Valentino Rossi has been reflecting on his ninth world championship triumph and seventh in MotoGP after a dramatic rain-hit race in Malaysia.
Third place was enough to clinch the title for the 30-year-old Italian with one race remaining, Rossi going into the final round in Valencia next month with an unassailable 41-point lead over Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.
The champagne had barely dried before Rossi was able to assess the scale of his latest achievement, his ninth world title equalling the number won by British legend Mike Hailwood and Carlo Ubbiali.
"Nine world championships is a great achievement, I'm so happy! I would need one hour to thank everyone! Starting with everyone at Yamaha - Furusawa-san, Lin Jarvis, Davide Brivio and all my guys, especially Jeremy Burgess. I couldn't have done it without Jeremy and he is like my motorcycle father!
"I also have to thank my family and friends - Stefania, Graziano, Uccio, Albi...so many! All the team, Yamaha and Bridgestone; together we've done a great, great job and it's always a huge enjoyment to ride and work with these people.
"In order to stay at this level through a whole season you have to be calm and have the right people around you and this is what I have. We've stayed concentrated and focused even in the bad moments, so we can congratulate ourselves with this ninth title," said Rossi, who has now won four world titles with Yamaha.
Starting from pole position for the seventh time in 2009, Rossi’s hopes of claiming the world title with a victory were dashed by a torrential downpour just 30 minutes before the start of the 21-lap race.
With a 35-minute delay, Rossi actually led going into the first corner before he slipped down to eighth by the exit of turn two!
Rossi was only tenth at the end of the first lap, but typically he produced an overtaking masterclass and fought his way through superbly before hitting third on lap 15 when Andrea Dovizioso succumbed to intense pressure.
The weather had ruined Rossi’s hopes of an epic duel with eventual winner Casey Stoner, Lorenzo and Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa and he said: “Today without the rain it could have been a brilliant race, with the four top riders fighting together, but the rain changed it, all our work was thrown away and we had to start with a bike we didn't know so well.
"I made a good start but I made a mistake in braking, it felt like I was braking for one year and I went wide! Of course I wanted to win but after the first corner it was difficult with Casey so strong so I went for the podium.
"I really enjoyed the race and I think it was great to watch. After Dovizioso unfortunately crashed I tried to go with Dani but then he started to push and I already had the podium, so I decided to take it a bit easier. I was happy to risk a little for the podium, but it wasn't sensible to keep taking risks for second when the championship was safe.”
Looking back on his 14th season in world championship racing. Rossi said it had been a tough title defence, not least because of the increasing threat posed by team-mate Lorenzo.
Both have pushed each other into key mistakes and Rossi said: “It's been a great season, for sure one of the hardest at times. It's been harder than last year, when we won after two difficult years, but we've had some troubles this year at times and I have had a very hard rival in my team-mate Lorenzo.
"He has pushed me to new levels and I think it's been a great duel to the end. There have been some bad moments, like Portugal when we weren't at 100 per cent, but we have worked well. Lorenzo has done a great job to put this pressure on us so I have to say well done to him.
"This season we've had a mono-tyre rule but we have still improved the lap record in many laps and this shows that we've all been on the limit all season. This is why we've all made mist akes; this is to be expected when you have four riders fighting together.”
Not surprisingly, Rossi hailed his brilliant last lap overtake on Lorenzo in a memorable Catalunya race as the highlight of his ’09 campaign, which started with two seconds places in Qatar and Japan.
“The best moment of the season for me, the best emotion, was the last pass in the last corner at Barcelona. This was the most exciting moment of the championship for me, one of the best for many years I think!
"The worst moment was probably the stupid error and crash in Indianapolis, but this led to the perfect win in Misano in front of all the fans so in the end it was okay! Every championship is special for different reasons, it's unforgettable every time and this day is no different. I'm world champion once again and now I want to go and party!"