Valentino Rossi rode a perfect race to win Yamaha's home Grand Prix in Japan today, claiming the 2008 MotoGP World Championship title in the process. In doing so the 29-year-old Italian became only the second rider in history to recapture the title after two years, the other being Giacomo Agostini, whose all-time victory record Rossi surpassed at the last race in Indianapolis.
This is Rossi's third title with Yamaha, his sixth in the premier class and eighth in total in a career spanning 12 years.
His team-mate Jorge Lorenzo finished a fighting fourth and today's results also secured the triple crown of Rider, Manufacturer and Team titles for Yamaha and the Fiat Yamaha Team. Rossi slipped some places at the start and was in fifth first time around.
He soon found his rhythm however as his Bridgestone tyres warmed up and he passed Lorenzo and Nicky Hayden on the next lap before settling in behind Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, the three contesting the next four laps within a few tenths of a second of one another. On lap six both Rossi and Stoner got by Pedrosa and from then on the Italian was on his championship rival's tail, determined to find a way to pass him and win the race despite the title being his with a podium finish.
With ten laps to go Rossi did just that and it was then a straight run to the finish as he pulled away from Stoner, crossing the line 1.943 seconds and 92 championship points ahead to seal a very special title after two barren years.
Rossi has won eight races this season and, with three remaining, he is still in with a chance of matching the 11 he won in his second season with Yamaha in 2005. Today's win was his 70th in the premier class, his 96th in total and his 148th career podium.
Valentino Rossi - Position:1st, Time:43'09.599 "It's a great victory and a great achievement; I think it's at the same level as the first title in 2004 with Yamaha, maybe even better! This championship has been very long and hard and all of the team and all of Yamaha have worked very well, never giving up for one moment. We have been able to put a great bike onto the track in all conditions and at all circuits, and this has allowed me to ride like this and to win so many races. I am very happy! The race was a great battle and I had to ride at 100%, like I have through all through the season! Pedrosa and Stoner today were very strong and it was fun to fight with them like this, I am happy that it was a good race for the fans.
It was a fantastic feeling to take the title with a win, like I did in 2001 and 2004. I think this is the hardest I have ever had to work to win a world championship and I have to say a huge thank you to Yamaha, my mechanics, the team and everyone involved for working this hard alongside me. Of course I also have to say a special thank you to Bridgestone, they have done a great job with the tyres all season and the decision to be with them has been a big part of our success this season.
We have lost for two years and I don't think I was the favorite this season, but we have shown that we are a great team and that we never give up. I am so happy that I have now won three titles with Yamaha because this is how many I won with my last team and I want Yamaha to have the same merit - I am a Yamaha rider and I feel different with Yamaha than with anyone else before - I hope we will have more together! Now I have to get used to being World Champion again!"