Motegi MotoGP: Valentino Rossi frustrated by fourth

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Valentino Rossi had to settle for a frustrating fourth place on the grid for tomorrow’s Japanese GP, but the Italian believes he can still fight for the victory to seal the 2008 world title.

With a commanding 87-point lead over Ducati rival Casey Stoner, Rossi is favourite to clinch his sixth premier class crown at the Twin Ring Motegi.

But it won’t be a formality as Rossi missed the front row of the grid for the first time since the Sachsenring in mid-July.

The Fiat Yamaha rider said: “ Sincerely I am not very happy about my fourth place because I had to work some extra minutes with the race tyres and at the end I arrive in delay for the last qualifier. I put it in but I exit from the pits with about another ten bikes. I decided to wait but it was the wrong decision because Alex de Angelis crashed in the last corner.

“I wasn’t able to improve lap time. This is the bad thing. The good thing is that I have a good pace with the race tyre and I feel good with he bike. The tyres are quite good and work well and I think it is possible to make a good race for tomorrow. For sure it will be very important with the temperature because we don’t decide the race tyre. We have to wait to see if it is hotter or colder than today.”

Did he need it hotter or cooler for his Bridgestone tyres to perform better?
“Today we are in the centre. I am happy if it is cooler or hotter. Today the soft tyre was too soft and the hard tyre was too hard, “he added.

Asked if he would a conservative race to claim the title, with him only needing to finish if Stoner manages to win the 24-lap race, Rossi said: “I am happy if I finish third. My target is the podium because out of the podium is not the same taste. Also out of the podium and Casey wins, I don’t win the world championship. For me the target is the podium and looking at my lap times today, it is possible to also fight for the victory.”

Rossi said clinching the title tomorrow would be extra special with it being Yamaha’s home race.

He added: “For me it is important to win the title tomorrow. If not then P1. When you have the first match point it is better you play well. It is important for me because it has been a long season with a lot of pressure. But especially for Yamaha it is very important. In my career I have won the title in Australia and Malaysia, but never in Japan, so why not?

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt