The gloves finally came off at Laguna Seca in 2008, and The Aussie bit the dust while The Italian went on to win. It should have ended there, but Casey never stopped bitching...
“There's a lot of adrenaline before the race, but it's a good feeling. But after the race starts, you are in another dimension. You get this high level of concentration and do what you have to do. Everything becomes clear,” says Valentino Rossi, in the December 2012 issue of Dainese’s magazine, Legends. Now 33 years old, the indomitable Italian rider dominated premier class motorcycle grand prix racings in the 2000s, winning no less than seven MotoGP world championships from 2001 to 2009. And with 105 race wins to date, he is second only to that other great Italian motorcycle racer, Giacomo Agostini, who won 122 races in his racing career.
Only Nicky Hayden, in 2006, and then Casey Stoner, in 2007, were able to stall The Doctor’s steamroller. And even then, Nicky’s 2006 MotoGP world championship win was possibly just a fluke, a freak happenstance, since the Kentucky Kid hasn’t been able to win a single race from 2007 onwards. But Stoner and Rossi have been going at it hammer and tongs for the last few years, each making no bones about the dislike they harbour for the other. In the end, Stoner decided to retire at the end of this year, having taken two MotoGP world championships (2007, with Ducati, and 2011, with Honda) in his career, while Rossi still seems to be in a different league altogether with his seven MotoGP world championships.
One race that MotoGP fans still remember is the 2008 race at Laguna Seca, where Stoner and Rossi had a ferocious battle, with the Italian finally winning the race and the Australian rider biting the dust. And as most followers of the sport already know, Casey could never stop whining about it. “Stoner started to hate me just because he lost. After that [the 2008 USGP at Laguna], he always seemed to talk about the past, this race, because he wasn't man enough to understand that at that time, he lost!” says Rossi.
In a reversal of fortunes, Rossi himself has spent the last two years eating humble pie, not being able to win a single race with Ducati. With Rossi and his crew chief Jeremy Burgess having made some lofty claims when they moved from Yamaha to Ducati two years ago, and then ending up not being able to win a single race, they’ve had their faces rubbed in rotten egg. And for 2013, the two are crawling back to Yamaha, tails firmly between their legs.
However, Rossi’s impish charm and joie de vivre seemed to have survived the Ducati orderal. “In the last few years, the sport has become too serious and so have the riders. In the past, it was more just about bravery but now everybody is more serious and very athletic. They diet and train a lot and don't have a normal life. I think it's important to be able to have fun too,” says The Doctor. “For me, it's the taste of the victory. It's something different from all other things. It's like a drug. This is the main reason for racing. Unfortunately, it's very short-lived. Only three or four hours. The next day, you need more. It never stops,” he adds. Well, we’re still fans and we’re still waiting for Rossi to get back to his winning ways. Bring on 2013.