"Casey is very fast and I don't know exactly how to beat him - maybe I need to start 30 seconds earlier!" confessed Rossi on Saturday in California. "Whatever happens a good start is going to be very important and then I will just try to stay with him and keep pushing."
What followed was arguably the best MotoGP race since 2006. When the red lights went out Rossi launched a relentless barrage against the Australian - retaliating whenever Stoner took the lead to prevent the #1 using his superior speed to disappear into the distance.
Stoner's frustration eventually got the better of him and he ran off-track with eight laps to go, allowing Rossi to cruise to his fourth victory of the year and deliver a major psychological blow to Stoner. Stoner initially refused to shake Rossi's hand after the race, but had calmed down a little by the podium ceremony.
Rossi, by contrast, was consumed by a mixture of relief and elation: "What a race! I knew I had to try and stay in front of Casey and it was impossible to relax. I don't know how many times we changed the lead but it was a lot and it was great, great racing. I am sorry Casey thinks some of the passes were a bit strong but I really don't agree; I passed only on the brakes, I braked in the same places every time and we never touched. Of course this was an aggressive race, but it was definitely a fair one."