“What a race !”
Valentino Rossi rode his Yamaha M1 to a fighting second place in Catalunya today after an exhilarating battle with Casey Stoner, the Australian eventually taking the flag just 0.069 seconds ahead of the Fiat Yamaha rider after a nail-biting final few laps.
Rossi 96th premier-class podium gives him yet another record as it takes him above Mick Doohan as the rider with the most podium finishes ever in the top class of Grand Prix racing. His team-mate Edwards suffered from grip issues throughout and was unable to stick with the leading pack from sixth on the grid, eventually finishing in tenth.
After starting from pole, Rossi found himself down in fourth on lap one and was then forced to push hard in the first three laps to get past John Hopkins before he could begin to close the gap to Dani Pedrosa, who was by then following Stoner in second place. On lap eleven of 25 Rossi made his move on the local favourite, the cheer from the grandstands proving that there was however a sizeable Italian element amongst the 112,600-strong crowd. Rossi soon started looking for passing opportunities on Stoner, making his first successful bid at the end of lap eighteen before relinquishing the lead back to the Australian on the next lap.
From then on the fans were treated to some vintage wheel-to-wheel racing from the pair, with Pedrosa also in close contention, and an incredible number of passes made in several different parts of the track. Going into the penultimate lap however Stoner made his decisive move and Rossi was unable to peg him back, despite throwing every effort at it.
Despite a promising qualifying performance yesterday, today' was not Edwards' day and he slipped several places at the start and ran a lonely race further down the order, although a last-lap pass on Nicky Hayden moved him up one position to take tenth and six points.
Twenty points for Rossi today means he is now fourteen behind Stoner after seven races, whilst Edwards remains tenth in the standings.
After two races on the trot there is now a ten-day break before the MotoGP circus heads to Donington for the Grand Prix of Great Britain, another of Rossi's favourite hunting grounds.
"What a race! Even if I'm disappointed not to win, it's a great emotion to be part of a race like that and fantastic fun. It really was an amazing battle to the end with many wonderful overtaking manoeuvres by both of us in all different parts of the track! Unfortunately I lost a bit of time at the start and then it was quite hard to pass Hopkins because he was fantastic on the brakes. Then with Stoner it was a great fight and honestly I couldn't have tried harder to win, but he was a very hard rival. There were some places were we could have been better today, not just on the straight but also in some corners, but anyway it was a great experience and it will help us to understand what we need to do to keep on improving. Yamaha and Michelin are working very hard and the fact that we could fight like this today to the very end showed this. Of course I'm sad because I've won a lot of times here in Montmelo and I wanted to win again, but like I said, I don't think I could have done anymore today! We know that we can beat Stoner but today he rode like a god and he's a fantastic rival, so congratulations to him."
"Today was pretty much impossible for me; I had no grip in the rear from the start and I just couldn't get into a rhythm. Basically I couldn't load the front or turn the bike how I wanted. We've done everything this weekend, changed all the settings, springs, load etc, but we haven't been able to crack the problem. Qualifying was okay but today I just couldn't ride it. Tomorrow's our last test until after Brno and the only thing to do is use every single possible minute we have on track to get to the bottom of the problem so we're in better shape for the next few races, which are at some of my favourite tracks."
"Not to win after an incredible race like that, with a rider that can fight like Valentino, is of course a strange feeling! It was a fantastic spectacle for everyone between three great riders but Stoner was very strong today and he won, despite Valentino doing everything he could. It's a very exciting championship but we're not even half way yet and we're only fourteen points down. Now we have to work hard to try to give Valentino the best possible bike at every track so that he can continue to ride like this, and win! With Colin we've had a difficult weekend but now we have two of his best circuits to look forward to. We'll look at the data from the last two races and use it to try to find the right package for him so that he can transmit his good qualifying performances to the race. We'll keep on fighting!"