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GP Week : Issue 30
V 36 ALENTINO Rossi didn’t have to win at Motegi, and before the race he even said “the podium will be enough.” But that’s not his style, and Fiat Yamaha’s Italian hero won his eighth World Championship the way he prefers – by battling hard and then winning the race. It was another masterful performance by the master, who moved rapidly through from fifth on Lap 1 to join the battle for the lead between Casey Stoner (Marlboro Ducati) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda). Stoner had led Lap 1, but Pedrosa took over on the second, and held on for the next four. Then Stoner outbraked him into the third corner – waving an apology afterwards for what he said “was not a friendly pass – I misjudged my braking.” But Pedrosa had no time to acknowledge it, for Rossi also went past on the exit from the same corner, and from then on he dropped gradually out of contention. Rossi was already in a title- winning position, and shadowed Stoner until the 14th lap. Then he dived underneath him, and was never threatened again. “The race was like the championship … with Dani and Casey,” he said later. “I had to decide whether it was okay to be second or to risk trying to win. But I had a great pace, so I was able to go ahead.” Stoner, who set a new record on Lap 9, might have made it harder, but for problems of his own. He had “nearly spilled it” in the early stages, waiting for his hard tyre choice to come good; “then at about two-thirds distance I started to get physically tired. It was a combination of my wrist and fitness. I haven’t done full race distance for a while, and the injury has meant I’ve lost a bit of upper body strength.” The track’s hard braking and changes of direction were taking too much out of him.