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Rossi wins 2004 world championship!
17 October 2004
Valentino Rossi's Yamaha dream has become a reality: The Italian has won his sixth world championship and Yamaha's first premier-class title since 1992 with a heart-stopping last lap victory over title rival Sete Gibernau in today's Australian Grand Prix.
Ducati's Loris Capirossi (third on the grid behind Gibernau and Rossi) took the holeshot, but was soon passed by the championship contenders, who then occupied the top two positions for the rest of the race - the gap between them rarely above 0.5secs.
Sete led up to lap 18 of 27 when Rossi moved ahead into turn one, although it was unclear whether Gibernau had let him by. Regardless, the Spaniard would cling to Rossi's rear wheel for four more laps, before retaking the lead with five to go.
Rossi was within 0.2secs of the Telefonica Honda rider as the electric last lap began, then closed up further on the brakes into the fast turn one, before squeezing inside Gibernau at turn two.
But Sete stuck to Rossi's rear wheel and pulled alongside on the high-speed approach to the Honda hairpin – both then hit the brakes as hard as they dared, with Rossi's rear wheel skipping across the asphalt, and forcing him to run slightly wide.
That allowed Gibernau to dive underneath and back into the lead, but Rossi would pull a breathtaking inside move as they accelerated up and over Lukey Heights, putting the Italian back in front with just a few fast left handers to go.
Rossi then held on to win the race by just 0.097secs – taking the championship in perfect style. There was clearly no riding for second place today and Rossi - who ran wide onto the grass on the first lap as he attempted to close down Gibernau - now holds a 35-point lead over the #15. He only needed 25-points (a second place) to take the title with one round to go.
After crossing the line a delighted Valentino hung over the front fairing of his M1 to stroke his famous #46, before being mobbed by his waiting fan club later in the lap – who quickly issued a special championship winning all white t-shirt and helmet... the latter would be thrown to the crowd from the podium and must be the ultimate piece of MotoGP memorabilia.
The title victory means the 25-year-old has now taken four consecutive premier-class world championships, become the first rider since Eddie Lawson in 1989 to take back-to-back titles with different manufacturers - while Rossi's race victory marked his 8th of the season, a new Yamaha record, and his 100th podium finish.
Meanwhile, 10-seconds further back, Loris Capirossi took his and Ducati Marlboro's first podium finish of the season after winning an equally tense fight between himself, Colin Edwards, Alex Barros, Nicky Hayden, Max Biaggi and Makoto Tamada. All six were separated by just two-seconds at the flag.
Capirossi had held third position for much of the early part of the race, but was passed by Barros on lap 9. Both the Brazilian and the Italian would then drop back from the top two from the halfway point onwards and were caught by the chasing pack.
Home hero Troy Bayliss ran as high as fourth in the early laps, after a strong start, but would fade steadily back to ninth in his penultimate race for the factory Ducati team.
Carlos Checa, Ruben Xaus, Shinya Nakano, Alex Hofmann, Jeremy McWilliams and John Hopkins completed the points finishers.
Full results to follow...