Valentino Rossi hailed this year’s against-the-odds championship win as his finest achievement yet after winning the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.
The Italian clinched his fourth consecutive world title in typically flamboyant fashion, stealing victory from title rival Sete Gibernau on the last lap today.
Rossi was an outsider to defend his crown after moving to Gauloises Yamaha over the winter from the dominant Repsol Honda squad.
But he transformed Yamaha’s fortunes instantly and has been the man to beat most of the season, proving the point today, even though second place would have been enough to take the championship.
Rossi hailed his transformation of Yamaha from mid-grid strugglers to title winners as the greatest entry so far on his impressive CV.
He said: “Today was a fantastic finish to a fantastic championship.
“I want to say thanks to everyone who has worked so hard, to Yamaha and all my team. It was fantastic, thank you. I think this year has been my best championship-winning year.
“This track is great and today there was a hard battle until the last lap. In some parts I was faster than Gibernau and some other places slower. I was sure of my feeling on the bike though.
“I made a bit of a bad start but wanted to stick with Sete. I managed to pass him early on in the race but he came back, and then at the end it became a great battle again. The last lap was a lot of fun for everybody watching it.”
Gibernau started from pole position but he was stalked by Rossi, with the pair swapping positions repeatedly.
Rossi took the title in style with a victory though, pipping Gibernau to the line by just 0.097seconds.
Loris Capirossi gave the beleaguered Marlboro Ducati team a much-needed third place, while Colin Edwards, who is currently Gibernau’s team-mate but will switch to join Rossi at Yamaha over the winter, took fourth.
The Repsol Honda pair of Alex Barros and Nicky Hayden were fifth and sixth respectively.
Jeremy McWilliams was the leading Briton, taking two points for 14th place on his troublesome Aprilia.
Neil Hodgson suffered a disappointing race on one of the few tracks he knows well on the MotoGP calendar, finishing 18th for D’Antin Ducati.
James Haydon was 20th for KR Proton, while fellow stand-in James Ellison rejoined after a crash and came home 22nd on his Harris WCM.
In the 250cc class, Spaniard Dani Pedrosa secured the title today, while Welsh teenager Chaz Davies took a career-best sixth on his KF Club Aprilia.