Sete Gibernau started today's rain delayed Dutch TT as he would go on – launching from his second row start and diving underneath both Valentino Rossi and Max Biaggi to take the lead through the fast kink that is turn one.
He and Biaggi then broke the opposition and were left elbowing each other as they exchanged the lead for the next nine laps – but the Roman couldn't stop Sete escaping to victory, in what was arguably the best race of his life.
Qualifying had seen Loris Capirossi add a second pole position to his growing collection of accolades with Ducati, the #65 outpacing fellow Italians Max Biaggi and Valentino Rossi to become the first rider to lap the historic TT circuit in under the two-minute mark.
Carlos Checa continued his improving form with the fastest time ever by a Yamaha M1 at Assen, completing the front row in fourth place. Checa's late effort knocked factory colleague Olivier Jacque back to the second row in fifth place, just moments after Jacque had done the same to team-mate Alex Barros.
The fourth factory Yamaha rider, Marco Melandri, also appeared briefly on the front row but eventually slipped to the back of the second row in eighth behind Sete Gibernau on the Honda.
Assen ace Colin Edwards was another victim of the late shuffle at the top of the time sheets, dropping all the way back to the third row in ninth despite having challenged Rossi and Capirossi for top spot throughout the session.
Into today, and all previous form was practically thrown out of the window by a post warm-up downpour, which had resulted in two first-time winners in the preceding 125 and 250cc races.
With the MotoGP stars having had no wet weather running at Assen this year – and to make matters even worse the track was now drying – the teams were forced to gamble on their race rubber and set-up.
Unlike the support races, full wets would now not be needed (unless the rain returned) and the majority of the field lined up on a mixture of slicks and/or intermediates – with frantic choices changing by the second... literally anything could happen in the next 19 laps.