Fiat Yamaha's Valentino Rossi claimed today a key victory in his attempt to get back his status in the points chase. In the ninth round of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP) held at the historic Dutch circuit of Assen, he showed why he is a five-time champion as he landed the 150th victory for Yamaha in the premier class of bike racing.
"This was an incredible race. I think maybe one of the top five of my career! I'm so happy to win here in Assen, it's a special place for me and this is a great emotion! It was nice to have a special livery here as well, in the past I haven't been so lucky with new liveries but hopefully today has turned that around! Congratulations to Yamaha for 150 wins, I am glad that we could celebrate like this," expressed the very happy race winner.
The Italian was the protagonist of another fantastic battle, this time with standings leader, Casey Stoner, who would end up in second spot on the podium, which was completed by the American rider and current world champion, Nicky Hayden with his top performance of the season so far.
Rossi come from 11th on the Assen grid to take victory over Ducati Marlboro's Stoner by just under two seconds after a hard fight with the Australian that saw "the Doctor" nine laps behind the race leader as the tried to fight his way to the top position.
"Clearly starting from 11th is quite lucky for us because I've won a few times from that position, including last year at Sachsenring," Rossi said. "Last night I didn't sleep so well and I couldn't have imagined that the race could turn out like this, in fact I was really a little bit worried after the qualifying and didn't know what to expect today!"
However, before being able to getting that spot, the Italian needed to pass many of his competitors after his complicated qualifying session in wet conditions yesterday, where Chris Vermeulen took the pole position.
Rossi continued to advance on board his Yamaha since the red light went off to signal the start of today's race by setting a strong pace. "Once I got going though I saw that I had a great pace and so I just rode as hard as I could to get past everyone because I knew then that I could come back to Casey," said the Italian.
But things were not easy and when he reached the back of Stoner's Ducati, it got tougher for the the wily Italian. From that point on, he had to think of a strategy for where and when to overtake the Aussie.
"We got an awesome start, went out to the front and felt quite comfortable doing similar times to what we were doing in practice, though not quite as fast because the wind was worse today," explained Stoner. "I was getting pushed around in a few of the fast turns and had a couple of front-end loses, so I wasn't willing to push the bike in the braking points."
And it was on lap 23 when Rossi saw his way of notching the lead in the last chicane on the circuit with a great move to take first place, three laps away from the chequered flag.
"When I finally got there I was quite tired, as were my tyres, plus he was riding very well and it was hard to overtake him, but my M1 worked brilliantly today and in the last few laps I was able to go past and win," added Rossi on his overtaking Stoner for the win.
With the Yamaha in front, Rossi started to build some difference that Stoner could not respond to and eventually the Stoner, who has been sensation thus far this season, had to settle with the second position. Not a bad result after all because it allows him to keep his leader condition with a gap of 21 points over Rossi.
"I saw Valentino catching up, I saw him battling on the TV screens around the track. He was chasing me down pretty hard, he had a faster pace. I tried to up my own pace but once he came past I was at my maximum. I felt great the entire race and I can't complain about the result because we only lost five points in the championship and we've only been off the podium twice this year. I'm really happy with the result, so my thanks to the team," commented Stoner who added, "I'm proud to be a Ducati man."
Hayden finally demonstrated that he really has found a comfortable race setup for his Honda 800cc RC212V with a superb performance to finish third and earn the first podium of his title defence season, despite starting in 13th on the grid. The last podium for the American was in last year's season closure, the day that he became in world champion in Valencia, Spain.
The "Kentucky Kid" held off his Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa for the final podium position, as the Spaniard finished fourth, just ahead of Rizla Suzuki's John Hopkins and Colin Edwards, in the second Fiat Yamaha.
Next round for the Continental Circus will be on July 15th in Sachsenring circuit of Germany.