First title 'Match Point' for Rossi in Motegi Valentino Rossi gets his first opportunity to wrap up the 2008 MotoGP World Championship this weekend in Yamaha's home race at Motegi. The record-breaking 29-year-old arrives at the Grand Prix of...
First title 'Match Point' for Rossi in Motegi
Valentino Rossi gets his first opportunity to wrap up the 2008 MotoGP World Championship this weekend in Yamaha's home race at Motegi. The record-breaking 29-year-old arrives at the Grand Prix of Japan with an 87-point lead over Casey Stoner at the top of the standings with only four races left, meaning third place on Sunday will be enough to seal the title even if Stoner takes victory.
It is the first of four possible 'match-points' for Rossi, who is aiming for his sixth premier-class title and his first since 2005. Should he clinch it he would become only the second rider to regain the crown following a two-year gap - the other being Giacomo Agostini, whose all-time premier-class win record of 68 was broken by Rossi at Indianapolis last weekend. Agostini, with eight titles, is the only rider to have won the MotoGP World Championship on more occasions than Rossi.
Motegi has not traditionally been a happy hunting ground for Rossi or his Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo in the past. Despite scoring six podiums here Rossi has taken victory only once, which was back in 2001 before the advent of four-stroke MotoGP machinery. Lorenzo, meanwhile, scored just one podium at this circuit during his illustrious 250cc career, taking third in 2006. However, both riders head to Japan in great form, with the experienced Italian having racked up four straight wins and the rookie Spaniard aiming for a third consecutive podium.
For the second time in as many races MotoGP heads to a home of IndyCar racing, although unlike Indianapolis the 'Twin Ring' Motegi was initially designed to host both oval and traditional circuit road races. Designed in 1997 as a test venue, Motegi has modern facilities and features a somewhat geometric track layout. The surface traditionally offers good levels of grip without being overly abrasive but the proliferation of second gear turns, linked for the most part by mini-drag strips, means braking and acceleration are the main prerequisite to a fast lap time. Rossi set the current circuit record in 2006 with a lap of 1'47.228 on the 990cc Yamaha YZR-M1.
Valentino Rossi - "No pressure"
"So, we have had a fantastic run of race and now here we are finally, with a 'match point' for the championship, and in Motegi once again! In 2005 I was in the same situation but I crashed and had to wait for Malaysia to win the title, and then last year we lost the championship in Japan. I really would like to win in Motegi, especially as it's such an important race for Yamaha and it would be a great reward for them for all of the work they have done. However, we cannot put too much pressure on ourselves and I will try to treat it like another normal race. We have a good margin of points, but there are still four more races so it is still not over! Everyone is very relaxed and focused, my Bridgestone tyres and my M1 are working very well and hopefully we can have another great weekend in Motegi."
Jorge Lorenzo - "High hopes for success in Japan"
"Japan is an incredible country, with very different customs to those that we're used to in Europe; I always look forward to going back there. Yamaha have planned a series of activities for me before the race, including a visit to the factory at Iwata, which I am really looking forward to. It's been a year since I signed my contract with Yamaha, but I still haven't visited their factory. I am sure it will amaze me! Regarding the race, Motegi is the first circuit on our Pacific tour and I have high hopes for new success there. After the two podiums of Misano and Indianapolis, the team and I want to give Yamaha another similar performance because this race is very important for the brand. I trust in the work Michelin are doing with the tyres, although Motegi is one of the few circuits at which I have never won. I did get the first-ever fastest lap of my career there however, in 2003. I am looking forward to the race!"
Davide Brivio - "Try to win and then see what happens"
"Of course we go to Japan on the back of a very positive trend - four wins in a row means we will have the support of some very excited colleagues at Motegi! When you are on a run like this it tends to get more difficult to keep winning because you know you can't continue forever but we have to go to Motegi in the same spirit as we have approached every race this year - let's just go to the track and see if it's possible to win. Of course, we know it is important because it is the first 'match point' and we could secure the championship. Personally, though, I would rather think that could happen as a consequence of a good job on our part rather than somebody else's misfortune. So that's our first target: prepare properly for the race, try to win it and then see what happens after that."
Daniele Romagnoli - "The whole team is on a high!"
"Yamaha have struggled in the past at Motegi but I think this year will be different because this year's bike is so much better than what we've had in the past and we're confident it can work well. The whole team is on a high after Sunday's race, we had a great team dinner with both riders on Sunday night in Indianapolis and not only are we all backing Valentino to win the riders' championship but we're working hard together to win the constructors' and teams' title too. We hope Jorge can make a big contribution to that, as he has done all season, and we go to Japan in a very positive frame of mind. From our side of the garage we can't help but look at the possibility of finishing third in the championship but our real target is to have more good races, some more podiums and maybe even celebrate one more victory before the end of the season."