Valentino Rossi reminisces ‘crucial’ Laguna Seca '08 win over Stoner

Valentino Rossi discusses that  memorable and hard-fought victory over Casey Stoner during a crucial Laguna Seca race in 2008

Valentino Rossi - Yamaha MotoGP

Valentino Rossi has offered an insight into why he considers his iconic victory over Casey Stoner in the 2008 United States MotoGP race at Laguna Seca as one of his greatest successes at such a ‘crucial’ time in their championship battle.

Coming into the 2008 season having missed out on the 2006 title to Nicky Hayden and the 2007 crown to Stoner, Rossi began the year strongly in comparison to the Australian but as the season tipped into the second-half it was the Ducati man that had the momentum.

Heading to Laguna Seca, Rossi led Stoner by 20 points’ but the defending champion arrived in the United States with the momentum of three victories on the bounce.

As such, Rossi considered it ‘crucial’ to get the better of Stoner on this day to break his streak and reclaim the initiative in their burgeoning title fight.

What followed was a classic battle as the pair traded positions (occasionally paint), the intensity of the race being typified when Rossi controversially passed for the lead using all of the kerb and a lot of the inside dirt on the exit of the Corkscrew.

-- Unfortunately the Dorna powers that be have blocked embeds on their videos, so you'll need to head HERE if you want to re-live it  --

Speaking to BT Sport, which is currently embarking on a quest to discover ‘The Greatest Race’ through a series of fan polls, Rossi discusses how his determination to reclaim the title after more than two years and the mindset before the race to halt Stoner’s growing momentum made this such a memorably important success

"It was a special victory because it was very important,” he said in his video call with Gavin Emmett. “In that moment, Stoner was really strong and he beat him in 2007 to win the Championship with Ducati. For me, after a long time without a Championship having lost in 2006 and 2007, 2008 was a crucial season because I switched from Michelin to Bridgestone and the battle with Stoner started from Round 1.

"When we arrived at Laguna Seca, that weekend was crucial for the Championship because Stoner was incredibly fast at that track with the Ducati. 

“I was second but a bit too far away throughout the practice sessions. I remember the night before the race, I spoke with Uccio and we said tomorrow will be the day that it’s very important to finish in front of Stoner and that’s the reason why I gave my maximum from the first corner. 

“I thought that the key was to try and stay in front and put my rhythm on the race because Laguna Seca is a difficult circuit to overtake because it’s so narrow. I tried like this, the battle was furious from the beginning to the end and I managed to arrive in front.”

The win would help set the course for Rossi to clinch the MotoGP World Championship, the Italian scoring a victory in each of the next four rounds to put the title out of Stoner’s reach.

"That one was an iconic race and an iconic battle with the overtake at the Corkscrew. I think for the MotoGP fans that race is one of the most famous and one of the races that fans watch over and over again.”

“One of my strongest rivals” – Valentino Rossi

Though their rivalry wasn’t always a good mannered one, Rossi has often paid tribute to Stoner’s sheer skill and talent in the years since the Australian retired at only 29-years old. 

“I enjoyed my rivalry very much with Casey, the battles with him were always great because he was one of the best talents in the last era of MotoGP. His talent was great and he was young, very fast and he was, for sure, one of my strongest rivals throughout all of my career."