Valentino Rossi dedicated his stunning Estoril GP victory this afternoon to rally legend Colin McRae.
The Scot was killed in a helicopter crash near his home in Scotland yesterday, and Rossi dedicated his fifth victory in Portugal to the 1995 world rally champion.
“I want dedicate this to Colin McRae. He was one of my big idols when I was very young and it’s because of him I have a big passion for rally, “said Rossi.
He added: “He was like the Kevin Schwantz of world rally. It is a very sad day for motorsport and I am glad that I could win for him today.”
Rossi could certainly not have produced a more fitting tribute to his four-wheel hero after he ended his podium drought in brilliant fashion in Estoril.
He fended off the determined challenge of Spaniard Dani Pedrosa to secure his first podium since he won the Dutch GP in Assen at the end of June.
Starting the front row of the grid, Rossi slipped down to fifth at the first corner but quickly disposed of fellow Italian Marco Melandri to seize fourth place on the opening lap.
Two laps later he swept by reigning world champion Nicky Hayden into third before setting about his pursuit of early leader Casey Stoner and Pedrosa.
With Stoner struggling with a clutch problem, Rossi took second from the Australian on lap nine and just a lap later he surged to the front with an aggressive move on Repsol Honda rider Pedrosa under braking at turn one.
But he couldn’t shake off the triple world champion and Pedrosa retaliated on lap 17 when he made an identical move at the first corner.
Like Rossi though, Pedrosa was unable to use the clear track in front of him to breakaway and Fiat Yamaha rider Rossi reclaimed the initiative on lap 24.
Pedrosa ran wide under intense pressure at the first corner, only for Rossi to surrender the lead a few corners later to hand the lead back.
Rossi reclaimed the lead on the penultimate lap, briefly lost it to Pedrosa again before triumphing in an epic finale.
Rossi’s fourth victory of 2007 ended his shocking run of results, and at least prolonged the world championship to next weekend’s Japanese GP in the Twin Ring Motegi.
With Stoner finishing third, Rossi closed the gap to 76-points with just four races remaining.
“This was a very important victory and it is a great emotion to win when it has been so long without a podium.
“The bike and the tyres worked very well and the new engine was better so that I could even stay in the slipstream of Honda and Ducati.
“Michelin has done some good work with the tyres too and today maybe we had a little advantage over Bridgestone.
“I had a great battle with Casey but the best was with Dani.
“It was fantastic fun to be able to ride at the maximum again with a lot of good passes.
“I tried to escape when I first passed Dani but I realised I didn’t have the pace. But then I could see Dani was sliding a lot and in some places I had an advantage and in others my bike was better.
“When I passed him again at the end I was able to keep ahead and this is a very important victory. I want to keep the world championship going for as long as possible, and this victory has also given us some confidence.”