Valentino Rossi and Alvaro Bautista dedicated their brilliant podium finishes in yesterday’s Misano MotoGP to late Italian star Marco Simoncelli.
Italian Rossi claimed his best ever dry result for Ducati with second position before he dedicated only his third rostrum on board a factory Desmosedici machine to close friend Simoncelli, who lost his life in a horrific crash during last October’s Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.
Using a new chassis and swingarm, the 33-year-old took profit of a fantastic start from sixth to run in second place for the entire 27-lap race.
Rossi’s first dry race podium for Ducati in 16 months thrilled a passionate home crowd of just over 45,000 fans at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, which was renamed in 2012 in honour of the late Gresini Honda rider.
Amidst all the jubilation and celebration, Rossi said his podium was made extra special coming at the track named in memory of his great friend Simoncelli.
The nine-times world champion said: “It is something special because we are in Misano with a lot of my fans and also because this circuit is named after Marco and this second place is for him.
"I’m also happy for Ducati because we are in Italy and their home and it is important because all the guys in Bologna work very strong and never give up and all the people around me trust in me and believe we can get a good result despite some difficult races.”
Rossi said the new chassis and swingarm Ducati made available after a recent two-day test at Misano had helped prolong tyre life and enabled him to keep a faster pace for longer.
He added: “The bike was very balanced and I can exit from the corner with good traction without losing a lot and when the tyre started to slide a bit I can take some advantage on (Stefan) Bradl.
"We always suffer this season after some laps with the rear tyre and I had some good feeling with the new chassis and swingarm in the test. But you have to wait for the race to understand if it is true or not but it looks good and I was strong at the end and the bike was easier to ride.
"It is positive but every race has a different story, so it is important to make the last five races close to this level and go with a good memory of Ducati.”
Asked whether he could sign off a frustrating two-year spell at Ducati with a victory in the last five races, Rossi said: “If I could do this it would be great for me and Ducati. But (Jorge) Lorenzo, (Dani) Pedrosa and (Casey) Stoner are very fast and today was good but we were 4.3s behind, so we have to work.”
It was an emotional podium for Bautista too, particularly as his last gasp third secured him his first ever MotoGP rostrum.
The Misano race is the home of Simoncelli’s Gresini Honda squad and there were emotional scenes as Bautista grabbed third in a photo finish with Andrea Dovizioso.
The Italian did briefly take third with a bold move on the brakes at the final corner but he ran wide and Bautista was given third by just 0.003s.
Bautista said: “The first podium in MotoGP is always very special but the first one this weekend is even more special because it is a very emotional weekend for the team.
"Before I wanted to make a good result to dedicate to the team and to Marco and I can get my first podium and I am so happy because the race was fantastic.
"I fight with Bradl and Dovizioso and I wasn’t sure when we crossed the line if I was third. When I saw on the big screen I was third I started to smile a lot inside my helmet.”
Bautista has struggled for much of 2012 with the Gresini squad opting to switch from Ohlins to Showa suspension and he added: “I enjoyed riding again because in the last races I had a lot of problems with the suspension and all this year we have struggled a lot because with Showa we have no reference and sometimes we are lost.
"We try to make our best and this weekend we made a good setting and most importantly I can enjoy riding the bike again. I’ve always been confident in myself and I want to say thanks to all the people who trusted in me to make this podium.”
For more exclusive coverage from the Misano MotoGP race, see the September 19 issue of MCN.