Italy’s Valentino Rossi stretched his lead atop the MotoGP standings on Sunday with a win in the United States Grand Prix.
The Yamaha rider, a seven-time world champion, emerged victorious after a fierce duel with reigning world champ Casey Stoner, who finished second aboard a Ducati, with Stoner’s fellow Australian, Chris Vermeulen, third on a Suzuki.
Stoner, winner on the challenging, hilly Laguna Seca layout last year, had dominated all of the free practice and qualifying this week, and had won the last three races from pole position to thrust himself into the title picture.
With the victory, however, Rossi took his total atop the standings to 212 points, 25 points in front of Stoner (187).
”For me it has been fantastic,” said Rossi, whose previous forays at Laguna Seca have been disappointing.
”It’s the first time that I’ve been able to win here, and it was an unbelievable race. The crew made some modifications, and I was able to take a much better pace.
”I had a good start, then a great battle with Casey, which was a lot of fun. It’s an important victory — very emotional — and now in the summer break we will relax, because the championship is so long.”
The two riders had separated themselves from the field when the deciding moment of the race occurred at the end of the 23rd of 32 laps.
As Rossi and Stoner prepared to enter the home straight, having battled at each corner, Stoner went wide into the gravel and his attempt to push himself back with his foot saw him fall.
”It was race over after that,” said Stoner, who resumed in second place, and couldn’t catch his Italian rival, finishing 13 seconds adrift.
While Stoner enjoyed the duel with Rossi, he indicated he thought some of his rival’s tactics were dubious.
”I enjoyed a lot of the race, but I felt that some of the passes were a bit too much for me. I’ve been racing for a lot of years and have come through a lot of different ranks, and for me just a couple of passes were a little too much. I would have liked to have had a little bit of a cleaner battle,” he said.
”Anyway, we are happy with the result. We’re still at the front of the championship and not too far off,” he said.
The runner-up finish allow the 22-year-old to take over second place in the standings.
Spain’s Dani Pedrosa, who was lying second overall coming into the race, withdrew before Saturday’s qualifying after his practice runs showed his broken left wrist and injured ankle — suffered in a fall in the German Grand Prix — wouldn’t allow him to compete.
Rossi’s victory brought an end to Stoner’s storming run of victories at Britain, The Netherlands and Germany. — Sapa-AFP