celebrating 40+ years of motorcycling

Where did you get THAT idea from?

Most keen observers of the sport acknowledge that Valentino Rossi is the master of the psych-out. Nobody plays the mind game better than Rossi; witness his ruthless demolition of Sete Gibernau that ruined the Spaniard’s season and, ultimately his career. And most keen observers acknowledge that this pass on Casey Stoner during the 2008 USA Grand Prix at Laguna Seca marked a turning point of huge significance in the on-going battle for supremacy between the two that had raged since Stoner had lifted the title in 2007. Shortly after this pass, Stoner, obviously rattled by the move, dropped the bike at the last corner and, while he remounted and still finished 2nd, his comments about “clean racing” at the Press Conference afterwards showed that his equilibrium was well and truly upset. Stoner was to crash twice more in succeeding races, both times unforced errors while in the lead, handing the title to Rossi.

But the question above is still worth asking. What made Rossi think of doing that? Apart from the fact that every racer is always looking for an “edge”, why did he choose to go down the Corkscrew on the gravel, a sensationally risky manouver? You can see that Stoner is off-line also, on the rumble strip, trying to upset Rossi’s line; is that what brought it about? I don’t believe so. I believe the answer lies here.

The scene is the final of the Champ Car World Series (yes, I know) at Laguna Seca (Dry Lake in Spanish) and the leader is Brian Herta. Alex Zanardi in the Ganassi car, has been shadowing Herta for most of the race and the laps are running out. In fact, the drivers have seen the white flag, indicating one lap remaining. If Zanardi can win the race, he will finish runner-up to his team-mate, Jimmy Vassar, in the 1996 title chase, so, dropping down onto the Corkscrew, Zanardi aims for a gap that isn’t there, scuttles at barely-reduced speed across the gravel, showering Herta with stones and rocks and pulls away to win the race. I can still remember the astonished commentary as it all unfolded. In car racing circles, it is still referred to as “The Pass” even today.

Did Rossi reach back into the memory bank and recall this daring move by his fellow Italian superstar? I think it’s highly likely.

Here’s a video of “The Pass”

photos courtesy of vfrdiscussion.com


  1. sanoptic says

    Rossi sure is the master of psychological warfare on & mostly off the track.Stoner is very susceptible to mind games & Rossi must be a nightmare for him.
    But for all of Rossi’s games he is still i.m.o the very best racer ever.When he finally leaves bike racing he will be sadly missed.

  2. gearsau says

    Dont agree with that pass of Rossi on Stoner.

    Everyone goes one how great it was because its Rossi, but, the track is for racing on, and if they let everyone take to the dirt , soon, people could completely chop corners and say that…….. “Its racing”.

    Rules are rules.

    • Phil Hall says

      I agree with you. Zanardi’s pass caused quite a storm of protest for the same reason. In Formula 1 the situation has also arisen where Schumacher, particularly, has done some very questionable things over the years only to be excused it because of who he is. Either the rules are for everybody or they are not.

Speak Your Mind