MotoGP » Sete Gibernau
Former double MotoGP World Championship runner-up and nine-times grand prix winner, Sete Gibernau, made an ill-fated return to action after a two-year retirement in 2009, when the 35-year-old signed up for the newly formed Onde 2000 Ducati team, to be run by '12+1' world champion Angel Nieto's sons Pablo and Gelete.
After a year away from the racetrack, Gibernau burst back onto the MotoGP scene when his presence as a spectator at the 2008 Catalan Grand Prix resulted in an invitation from Ducati to test an early version of the 2009 Desmosedici GP9.
Impressive lap times lead to two further tests and Sete looked certain to replace the struggling Marco Melandri during the second half of the season, but the Melandri/Ducati split never happened and Gibernau was left on the sidelines - although not forgotten by Ducati.
Unfortunately, Gibernau found readjusting to the relentless pace of MotoGP challenging, not helped by another collarbone fracture at Le Mans, while the lack of experience within the Onde 2000 team made things doubly difficult.
By the time the team folded due to financial reasons, just after Laguna Seca, Gibernau had scored points in four of the six events he started, with a best finish of eleventh.
Gibernau had been Honda's leading rider - and Valentino Rossi's closest title rival - during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, but the pressure of fighting the dominant Italian seemed to take its toll and Sete was left winless in 2005, despite five pole positions, prompting him to leave the satellite Gresini Honda team (with whom he took all but one of his race wins) for a new start at the factory Ducati Marlboro Team.
But his 2006 season began with a mechanical failure while amongst the lead group in Jerez and further misfortune followed - highlighted by a huge accident at turn one in Catalunya, when he tangled with team-mate Loris Capirossi under braking. Gibernau broke his collarbone in the fall, forcing him to miss the next three rounds then, just two races after his return, required a further operation after the plate inserted to heal the break weakened, forcing him to miss another race.
Gibernau made his second comeback for the three flyaway events in Malaysia, Australia and Japan - finishing fifth, fourth and fourth as he regained fitness - but had a fighting chance of a breakthrough victory when he took the lead of the rain interrupted Australian Grand Prix. However, as the weather improved, Sete's wet tyres deteriorated and he went on to lose what would have been his first, and only, Ducati podium to Rossi at the very final corner.
A much more dramatic last turn pass had handed Rossi victory over Gibernau in the 2005 season-opening Spanish Grand prix at Jerez - when, after a thrilling final lap battle, the Yamaha rider launched a brilliant, but brutal, last gasp attack that sent Gibernau through the gravel and handed the Italian victory. It marked the first and perhaps only time in Rossi's career that he has been booed by the crowd.
Relations between Gibernau and Rossi had, perhaps unsurprisingly, soured shortly after Sete became a title rival. When Gibernau won his first race for Honda, at round two of the 2003 world championship and shortly after the death of team-mate Daijiro Kato, Rossi had seemed genuinely pleased and the sporting attitude between the pair arguably continued until Gibernau poached a last turn victory from the factory Repsol Honda rider at the German Grand Prix, round nine of the championship.
That win marked Gibernau's fourth victory of 2003, confirming him as the new man of the moment, but tension grew between the title rivals due to their different level of status within Honda. Rossi, as a full factory rider and the reigning world champion, was naturally given priority in terms of parts and developments, but Gibernau in turn was naturally pushing to have as much HRC support as possible to boost his own title hopes.
Rossi became increasingly sensitive to any suggestions that he had a machinery advantage over Gibernau, claiming there was little difference between their bikes, and was even rumoured to have considered riding Gibernau's RCV to prove it. When Rossi moved to Yamaha the following season the debate over factory support continued, with Gibernau still riding a factory spec Honda for a satellite team while Rossi had the full support of Yamaha.
The hostilities reached a climax at the 2004 Qatar Grand Prix - the scene of Sete's final MotoGP victory - when Rossi was demoted to the back of the grid after his team was 'caught' illegally cleaning his grid spot the night before the race. Rightly or wrongly, Rossi blamed Gibernau for this 'unsporting' protest and, after the race, furiously declared that Gibernau 'would not win again'. Although relations between the pair subsequently improved, Rossi's 'curse' was never lifted.
Gibernau's 2006 season ended prematurely when he hit Casey Stoner's fallen Honda at the penultimate Portuguese Grand Prix - another piece of bad luck that was magnified by further damage to his still healing collarbone, ending his season one round early. In his absence, Troy Bayliss took Gibernau's Ducati to victory at Valencia, while Stoner took Sete's ride for 2007 - and went on to win the world championship.
With no competitive MotoGP seats left for 2007 Gibernau, the grandson of Don Paco Bulto - founder of Spain's Bultaco motorcycle firm, walked away from MotoGP with nine victories, 30 podiums, 13 pole positions and eight fastest laps - and as one of only five riders (along with Rossi, Max Biaggi, Loris Capirossi and Alex Barros) to have won both 500cc and MotoGP races.
Gibernau's sole 500cc win was on a factory Suzuki in 2001, before which he had spent three seasons (and taken five podiums) at Honda, riding V-twin and then V4 machinery. Sete, a renowned wet weather rider and skilled rear-wheel slider, made his premier-class debut on a Yamaha run by triple 500cc world champion Wayne Rainey in 1997.Career Highlights:
- 1991 : First race 125cc Production Racing
- 1992 : 2nd 125cc Spanish Gilera Championship
- 1993 : 5th 250cc Spanish Open Class Yamaha
- 1994 : 4th 250cc Spanish Open Class Yamaha
- 1995 : 3rd 250cc Spanish Open Class Yamaha
- 1996 : 22nd 250cc World Championship Honda
- 1997 : 13th 500cc World Championship Yamaha
- 1998 : 11th 500cc World Championship Honda
- 1999 : 5th 500cc World Championship Honda
- 2000 : 15th 500cc World Championship Honda
- 2001 : 9th 500cc World Championship Suzuki - race wins 1
- 2002 : 16th MotoGP World Championship Suzuki
- 2003 : 2nd MotoGP World Championship Honda - race wins 4
- 2004 : 2nd MotoGP World Championship Honda - race wins 4
- 2005 : 7th MotoGP World Championship Honda - race wins 0
- 2006 : 13th MotoGP World Championship Ducati - race wins 0
2009 : 19th MotoGP World Championship Ducati - race wins 0