In dramatic fashion at Estoril
A fantastic team effort from Yamaha today saw Valentino Rossi take the lead in the MotoGP World Championship by eight points ahead of the final round of the season at Valencia, after taking second place in a race that saw Nicky Hayden (Honda)
dramatically crash out at Estoril.
Rossi missed out on victory by just 0.002 seconds after a photo finish with Toni Elias (Honda), the Spanish youngster slipstreaming the Italian to the line to take his maiden success in the class.
Nevertheless the 20-point haul means that second place for Rossi at the final race in two weeks' time will be enough for the title, regardless of who wins.
Colin Edwards also played a crucial role for the team today, turning in one of his best performances this season to battle with the lead group throughout the race before being forced to settle for fourth in that breathtaking finale.
The Texan got a great start from the front row of the grid and fulfilled his promise to help out Rossi for the opening laps, protecting his team-mate from the attentions of Dani Pedrosa (Honda) and Hayden.
Whilst Rossi tried to escape at the front, a pass by Edwards on Pedrosa for second place on lap three proved critical, as the Spaniard then became involved in a tussle with his own team-mate Hayden before sensationally colliding into the American to send them both tumbling into the gravel.
Rossi and Edwards looked set for a one-two finish, mirroring their qualifying result, but a late charge from Elias, who was followed by Kenny Roberts JR (Team KR) put paid to those hopes as the top four crossed the line separated by just 0.864 seconds. VALENTINO ROSSI (2nd ; +0.002)
“I'm really happy to be finally leading the championship; this is the most important thing for today, even if I am disappointed not to have won! I made a good start and was in front after turn one, but I knew that my pace wasn't as fast as yesterday, because it was about ten degrees colder and this gave us some problems. When I saw that Colin was behind me this made me quite relaxed because I knew he would help me as much as he could. He rode a great race and I have to say a big thank you to him, I am so sad that he's not on the podium with me today. It was a very hard race for me and I had to push all the way because Kenny, Toni and Colin were very fast too. Going into the last chicane I knew I had to come out in front, but then Toni was just a little bit faster than me to the line. Well done to him for his first win, he really rode a hard race today! Now we have two weeks until the final showdown, so we need to relax and stay focused and try to do another weekend like this in Valencia! Once again of course I need to thank my team and everyone involved, I think we've really shown today that we have real ‘team spirit' at Yamaha and Colin and I are really lucky to be able to race in a team like this.” COLIN EDWARDS (4th; + 0.864)
“I got a decent start and just tried to help Valentino out, holding the other guys up where I could because in practice our pace was around the 1'37.9 mark so I thought if I could hold it at 1'38.5 he might be able get away. My plan was to put the hammer down once he'd gone and hopefully shake off the rest of the guys to seal up second place but Valentino couldn't quite match his practice pace and we were just hanging behind him. It was a real scrap out there at the end and to be honest I'm a little disappointed that I couldn't make it onto the podium because we had the pace all weekend, the guys have done a brilliant job with the bike and I wanted to give them something to celebrate. Anyway, as a team things couldn't have worked out much better so it's been a very satisfactory weekend for us and now we'll aim to go out on an even bigger high in Valencia.” DAVIDE BRIVIO – CAMEL YAMAHA TEAM DIRECTOR
“Our main target throughout the second half of the season was to arrive in Valencia with the championship still possible and we have done that so we are very pleased. We are delighted that Colin was able to get back to the kind of pace he is capable of this weekend and it couldn't have come at a better time because he played a brilliant role and showed what a great team player he is. The two riders have a great relationship with each other and that team ethic runs throughout the staff. Today was a perfect example of why that is so important. Now we have to keep doing what we have done since Brno for one more race. Personally I wish it was tomorrow but we've got two weeks to wait so we will have to just use this time as best we can and make sure we are ready to try and win the title at Valencia.”