STONER HANDS OVER TO ROSSI AFTER SECOND PLACE AT MOTEGI
Casey Stoner fought hard with Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi for victory at Motegi today but after a combative and entertaining battle over the opening half of the race the Australian struggled to maintain his strength in the later stages, effectively conceding victory and the world title to the Italian.
Stoner set an electric early pace, including a new circuit record on the ninth lap, as he tried to escape but he was unable to maintain such a high rhythm and after taking second place, two seconds adrift of Rossi at the flag, he now trails by 92 points in the championship - an impossible deficit with only three rounds remaining.
Nevertheless, a ninth podium of the season marked a timely return to form for Stoner and it lifted Ducati to second in the constructors' championship - ahead of Honda but behind Yamaha.
Marco Melandri made a brilliant start from the penultimate row on the grid and was up to eleventh by the eighth lap, when an attempt to pass Dovizioso went wrong as he ran straight into the gravel. The Italian returned to the track to take 13th.
CASEY STONER (Ducati Marlboro Team) 2nd
"At the beginning of the race everything felt good although I made a couple of mistakes on a cold tyre. We were running quite a hard compound today so we needed a few laps to get it warmed up. Once we did that the lap times were good and I felt happy with my pace. Unfortunately in the second half of the race I started to get tired in the changes of direction and I was having to close the gap coming out of the corners to get into the next one - simply because I didn't have the strength to flick the bike over with the throttle open. The lap times dropped off and when Valentino came past I couldn't keep up. He's had an amazing season - he only made one mistake at Assen and the rest of the time he's been on the podium, winning races. He's a worthy champion - eight world titles show that - and I want to congratulate him for that. I'm just disappointed that we made two mistakes in the mid-point of the season that allowed him to open up such a big advantage. Anyway, after the recent misfortune we've had it was important to come back here with a strong performance and some solid points. Now we can go to Australia with confidence and look to finish the season strongly."
MARCO MELANDRI (Ducati Marlboro Team) 13th
"I got a good start today but I ran off track when I was in the middle of fighting with a group of riders and lost all the positions I'd made up. It's a shame because it is really hard for me to overtake. I lose so much time on the exit of the corners that I'm always a long way back under braking. We recovered some ground but it wasn't enough. We'll see how it goes in Australia, which is one of my all-time favourite tracks and a place Ducati always seem to do well at."
LIVIO SUPPO (Ducati MotoGP Project Director)
"Casey had a great race today but when Valentino's in the form he was in today there's not much you can do about it. Our congratulations go to him and to Yamaha for a title they truly deserve. The 2008 season has been a difficult one for us but I think we've seen Casey and the whole team demonstrate that they always give everything to the cause and we know now that they can come through the hard times too. We're second in the riders' and constructors' championships with three races to go and we will give our all to hang on to those positions as we look ahead to next season."