Saturday at Assen was the moment MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi
feared would never happen.
After romping to a record 79 wins for Honda and Yamaha from 2000-2010 - an average of over seven victories per season - The Italian's success ground to a complete halt during two dark years at Ducati.
Rossi then cut his losses, re-joining Yamaha and reigning double champion Jorge Lorenzo.
After mixed performances in the opening six rounds, Rossi's victory doubts were finally erased at the Dutch TT.
“I'm happy, but I still don't believe it!” said Rossi on Saturday evening. “I have to see the race another two or three times, as I cross the finish line in first position. Sincerely I wasn't sure if I could win again because it is a long time since the last victory. We passed through two very difficult seasons, very frustrating, with a lot of bad results.”
Rossi paid tribute to his mechanics, led by crew chief Jerry Burgess, many of whom he has worked with since his premier-class debut in 2000.
“I have to say thank you first of all to Yamaha and also my team - all my guys that fought with me and, like me, never gave up in the difficult seasons,” said the seven time MotoGP champion. “We were not sure if we could come back for victory, but we never gave up. We always tried. We never said 'it's over'.
“To win in Assen is also something special. It is an old fashioned circuit and I won my 100th grand prix [in all classes] here in 2009. My rivals are very strong and very fast, but I hope if I ride like this I can fight every weekend. This is the target.”
Starting fourth on the grid, Rossi was behind only the Repsol Hondas of Marc Marquez and title leader Dani Pedrosa
by the end of the opening lap. The Doctor overtook the RCVs on laps 5 and 6 respectively, then held firm for a two-second victory.
“For me the race was perfect,” said Rossi. “I did a great start. I was able to overtake Cal [Crutchlow] and also Bradl at the end of the first lap and I was with the two Hondas. This was my target because I knew Marc and Dani were the strongest.
“I was a bit faster in two or three parts and went in front. When I saw Marc [in second] on my pit board instead of Dani I thought, 'now I will understand if I can win'. My lead went up and I thought 'okay, continue like this'.”
Valentino Rossi: "I thought, 'F**k! If Lorenzo arrives in front of me with a broken collarbone it is a big problem!'"
Rossi also joked that he gained extra motivation during the race from the heroic performance of injured team-mate Lorenzo.
“At one moment I saw on the big screen that Lorenzo was very close to me and I thought, 'F**k! If he arrives in front of me with a broken collarbone it is a big problem!' That gave me 0.2-0.3 every lap!” he smiled.
Rossi hadn't won since October 2010, in Malaysia, claiming just three podiums on the Desmosedici.