Reflecting on one of his greatest races, Valentino Rossi says beating Casey Stoner at the 2008 United States MotoGP at Laguna Seca was crucial for his title charge that season.
Following back-to-back MotoGP title defeats to Nicky Hayden in 2006 and Stoner in 2007, an invigorated Rossi faced off against the defending world champion with the Australian rider recovering from a slow start to the season with a hat-trick of wins, pole positions and fastest laps between the Donington Park, Assen and Sachsenring races before heading to Laguna Seca.
The Ducati rider produced imperious pace during practice at the United States round on his way to pole position with Rossi in a clear second place. Knowing he had to disrupt this rival’s rhythm, Rossi opted to attack from the start and with Stoner responding the pair produced once of the most famous MotoGP battles of the era.
“That race was a special victory because it was very important because in that moment Stoner was really, really strong and Stoner beat me in 2007 and won the championship with Ducati,” Rossi told BT Sport.
“For me, after a long time that I won championships I lost in 2006 and 2007. So, 2008 was a crucial season because I switched from Michelin to Bridgestone and the battle with Stoner started from the first race. When we arrived at Laguna Seca that weekend was crucial for the rest of the championship because Stoner was incredibly fast in that track with the Ducati.
“I was second but a bit far in practice, but I remembered the night before I spoke with Uccio and said tomorrow it is the day and it is very, very important to try to arrive in front of Stoner. For this reason that is why I tried to give the maximum from the first corner because I think the key was to try and stay in front and try to put my rhythm on the race because Laguna Seca is a very difficult for overtaking because it is very narrow which makes it very difficult.
“I tried like this and the battle was furious from the beginning to the end but I was able to arrive in front.”
The race is remembered for a stunning overtake Rossi pulled off against Stoner on Lap 4 coming down the Corkscrew, running over the kerb and off track on the descent without coming off, which proved vital come the end of the race.
With Rossi taking victory at Laguna Seca he extended his lead in the MotoGP standings to 25 points which set up a run of six wins over eight races to allow him to storm to the 2008 world title.
Rossi sees Stoner as one of his greatest MotoGP rivals throughout his career and also one of his toughest focusing on the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
“I enjoyed it very much because the battle with Casey was great because Stoner was one of the best talents in the last era of MotoGP, in the last period, his talent was great and he was young, very fast and for sure one of my strongest rivals through all of my career,” Rossi said.
“That one was an iconic race and iconic overtake on the Corkscrew so I think for the MotoGP fans that race was one of the most famous and one race that the fans want to see lots of time!”
Rossi remains in lockdown like the rest of Italy and the majority of Europe amid the coronavirus pandemic and hasn’t been able to train on two wheels for almost a month but has been keeping fit at home.
“At this moment we are stuck in the house and it is impossible to touch a motorcycle,” he explained. “At the beginning we were able to use the ranch to train together with our riders one or two times a week.
“But after the middle of March it was forbidden so as the ranch is private it is closed and unfortunately we cannot touch the bikes. But we hope in some weeks this situation improves and at least we can train with our motorcycles at the ranch.”