To win Spanish thriller
Valentino Rossi took a stunning win in Jerez today, his first of the season and the 98th of his career taking him 11 points clear at the top of the championship.
His Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo had a disappointing home race, crashing
out on lap 24 when closing on the final podium position.
The reigning World Champion had looked in trouble yesterday but an overnight set-up change saw him fastest in warm-up and he lined up confident that he would be able to mount a challenge. Starting from fourth on the grid, Rossi held his position at the start and managed to pass Lorenzo on the final turn of the second lap.
Casey Stoner was the next target and the Italian quickly began to close the gap, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap four. Rossi and Stoner exchanged a couple of entertaining passes in the next few laps before the Yamaha rider made it stick at the end of the seventh lap, with the gap to Dani Pedrosa in the lead then standing at 1.2 seconds.
The middle section of the race saw Rossi making little headway into the Spaniard's lead but at two-thirds distance he suddenly found a new rhythm and started shaving tenths off the gap, making the definitive move and claiming the lead with 10 laps to go. From then on there was only one winner and the irrepressible 30-year-old brought his M1 home 2.7 seconds clear of second-placed Pedrosa.
Ever the joker, Rossi took advantage of the moment to replicate one of his most famous post-race stunts ten years on, making a stop on his victory lap to pop into a track side portable toilet, to the delight of the 120,000-strong crowd.
“This is a wonderful victory because yesterday we were really quite worried! I couldn't ride how I wanted to and it was very hard. We had to work all together to understand how to fix the problem and finally we made a big change to try to make the bike feel how I like in the corner, which worked, so I have to say a huge thank you to Jeremy and all my guys. This morning we could tell immediately that things were much better and then we made a couple more small changes after warm-up, which made my M1 and my Bridgestone tyres feel even better”, he said. “The race was long and quite hard – I lost some time getting past Lorenzo at the start and then I had a good battle with Stoner, which I enjoyed. After that I wasn't so fast and I couldn't close the gap to Pedrosa for a while; he was very quick but finally things improved and I was able to catch and pass him. It's great to win again and especially here in Jerez, which I love.
It's ten years since I made the joke with the toilet here and so I thought it would be funny to do it again if I won – I liked that a lot! Now I hope that the changes we've made here will help us for the rest of the season. Thanks again to everyone!”
After his dazzling pole position Lorenzo was fully expecting to challenge for the win but the higher track temperature today caused problems and he lacked the grip and pace of yesterday. The Mallorcan, who turns 22 tomorrow, spent most of th e race in a lonely fourth position but in the final stages began to close on Stoner and looked like he might have a podium chance. With the gap down to under half a second the excitement began to build in the 99 side of the garage but with just four laps to go he lost the front and went down, emerging unhurt from the gravel trap but with damage to his foot peg and throttle meaning there was no chance to finish the race.
“I am very sad, because I was so fast all weekend and on pole position. Unfortunately today the temperature meant that our setting did not work in the same way and at the moment we don't understand why. This is really more disappointing than the actual crash”, he explained. “Fourth position wouldn't have been so bad but when you're in front of your fans, at home with so much adrenalin on the bike of course you try to do the maximum. I could see that the podium was possible and maybe the right thing would have been to go more gently and not push so hard in that moment, but I always want to do my best. Then I made a mistake and I threw all my good work away. We have to try to forget this and wake up feeling positive tomorrow because Le Mans is near. I'm sorry to all the fans who came to see me, to my team, family and to everybody!”
Rossi now leads Stoner by 11 points in the standings, whilst Lorenzo slips to third, 13 points adrift of the Australian. The MotoGP paddock will reconvene on French soil in ten days time for round four in Le Mans.