"Valentino Rossi still not forgiven me for Estoril win” – Toni Elias

Toni Elias says Valentino Rossi still hasn't forgiven him for Estortil victory 14 years ago that prevented the Italian from winning the 2006 MotoGP title

Toni Elias, Valentino Rossi

Former MotoGP rider Toni Elias says it still isn’t possible to be friends with Valentino Rossi because the Italian hasn’t ‘forgiven’ him for the photo-finish victory in Portugal that ultimately denied him the 2006 MotoGP title.

Elias claimed a shock victory – his one and only in the MotoGP class – during the penultimate round of the season in Estoril, defeating Rossi in a sprint to the line by a remarkable 0.002secs.

The unexpected conclusion came in a race that saw Nicky Hayden almost throw away his hopes of the title when he collided early on with his team-mate Dani Pedrosa, opening the door for Rossi to move into the championship lead.

However, Rossi instead came up against an unexpected foe in Elias on the satellite Fortuna Honda who beat him to the line by a hair’s breadth.

Though 20 points for second position still gave Rossi the championship lead, Hayden’s run to the podium – coupled to Rossi’s 13th place finish – at the Valencia finale allowed the American to win the title by five points. 

Had Yamaha's Rossi beaten Elias to victory in Portugal, he and Hayden would have finished the year level on points but with the Italian triumphant on accounting of winning more races during the season.

It’s an outcome Elias says Rossi still hasn’t gotten over, the Spaniard – who put his upturn in form down to belatedly receiving more competitive Michelin tyres that weekend – saying it isn’t possible to be friends with him.

Toni Elias, Valentino Rossi

“Being able to beat Valentino [for victory] has only happened to me once in my life,” he told DAZN. "Michelin brought me a new tyre on the Saturday and I managed to improve my pace by seven-tenths and fight for victory.

"I thanked Michelin for the help, although I was very angry when I discovered that this rubber, with a softer casing, was the one used by the best riders throughout the season and they only gave it to me in the penultimate race of the year.

"When I meet Valentino - I see him every year in Austin - I can see that he still has [Estoril 2006] stuck in his heart, he has not forgiven me… It's over, it's time to be friends, but it is not possible. He is so competitive, he will never forgive me!"