CASEY STONER has paid tribute to newly-crowned MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi after Sunday's race at Motegi, Japan.
Stoner finished second to the Italian in the race and quickly put the controversial season him, saying: "At the beginning of the race everything felt good although I made a couple of mistakes on a cold tyre. We were running quite a hard compound today so we needed a few laps to get it warmed up. Once we did that the lap times were good and I felt happy with my pace.
"Unfortunately in the second half of the race I started to get tired in the changes of direction and I was having to close the gap coming out of the corners to get into the next one - simply because I didn´t have the strength to flick the bike over with the throttle open.
"The lap times dropped off and when Valentino came past I couldn´t keep up. He´s had an amazing season - he only made one mistake at Assen and the rest of the time he´s been on the podium, winning races. He´s a worthy champion - eight world titles show that - and I want to congratulate him for that.
"I´m just disappointed that we made two mistakes in the mid-point of the season that allowed him to open up such a big advantage. Anyway, after the recent misfortune we´ve had it was important to come back here with a strong performance and some solid points. Now we can go to Australia with confidence and look to finish the season strongly."