Grabbing the very first opportunity to seal the win, Valentino Rossi ended his two year lean phase by becoming the new MotoGP World Champion, for the sixth time. With ‘Scusate il ritardo’, or ‘Sorry for the delay’, printed across his celebration t-shirt, clearly pointing to the well deserved win after two years, Rossi indicated that the competition in 2008 was quite fierce.
The Fiat Yamaha man, who is now the only man to win 500cc, 800cc and 990cc titles, compared his sixth title win to his maiden victory for Yamaha. “For sure it is a great achievement, maybe at the level of 2004 when I first won the title with Yamaha”, exclaimed Rossi.
Claiming the win after beating rivals Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner, Rossi went on to add, “The battle was very hard and the season was very long, so I’m very happy. We worked very hard with Yamaha and with all the team to be able to put in good speed at every track, under every condition. The race today was a great battle, like it has been all season with Stoner and Pedrosa”.
Rossi’s first win on a four-stroke machine at Motegi, was accompanied by a desk, a commemorative helmet and a camera-pen. “This occasion is always an excuse to have a laugh and a bit of a party with my friends”, said a visibly thrilled Rossi.
But even as heat of the win wears thin Rossi is back preparing to defend his crown at the first test of the 2009 M1, which is scheduled at Twin Ring Motegi. “Tomorrow I have a test, but I am fighting to make it start in the afternoon”, said the 29-year old in conclusion, who is hoping to be allowed a late party and a relaxing lie-in, to celebrate the end of his two year wait.
“This is even better than the first championship with Yamaha”, states new MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi.
After claiming his sixth title at Motegi, Valentino Rossi is elated with his performance, and termed it a perfect way to end his two year wait. “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.”
Talking about the two year wait for the crown, Rossi explains what he feels went wrong then, “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.”
Dedicating his win to his entire team and the effort everyone put in, Rossi claims that the decision to change tyres this year was a major influential decision. “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”, he said.
Expressing faith in his abilities, as well as the team, Rossi revealed that even though they were a bit worried after the disappointing race at Qatar, they were certain that if the right decisions were made, victory would be theirs.
Explaining his experience in the last two years Rossi claimed, “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!’”
Rossi had recently extended his contract for another two years, and he explained why that step was necessary. “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 for the future, Rossi said that the competition on the grid is getting tougher. “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. That 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.” concluded Rossi.