“I think it’s difficult to say, but maybe this is even better than the first championship with Yamaha in 2004. In 2004 I arrived after three championships in a row; the change was very big and no one expected me to win then, not even us to be honest! But this year is great too because I didn’t start as the number one favourite after losing for two years. The taste of this is something special.
“In 2006 I lost because of bad luck; I still won the most races and was the fastest on track for most of the time, but in 2007 Stoner was a lot faster than us and so we got to the end with a big of disadvantage. Winning this championship was very difficult but also very, very important.
“The decision to change to Bridgestone tyres, which I took together with Jeremy, my team and all the Yamaha crew, was very important, as were the changes to the bike because the first 800cc M1 last year was not competitive enough. We spoke a lot during last season and I remember a strange meeting in Valencia last year, me with a broken hand, speaking with Furusawa about 2008. From then we started to work on the improvements for this season. It’s also been important to have the right people in the right place and this year everything has been correct. It’s been step-by-step.
“I think I have made a lot of good decisions this year and we have been competitive from the start. Qatar was the worst race of the season but I knew our potential was good so, although we were a bit worried at that point, we weren’t desperate because we knew if we fixed a few problems we could try to win.
“I grew up a lot in the last two years, because at the end of 2005 I had a great career and I had won all the important targets so far. 125, 250 and then five titles in a row in MotoGP with two different bikes – I felt unbeatable. But in 2006 and 2007 I learnt to lose and this has been very important. I came out much stronger and my level of concentration and effort to win this championship has been higher than ever before.
“This season has had some different periods. At the beginning of the year we had some important results when Bridgestone wasn’t the strongest: Jerez, Portugal and others, and in that period we took a big advantage from Stoner. After Barcelona Casey started to ride like a demon and dominated three races in a row, and then we went to Laguna which was the turning point of the season. Laguna was a real battle and from then on we have flown.
“The show after the race was one of my friends pretending to be a ‘notary’, signing and certificating the eighth championship ‘deed’. It was very exciting to be planning the championship t-shirt and celebration once again with my friends and fan club and the one we came up with is funny I think, it says ‘I’m sorry for the delay!’
“I am very content at Yamaha and this is why I signed for two more years. I had some good offers at other factories, but I already changed bike once and proved everything I wanted to and so there is no need to do that again. Also I am no longer 20 years old and I need a good atmosphere in my team in order to keep me focused and happy, and I have this at Yamaha. The atmosphere in our team, from the Japanese all the way down to the garage is fantastic and this is what makes me want to stay.
“I think 2009 will be even more difficult than this year. Now I am the world champion again and I have demonstrated that I am still very fast; I think I rode the best of my career this year apart from the mistake in Assen, but next year is another story, it depends on how the winter is and how Stoner, Pedrosa and also Lorenzo are next year, as well as the other riders because there are many fast people in this championship. I think it will be a great championship and I’m looking forward to it, but first I want to finish this year and try to win the final three races!
“As I said, there are many strong riders but of course I hope that in the future nobody will win like Valentino Rossi! Maybe my brother Luca will be as strong as me…I wanted to take him on my bike on the celebration lap, but they did not allow it. Maybe I will wait for him to be a MotoGP rider before quitting, then I will beat him in the first year, and then I will stop riding!
“When you are 20 or 22 yrs old, you live everything in a different way. It’s different… In 2000, maybe, I could have won on my debut, but I underestimated myself! In 2001 it was the last chance for me to win in 500, so I gave it my best and did that. In 2001 it was the year of the battle with Biaggi, in 2002 it was the year when everybody said that I won because of my bike, then 2003 was the year of Gibernau, it was hard until the end. They were fantastic years but with Yamaha it is different. I enjoy it more.
“During 2003 I started thinking about Yamaha. Of course I was scared about the new challenge, it was a big question mark. This year, when I tested the new bike and the new tyres, I understood that I could win. In 2004, however, when I tested the new bike I understood we had to work a lot. Sincerely, the feeling of winning in Welkom in 2004 was the strongest emotion of my career; more so than in Laguna Seca this year. The 2005 the M1 was very fast and that one and the 2008 one are the best Yamaha bikes ever.
“I think Stoner next year will be back stronger again, so maybe he is the hardest rival I have ever had, more than Gibernau and all the others I fought against in the past. Last year I was sorry that after so many successful years, some people thought Valentino was finished and Casey was the new Valentino. As I said, until I stop riding a bike, my objective will always be to win. I like this life and I always try to do my best in it.”
Statistiscs on Valentino Rossi’s career
In becoming only the second rider ever to win the MotoGP World Championship following a two-year gap, Valentino Rossi has cemented his place amongst the legends of motorcycle racing. A return to the form that won him five consecutive premier-class titles between 2001 and 2005 has seen the Italian reinstated at the very pinnacle of the sport, with a host of career milestones reached along the way.
Here is a full list of Rossi’s historic MotoGP achievements in 2008:
Rossi has joined Giacomo Agostini as one of only two riders to have taken six or more premier-class World Championships.
Rossi is only the second rider to regain the premier-class title after a two year gap – the other rider to do this was also Agostini.
This is Rossi’s eighth world title across all classes. Only Agostini with 15, Angel Nieto, with 13, Mike Hailwood and Carlos Ubbiali, with nine each, have won more.
Rossi is the first rider to win the premier-class title on four different types of motorcycle: 500cc 4-cylinder two-stroke, 990cc 5-cylinder four-stroke, Yamaha 990cc 4-cylinder four-stroke and a Yamaha 800cc 4-cylinder four-stroke.
It is eleven years since Rossi’s first World Championship success in the 125cc class in 1997. The only rider with a longer period between his first and last titles is Angel Nieto, who won the 50cc crown in 1969 and the 125cc equivalent in 1984.
With his 69th career MotoGP win at Indianapolis, Rossi broke Giacomo Agostini’s record for the most premier-class victories; a record that has stood since the legendary Italian’s final victory at the West German Grand Prix in 1976.
With 37 wins, Rossi has had more success with Yamaha than any other factory in his career
Rossi is also Yamaha’s most successful rider, having scored 13 more premier-class wins for the factory than Kenny Roberts.
With three races to go he is the only rider to have scored points in every round of the 2008 season.
Rossi’s sequence of five straight race wins since Laguna Seca is his longest run of wins since 2005, when he also scored five successive victories.
Other facts about Rossi’s career.
In 1997 Rossi became the second youngest ever 125cc World Champion after scoring 321 points and eleven wins.
Two years later, he became the youngest ever 250cc World Champion with nine wins.
In 2001 Rossi joined Phil Read as one of only two riders ever to win the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc titles.
Rossi’s debut victory for Yamaha at the opening race of 2004 in South Africa made him the first rider in history to take back-to-back wins for different manufacturers.
After winning the MotoGP World Championship three times with Honda, Rossi took his fourth premier-class title with Yamaha in 2004 and became the only rider other than Eddie Lawson to win consecutive premier-class titles for different manufacturers.
Valentino Rossi – Career
Born: 16th February 1979 in Urbino, Italy
World Championships: 8 (6 x MotoGP/500cc, 1 x 250cc, 1 x 125cc)
GP victories: 96 (70 x MotoGP/500cc, 14 x 250cc, 12 x 125cc)
GP podiums: 148 (112 x MotoGP/500cc, 21 x 250cc, 15 x 125cc)
GP Pole Positions: 51 (41 x MotoGP/500cc, 5 x 250cc, 5 x 125cc)
First GP: Malaysia, 1996 (125cc)
First GP win: Czech Republic, 1996 (125cc)
GP starts: 207 (146 x MotoGP/50cc, 30 x 250cc, 30 x 125cc)