had of lifting the WSBK crown in 2009 have probably been sacrificed for a long-term strategy, hoping that investment next year will pay off in 2010.
There was some speculation that Spies could still make it into MotoGP, taking Colin Edwards' seat at Tech 3 Yamaha, with Edwards switching to World Superbikes to take a shot at a third title in the series, and help develop Yamaha's new long bang firing sequence R1. Clearly, Edwards was not keen on this scenario this year, but that doesn't mean the move is off indefinitely.
For it seems only a matter of time before Ben Spies finally ends up in MotoGP. Yamaha's Racing Division Manager Laurens Klein Koerkamp hinted as much in the press release, saying "we believe he’s got a long future ahead of him at the highest levels in motorcycle racing". But it will be a few more years yet.
After earlier speculation that Ben Spies was to take Colin Edwards' place at the Tech 3 Yamaha team, with Edwards moving back to the World Superbike championship where he won two titles, it looks like the swap is off. The British racing publication Bikesport News is reporting that Spies will be going to World Superbikes after all, joining the factory supported Yamaha Motor Italia team to ride the new long bang Yamaha YZF R1.
Yamaha's World Superbike team had already confirmed to MotoGPMatters that the team was interested in Spies, but BSN is quoting "sources close to Spies" that the American triple AMA champion has inked a deal to join Tom Sykes in World Superbikes. The official announcement is expected this week.
The move would still leave the door open for a swap. In Sykes and Spies, the Yamaha team would have two class rookies, neither of whom knows the bike or the tracks. Having Edwards move into the WSBK team, and pushing Spies forward into the MotoGP team would allow both Spies and Sykes to be partnered by men with experience of the tracks, making finding a setup for the bike that little bit easier.
For the moment, though, that's just speculation. That Spies will be on a Yamaha next year is virtually certain. That he will be riding in World Superbikes is extremely likely. But either way, Spies will finally have the chance to show what he is capable of on the world stage.
Since Colin Edwards finally wrapped up his contract to ride for Tech 3 Yamaha again next year, there's been little discussion of the situation at Yamaha, with all 4 seats firmly settled.
Or so it seemed. While the situation at Yamaha in MotoGP looked settled, the same could not be said for World Superbikes. The Yamaha Motor Italia team lost both its big name riders for next season, with Noriyuki Haga going to Xerox Ducati and Troy Corser joining BMW's fledgeling World Superbike effort. And so far, the team has only signed the British Superbikes star Tom Sykes to fill one of the seats.
So obviously, speculation has been rampant on who is to fill the other seat at the Yamaha factory Superbike team. Though Sylvain Guintoli tested for the team a week ago, the name that keeps popping up in this regard is the American Ben Spies. After Suzuki failed to provide him with the MotoGP ride he thought he had in the bag, Spies has been looking elsewhere, and specifically to other manufacturers, to provide him with a ride on the world stage.
But along with all the rumors linking Spies to the Yamaha World Superbike ride comes some even more intriguing speculation. During the BBC broadcast of the Motegi MotoGP round, commentator Matt Roberts mentioned that there was a strong rumor that Yamaha were trying to persuade Colin Edwards to give up his Tech 3 Yamaha seat and switch to World Superbikes to ride their brand new R1.
If this is true - and it would certainly make a lot of sense, given that the new R1 uses virtually the same firing sequence as Yamaha's M1 MotoGP bike - then the road could be cleared for Ben Spies to take Edwards' Tech 3 seat, and move into MotoGP.
Though unsubstantiated, the rumor has an irresistible logic to it. The Tech 3 team has struggled to obtain sponsorship in recent years, and Spies would be capable of bringing in a big name sponsor to the team. Tech 3 would again have 2 former Superbike champions on the Yamaha, with James Toseland able to help Spies make the transition to MotoGP, much as Edwards did for Toseland. And Yamaha would get the acknowledged bike development skills of Colin Edwards for their brand new R1 superbike, something they will need if they are to make the bike competitive quickly.
When contacted, Yamaha's World Superbike team would only confirm that they were interested in having ride the new R1, and expected to make an announcement about their 2nd rider later this week.
Now that it has been made official, and before the contract is awarded, which will undoubtedly containing a clause silencing any criticism of the tires or tire company, reaction to the announcement of a single tire rule from figures directly involved in the paddock is starting to emerge.
The racing websites Autosport.com and GPOne.com have one such response, from no less a figure than Jeremy Burgess, the technical genius behind both Mick Doohan's and Valentino Rossi's 11 combined world championships. Burgess is emphatic: in JB's opinion, the move to a single tire rule is a mistake.
"I'm against it, this is a prototype championship and you need as many prototype factors in it, driving it forward, as possible. If it's dumbed down, we could very easily end up as a pseudo Superbike championship."
Burgess doesn't think the switch to a single tire supplier will make the racing any closer, either. "The cream will always rise to the top" he said on Autosport.com. Burgess also pointed out that in his opinion, the best battle at Motegi was between Lorenzo on Michelins and Pedrosa on Bridgestone tires.
The full text of a statement released by Valentino Rossi after the Motegi race. Contains details of the race.
Yamaha Racing issued a press release with an interview with Valentino Rossi after he clinched his 6th MotoGP world title. It offers a fascinating insight into the mind of a world champion, and hints at his future. Here it is, in full:
Further information World Title Valentino Rossi
“I think it’s difficult to say, but maybe this is even better than the first championship with Yamaha in 2004. In 2004 I arrived after three championships in a row; the change was very big and no one expected me to win then, not even us to be honest! But this year is great too because I didn’t start as the number one favourite after losing for two years. The taste of this is something special.
“In 2006 I lost because of bad luck; I still won the most races and was the fastest on track for most of the time, but in 2007 Stoner was a lot faster than us and so we got to the end with a big of disadvantage. Winning this championship was very difficult but also very, very important.
“The decision to change to Bridgestone tyres, which I took together with Jeremy, my team and all the Yamaha crew, was very important, as were the changes to the bike because the first 800cc M1 last year was not competitive enough. We spoke a lot during last season and I remember a strange meeting in Valencia last year, me with a broken hand, speaking with Furusawa about 2008. From then we started to work on the improvements for this season. It’s also been important to have the right people in the right place and this year everything has been correct. It’s been step-by-step.
“I think I have made a lot of good decisions this year and we have been competitive from the start. Qatar was the worst race of the season but I knew our potential was good so, although we were a bit worried at that point, we weren’t desperate because we knew if we fixed a few problems we could try to win.
“I grew up a lot in the last two years, because at the end of 2005 I had a great career and I had won all the important targets so far. 125, 250 and then five titles in a row in MotoGP with two different bikes – I felt unbeatable. But in 2006 and 2007 I learnt to lose and this has been very important. I came out much stronger and my level of concentration and effort to win this championship has been higher than ever before.
“This season has had some different periods. At the beginning of the year we had some important results when Bridgestone wasn’t the strongest: Jerez, Portugal and others, and in that period we took a big advantage from Stoner. After Barcelona Casey started to ride like a demon and dominated three races in a row, and then we went to Laguna which was the turning point of the season. Laguna was a real battle and from then on we have flown.
“The show after the race was one of my friends pretending to be a ‘notary’, signing and certificating the eighth championship ‘deed’. It was very exciting to be planning the championship t-shirt and celebration once again with my friends and fan club and the one we came up with is funny I think, it says ‘I’m sorry for the delay!’
“I am very content at Yamaha and this is why I signed for two more years. I had some good offers at other factories, but I already changed bike once and proved everything I wanted to and so there is no need to do that again. Also I am no longer 20 years old and I need a good atmosphere in my team in order to keep me focused and happy, and I have this at Yamaha. The atmosphere in our team, from the Japanese all the way down to the garage is fantastic and this is what makes me want to stay.
“I think 2009 will be even more difficult than this year. Now I am the world champion again and I have demonstrated that I am still very fast; I think I rode the best of my career this year apart from the mistake in Assen, but next year is another story, it depends on how the winter is and how Stoner, Pedrosa and also Lorenzo are next year, as well as the other riders because there are many fast people in this championship. I think it will be a great championship and I’m looking forward to it, but first I want to finish this year and try to win the final three races!
“As I said, there are many strong riders but of course I hope that in the future nobody will win like Valentino Rossi! Maybe my brother Luca will be as strong as me…I wanted to take him on my bike on the celebration lap, but they did not allow it. Maybe I will wait for him to be a MotoGP rider before quitting, then I will beat him in the first year, and then I will stop riding!
“When you are 20 or 22 yrs old, you live everything in a different way. It’s different… In 2000, maybe, I could have won on my debut, but I underestimated myself! In 2001 it was the last chance for me to win in 500, so I gave it my best and did that. In 2001 it was the year of the battle with Biaggi, in 2002 it was the year when everybody said that I won because of my bike, then 2003 was the year of Gibernau, it was hard until the end. They were fantastic years but with Yamaha it is different. I enjoy it more.
“During 2003 I started thinking about Yamaha. Of course I was scared about the new challenge, it was a big question mark. This year, when I tested the new bike and the new tyres, I understood that I could win. In 2004, however, when I tested the new bike I understood we had to work a lot. Sincerely, the feeling of winning in Welkom in 2004 was the strongest emotion of my career; more so than in Laguna Seca this year. The 2005 the M1 was very fast and that one and the 2008 one are the best Yamaha bikes ever.
“I think Stoner next year will be back stronger again, so maybe he is the hardest rival I have ever had, more than Gibernau and all the others I fought against in the past. Last year I was sorry that after so many successful years, some people thought Valentino was finished and Casey was the new Valentino. As I said, until I stop riding a bike, my objective will always be to win. I like this life and I always try to do my best in it.”
Statistiscs on Valentino Rossi's career
In becoming only the second rider ever to win the MotoGP World Championship following a two-year gap, Valentino Rossi has cemented his place amongst the legends of motorcycle racing. A return to the form that won him five consecutive premier-class titles between 2001 and 2005 has seen the Italian reinstated at the very pinnacle of the sport, with a host of career milestones reached along the way.
Here is a full list of Rossi’s historic MotoGP achievements in 2008:
Rossi has joined Giacomo Agostini as one of only two riders to have taken six or more premier-class World Championships.
Rossi is only the second rider to regain the premier-class title after a two year gap – the other rider to do this was also Agostini.
This is Rossi’s eighth world title across all classes. Only Agostini with 15, Angel Nieto, with 13, Mike Hailwood and Carlos Ubbiali, with nine each, have won more.
Rossi is the first rider to win the premier-class title on four different types of motorcycle: 500cc 4-cylinder two-stroke, 990cc 5-cylinder four-stroke, Yamaha 990cc 4-cylinder four-stroke and a Yamaha 800cc 4-cylinder four-stroke.
It is eleven years since Rossi’s first World Championship success in the 125cc class in 1997. The only rider with a longer period between his first and last titles is Angel Nieto, who won the 50cc crown in 1969 and the 125cc equivalent in 1984.
With his 69th career MotoGP win at Indianapolis, Rossi broke Giacomo Agostini’s record for the most premier-class victories; a record that has stood since the legendary Italian’s final victory at the West German Grand Prix in 1976.
With 37 wins, Rossi has had more success with Yamaha than any other factory in his career
Rossi is also Yamaha’s most successful rider, having scored 13 more premier-class wins for the factory than Kenny Roberts.
With three races to go he is the only rider to have scored points in every round of the 2008 season.
Rossi’s sequence of five straight race wins since Laguna Seca is his longest run of wins since 2005, when he also scored five successive victories.
Other facts about Rossi’s career.
In 1997 Rossi became the second youngest ever 125cc World Champion after scoring 321 points and eleven wins.
Two years later, he became the youngest ever 250cc World Champion with nine wins.
In 2001 Rossi joined Phil Read as one of only two riders ever to win the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc titles.
Rossi’s debut victory for Yamaha at the opening race of 2004 in South Africa made him the first rider in history to take back-to-back wins for different manufacturers.
After winning the MotoGP World Championship three times with Honda, Rossi took his fourth premier-class title with Yamaha in 2004 and became the only rider other than Eddie Lawson to win consecutive premier-class titles for different manufacturers.
Valentino Rossi - Career
Born: 16th February 1979 in Urbino, Italy
World Championships: 8 (6 x MotoGP/500cc, 1 x 250cc, 1 x 125cc)
GP victories: 96 (70 x MotoGP/500cc, 14 x 250cc, 12 x 125cc)
GP podiums: 148 (112 x MotoGP/500cc, 21 x 250cc, 15 x 125cc)
GP Pole Positions: 51 (41 x MotoGP/500cc, 5 x 250cc, 5 x 125cc)
First GP: Malaysia, 1996 (125cc)
First GP win: Czech Republic, 1996 (125cc)
GP starts: 207 (146 x MotoGP/50cc, 30 x 250cc, 30 x 125cc)