At Philip Island, Sete Gibernau, second in this year’s championship, was determined to do his utmost to prevent arch rival Valentino Rossi from claiming both his fourth successive Australian Moto GP and his fourth successive world championship. Provisional pole position went to Rossi, only for Gibernau to edge back in front in final qualifying. The pair turned the race into a nail-biting duel to the line with the rest well behind. Rossi made the first move with 10 laps to race, easing out of Gibernau’s slipstream to take up the lead. On lap 23 of 27, the Spaniard was back in front, only for the Italian to once more squeeze past on the final circuit. On the penultimate bend, Gibernau got his nose in front again, but Rossi was not to be denied. Seizing his last chance, he outran his challenger and powered away to his fourth Moto GP championship.
This was not only Yamaha’s first title since 1992, but also only the second time ever, after American Eddie Lawson, that a rider has won back-to-back championships with different manufacturers. Many declared Rossi’s decision to switch from Honda, who had won 15 from 16 races last season, to Yamaha, who were completely unsuccessful, as crazy. But the ‘Mozart of motorsport’ has shown that he is probably the greatest rider of all time by making this spectacular transition.
Should ‘Il Dottore’ retire at some stage, his heir is already waiting. Dani Pedrosa became the youngest ever 250cc champion at the tender age of 19, eclipsing Rossi’s record and he managed the feat after not competing in 2003 due to breaking both ankles in practise!