Valentino Rossi fights back with Jerez victory!

  

Reigning six time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi has taken his first win of the 2009 season - and the 98th of his career - with a come-from-behind victory in front of over 123,000 fans in Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez. 

    The Italian, second at the first two rounds of the season, held his fourth on the grid during the opening corners - whilst home hero Dani Pedrosa stormed into an early lead ahead of Casey Stoner and pole sitter Jorge Lorenzo. 

    Rossi - who appeared deflated after qualifying 0.7sec off pole - snatched third place from Lorenzo on lap two, then made a second pass on Stoner stick to claim the runner-up spot from the Ducati rider on lap seven of 27. 

    By that point Pedrosa's Repsol Honda was 1.4sec ahead of the #46 Fiat Yamaha, and Pedrosa - winner of last year's race - initially matched The Doctor lap-for-lap, before Rossi surged up to the Spaniard's rear wheel with eleven laps to go. 

    Rossi made his victory pass with a repeat of his Lorenzo move, diving inside at the Nieto corner that leads into the stadium section. The 30-year-old quickly put a safe amount of space between himself and Pedrosa on his way to a 2.7sec victory and the 2009 title lead by eleven points over Stoner. 

    Rossi celebrated by repeating his classic 'portaloo' celebration from the 1999 Spanish 250GP, whilst the trackside fireworks began exploding. 

    Pedrosa was able to maintain second position and therefore continue his remarkable record of never finishing lower than second at a Jerez MotoGP race, while Stoner faced a late race attack from Lorenzo. 

    Rossi ultimately made his victory pass on lap 18 of 27 and confirmed his 98th career win by 2.7sec over Pedrosa at the chequered flag. 

    Afterwards, Rossi rejected claims that he had been sandbagging on Saturday, when he qualified 0.7sec behind Lorenzo. 

    “This is a wonderful victory because yesterday we were really quite worried,” he said. “I couldn't ride how I wanted to and it was very hard. 

    "We had to work all together to understand how to fix the problem and finally we made a big change to try to make the bike feel how I like in the corner, which worked, so I have to say a huge thank you to Jeremy [Burgess] and all my guys. 

    “This morning we could tell immediately that things were much better and then we made a couple more small changes after warm-up, which made my M1 feel even better. 

    “In the first few laps I was behind but I came back and had a great fight with Casey. When I arrived in second place, Dani was already more than one-second ahead and I know in that situation Dani is always very difficult to catch," continued Rossi. 

    “I tried to concentrate and push. At first I didn't gain, but lap by lap I was able to improve my pace and be consistent. My bike worked very well and I was fast with a sliding tyre so I was able to catch and then overtake Dani. 

    “To win at Jerez is fantastic. It is always a great pleasure and I'm proud to get my first victory of the year.” 

    On the slow down lap, Rossi repeated his famous 'portaloo' celebration from the 1999 Spanish 250GP. 

    “It's ten years since I made the joke with the toilet here and so I thought it would be funny to do it again if I won – I liked that a lot!” he said. “Now I hope that the changes we've made here will help us for the rest of the season.” 

    “This is a very important victory and after two second places everyone in the team was waiting for it and really wanted it,” admitted team manager Davide Brivio. “To win like this is something special; after being in trouble and quite sad on Saturday there was a lot of effort, long meetings, hard work by all the engineers, mechanics and technicians and finally we were able to give a good package to Valentino. 

    “If you can make Valentino feel happy on the bike then he will always give you this kind of performance and today it was wonderful to watch." 

    With Lorenzo crashing out of fourth place late in the race, Rossi is now eleven points clear of Stoner heading into round four, the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, with Pedrosa and Lorenzo both 24 points from the top in third. 

    If Valentino Rossi wins next weekend's French Grand Prix at Le Mans it will mark his 99th grand prix victory, in all three classes.

    But it would also mean that the reigning six-time MotoGP world champion could then fight for his 100th win in front of his fanatical home fans during the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello on May 31, a circuit where he has been unbeaten since 2002.

    Rossi's 98th victory - his first of the 2009 season - at Jerez last weekend put the Fiat Yamaha rider eleven points clear of Ducati's Casey Stoner.

    The only rider with more grand prix wins than Rossi is countryman Giacomo Agostini, with 122.

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