After stunning ride in Portugal
Valentino Rossi made a triumphant return to the top step of the podium in Estoril today, sealing his fourth victory of the season with a masterful ride to victory in front of Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner.
Rossi's eighth consecutive
podium finish at this circuit was his first in six races, since his last victory at Assen back in June. Colin Edwards was unable to match his team-mate's pace today and slipped back through the field, eventually finishing in tenth.
With 41,566 spectators looking on, Rossi made a poor start from the outside of the front row and slipped to fifth around the first corner, before making up one place and crossing the line first time around behind Nicky Hayden in fourth. He quickly began to put the pressure on Hayden and passed him on lap three, whilst Pedrosa in the meantime picked off Stoner to take the lead. Lap-by-lap Rossi closed the gap and he showed the improved level of his new Yamaha engine when he passed his championship rival on the straight going into lap nine.
From then on the race turned into a nail-biting head to head between Rossi and Pedrosa, the pair evenly matched on pace but faster in different areas of the track. With four laps to go Pedrosa ran wide and Rossi came through, only to make a similar mistake moments later, letting the Spaniard back past him. With Pedrosa beginning to slide and Stoner looking menacing in third, Rossi made his move with an inch-perfect pass on the penultimate lap but was forced to keep pushing at the limit to hold on until the end, crossing the line just 0.175 seconds ahead of Pedrosa.
Edwards meanwhile suffered with grip issues throughout, finding himself as far down as 17th at one point. The Texan did not give up however and battled back past several riders to finish tenth, taking six points and holding onto seventh in the championship.
Rossi's maximum-points haul today means he closes the gap to Stoner to 76 points with five races remaining, the next of which comes at Motegi in Japan in one week's time.
"First of all I want to dedicate this victory to Colin McRae, who sadly died yesterday. Colin is one of my idols from when I was very young and it's because of him that I have my passion for rally.
It's a very sad day for motorsport and I am glad that I could win for him today. This is a very important victory for us in every way, it's the fourth one of the year so the numbers are starting to look a little bit better, and it's a great, great emotion to win again after so long without even a podium. Today my Yamaha and my tyres worked very well. Our new engine is better and today I was able to keep in the slipstream of the Honda and the Ducati on the straight, and even to go alongside them at some points, so this is very important. Michelin have done some good work on the tyres and today we were maybe stronger than our rivals. Once again we've shown that when the tyres are working well we can fight at the top. I had a great battle with Casey but most of all with Dani and it was fantastic fun to ride like this again, at the maximum and with a lot of good passes. When I passed Dani for the first time I tried to go but he was too good so I knew it was going to come down to the last few laps. At the end Dani started to slide a little and I knew I was stronger on the brakes than him in some places, so I was able to make a good pass. When I came out of the last corner on the second to last lap I could only think about how I lost the championship there last year so I knew I had to be far enough ahead next time around! I want to thank Yamaha, Michelin, my team and everyone around me, this is a great day and it's given us a lot of confidence to keep fighting to the end of the season."
"Three of my tyre choices for this weekend were our new compound and unfortunately two of them didn't work too well at this track so we only really had one choice for the race. It worked okay on the right but on the left I had no grip at all and that was a real problem. Every lap I was losing half a second through the two left-handers - I was getting slow on the first one and then everyone was passing me through the second one and there was nothing I could do. It's really disappointing because I've always gone good here, but today I never had the grip I needed. We turned the bike upside-down and everyone did their best, but it wasn't to be today."
"Today it felt like the old days! Of course this is a very important victory for us because it comes after some difficult races where we couldn't fight until the end like today, and this just shows that when we can, we see a fantastic show. Our wish is to see this type of race every time now for the rest of the season. This result comes after a lot of hard work from Yamaha to develop the new engine and a great job from Michelin. We knew we had to improve the package together with Yamaha and Michelin and today we've made a big step. We know that every circuit might be different but we have to continue in this way. Valentino's level is always the same so we just have to give him the right package to do his job. Colin was slower than we had hoped today and he had some problems to contend with. It's a pity for him because last year he did a great race here and he deserved to do better today. We will have a good look at the data and hopefully we can find a better package for him next week."