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Season so far: Valentino Rossi

Season so far: Valentino Rossi

The World Champion Valentino Rossi has a 30 point lead in the standings with four races to go, as he closes in on a seventh premier class title.

The start of Valentino Rossi’s 2009 season and his MotoGP title defence saw him record two second places behind two of his strongest rivals, Casey Stoner in Qatar and Jorge Lorenzo in Japan.

The results were a sign of his continued consistency with the competitive Yamaha M1 from the end of 2008 and through the winter, but Rossi does not like coming second. He therefore celebrated with glee in front a passionate Spanish crowd when he took his first victory of the year at one of the most colourful events on the MotoGP calendar, the Gran Premio bwin.com de España.

If his Jerez performance was vintage Rossi, then Le Mans was not what we have come to expect from The Doctor - as he crashed in a complicated wet-dry race when he swapped onto slicks a little two early and then changed bikes twice more before eventually coming home 16th.

Losing a seven-year winning streak at Mugello behind Stoner and Lorenzo did not sit too comfortably with Rossi either and he turned up the heat on his closest competitors at the next round.

His last corner Barcelona win over his ever-improving team-mate Lorenzo at the end of an intriguing battle between the pair was a significant moment and with Stoner showing the first signs of his mystery illness that weekend the Australian could only manage a brave, distant third.

The trio left Catalunya in a three way tie for the championship lead, but Rossi stepped things up again with an excellent performance from pole at the Cathedral of Motorcycling, leaving Lorenzo chasing his shadows around the famous Assen circuit, as he notched the 100th GP victory of his remarkable career.

Lorenzo was keeping the pressure on at the top, nonetheless, and both Fiat Yamaha riders were on the podium yet again at Laguna Seca, Rossi second this time and Lorenzo third, behind a re-emergent Dani Pedrosa. The trip to Germany for round nine saw another Rossi-Lorenzo duel, with the Italian beating his young Spanish team-mate by just 0.099s this time.

A set of surprise results saw maiden MotoGP race-winner Andrea Dovizioso, Randy de Puniet and Colin Edwards on the rostrum in the final World Championship visit to Donington Park, but Rossi still somehow extended his standings advantage. He picked up his M1 after a crash on the wet-dry track and finished in fifth place having started on pole, whilst Lorenzo crashed out, Pedrosa was ninth and Stoner was 14th – in the Aussie rider’s last GP appearance to date this season.

That left Rossi with a 25 point championship lead over Lorenzo heading to the Czech Republic. The trip to Brno was a perfect weekend for Rossi at the venue where he scored his first GP win on a 125cc bike in 1996, as he took another victory from pole whilst Lorenzo suffered his second DNF in a row.

Two weeks later at Indianapolis Rossi’s attempts to repeat his historic debut Brickyard triumph from 2008 turned into a disaster as he crashed out and Lorenzo reversed the roles with an accomplished win. The points gap was back down to 25 with five rounds remaining.

Another Rossi-Lorenzo one-two at Misano, the fourth such result in 2009, therefore meant that the local boy went into the four-week September break with a 30 point title advantage ahead of the season-concluding races at Estoril, Phillip Island, Sepang and Valencia.

It would take a brave man to bet much against a seventh premier class title for Rossi, but the World Champion knows that Lorenzo – who will remain with him at Fiat Yamaha in 2010 – will continue to be a constant thorn in his side.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2009, Valentino Rossi, Fiat Yamaha Team

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