With his eigth victory of the 2008 season, Valentino Rossi sealed his sixth MotoGP World Championship title at the A-Style Grand Prix of Japan. The Fiat Yamaha rider proved unstoppable at Twin Ring Motegi as he relegated outgoing champion Casey Stoner to second place in the 24-lap race.
Rossi had started from the second row of the grid, and looked to be on the back foot when Stoner took the holeshot and attempted to break away. The top three in the standings, Rossi, Stoner and Pedrosa became embroiled in an early battle for supremacy, narrowed down to a duel on lap five courtesy of a hard overtaking move by Stoner on his Spanish rival. The Ducati rider apologised for the pass, which took place on the run-up to the bridge section of the circuit, but still upped the pace in the ensuing laps –with Rossi hot on his tail.
The definitive pass for Rossi came on lap fourteen, and the Italian was able to do what he had done in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005: clinch the MotoGP World Championship with a race victory.
Stoner, a valiant foe for his successor over the course of the year, returned to the podium after three races off the rostrum. Whilst it was not enough to prevent Rossi from confirming the title, it still marked his first top three finish in Japan in the premier class.
The battle for the final podium place came down to two Spanish stars, with Pedrosa chased down by poleman Jorge Lorenzo. The Repsol Honda rider was put under pressure by the Fiat Yamaha rookie, and the two rivals clipped wheels on the final lap. Neither hit the asphalt, but Lorenzo was left without the chance of maintaining his run of top three finishes.
Nicky Hayden and Loris Capirossi rounded off the top six, with the experienced Italian unable to repeat his winning ways of the past three years at Motegi. Colin Edwards, Shinya Nakano and John Hopkins also featured in the top ten, with the only crash of the race coming from Rizla Suzuki wildcard Kousuke Akiyoshi.
Photo courtesy of MotoGP.com