There have been a number of riders challenge Valentino Rossi as top dog in MotoGP since he scooped his first premier class title in 2001. Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden have all taken the fight to the great Italian – and each has bagged a title or two in the process – and yet still he remains the greatest rider of his generation.
Another who took the fight to Rossi was Sete Gibernau. 2004 was the Spaniard’s big chance; Rossi had left the all-dominant HRC Honda team and taken up the huge challenge of making Yamaha a contender. Considering the strength of the Honda (who made things harder for Rossi by insisting that he not ride another manufacturer’s bike until after 31st December 2003), Gibernau’s great ability and the fact that Yamaha hadn’t won the title for 10 years, success was highly unlikely, at best.
What makes this clip special, aside from some top notch ‘clean’ racing, is that it marks the moment at Phillip Island where Rossi and Yamaha defied just about every seasoned observer at the time and won the title at the first time of asking.
The Yamaha wasn’t known as a fast machine in a straight line (Rossi’s race engineer Jerry Burgess famously opined that there’s usually just one long straight, but lots of short ones …), but the majesty of Rossi’s talent meant he could make the very most of his bike’s braking and cornering ability. Bear this in mind as you take in this edit of the highlights of a great Rossi-Gibernau battle and Yamaha’s stunning, unlikely triumph.