23 December 2008
Crash.net's MotoGP season review - Pt 2.
Despite the epic nature of his Laguna Seca victory, Valentino Rossi had only gained five points over Stoner. But when MotoGP returned to action after the summer break, at Brno, Rossi was able to instantly double his advantage to 50 points when Stoner fell from the lead, gifting victory to the Italian.
Whether or not the mistake was a direct result of what happened at Laguna playing on Stoner's mind, or simply the kind of thing that can happen when riding at the limit, was open to debate, but few doubted that the thought of battling Rossi at close quarters was starting to have an effect.
When Stoner disastrously repeated the mistake next time out at Misano, it effectively marked the end of his 2008 title hopes, although Casey was keen to point out that the points lost at the start of the season were just as important.
This time, Stoner's early exit handed Rossi his 68th premier-class victory, matching countryman Giacomo Agostini's all time record.
"Today is a truly fantastic day and I can't believe that I have matched Agostini's record! He was one of my heroes so it's quite incredible to have made it to 68 wins," said Rossi, now 75 points clear of Stoner with five rounds and 125 points remaining. "Once I was past Dani I could see Casey, although I wasn't as confident as I was in Brno that I could win. Anyway I kept pushing and I think it still could have been a battle. Then I saw Casey slide out. I'm sorry for him once again but this is very good for our championship."
Joining Rossi on the Misano podium was Toni Elias, who took his second podium in succession for the satellite Alice Ducati team, and Rossi's Fiat Yamaha team-mate Lorenzo - who claimed his first rostrum since round five at Le Mans.
After the French Grand Prix, Lorenzo's confidence had been shattered by further accidents and injuries to add to his Shanghai ankle fractures, culminating in his withdraw from Catalunya and then another huge highside on lap one of the US GP at Laguna Seca.
The summer break had finally provided Lorenzo's battered body with a chance to heal and, once Michelin's mid-season tyre woes had passed, the exciting young Spaniard began to feature at the front once again.
Rossi beat Agostini's win record next time out, during MotoGP's debut at the world famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in a storm-shortened race that saw Nicky Hayden return to the head of a MotoGP race and Lorenzo take his first wet podium - ever!
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