The 2006 season - when technical problems, accidents, injuries and Nicky Hayden combined to end Valentino Rossi's five-year reign - was seen as something of a freak occurrence which, paddock wisdom assured, would be quickly corrected during 2007.

So, when Rossi lined up on pole position for the season opening Qatar Grand Prix, race - and probably title victory - looked a formality... But by the end of the first lap Ducati's new signing, Casey Stoner, riding in only his 17th MotoGP race, had blasted past Rossi on his powerful Desmosedici GP8 - then shocked the MotoGP world by shrugging off the Italian to take a debut win by 2.8secs.

Rossi restored order with victory next time out in Jerez, when Stoner was just fifth, but the Australian then won the next two rounds and the full extent of Stoner's title threat was confirmed next time out at the French Grand Prix.

The #27 may not have won in the rain at Le Mans but, in conditions close to a worse case scenario - a wet, twisty track that prevented his Ducati from exploiting its horsepower advantage - Stoner still claimed third position, behind only wet weather experts Chris Vermeulen and Marco Melandri, and crucially again beat Rossi.

The French GP was also the home race of Rossi's tyre supplier Michelin and the second all-Bridgestone podium of the season signalled the dramatic shift in power between the two leading MotoGP brands.

New rules for 2007 forced all the Michelin and Bridgestone riders to select their tyres before the grand prix weekend had begun. Bridgestone, which won four races in 2006, adapted almost seamlessly to the change, helping its leading riders to run consistently up front - but the Michelin rubber was more hit and miss, much to the frustration of its riders. More of that later...

Meanwhile, Rossi called up Mugello magic to claim a record sixth home victory in the Italian Grand Prix - reducing the deficit to Stoner to just nine points - before Stoner retaliated with a thrilling victory over Rossi at Catalunya, then a dominant win at a damp Donington Park.

The following Dutch TT at Assen looked to be a turning point for Rossi after the former five times MotoGP world champion finally beat Stoner in a straight head-to-head for the first time this season - but the Italian was immediately robbed of any title momentum when he crashed out of the following German GP.

When Stoner then dominated the US Grand Prix, just before the summer break, and the Czech Republic Grand Prix, just after it, Rossi's title challenge was left firmly on the ropes - and even worse was to follow.

Rossi grew up just ten kilometres from the Misano circuit, which returned to the MotoGP calendar for the first time in 14 years in 2007, and the #46 rode a wave of passionate home support to second on the grid in qualifying - setting the scene for an exciting Stoner showdown.

But it wasn't to be. Instead, Stoner led the race from start to finish for his third win in succession - and Ducati's first on Italian soil - while Rossi ground to a halt after his new Yamaha engine, featuring pneumatic valves, lost power.

That humiliating DNF meant Stoner could seal the crown next time out in Portugal, but Rossi at least delayed the inevitable by claiming a memorable fourth and final victory of the year, when Dani Pedrosa pushed Stoner back to third.

Rossi looked set to make Casey sweat further after taking the lead of a wet Japanese Grand Prix just one week later, but when the track dried - prompting pit stops - Rossi struck severe handling problems with his second bike and plummeted to 13th, leaving Stoner to secure his, Ducati and Bridgestone's first MotoGP title with a season's worst sixth position.

Stoner then celebrated his brilliant achievement in perfect style, with victory in front of his home fans at Phillip Island, before clinching a tenth triumph during the penultimate round at Sepang in Malaysia.

Rossi's season came to a miserable conclusion when the 28-year-old - who needed just one point to secure second position over Pedrosa at the Valencia season finale - was injured in qualifying then, having braved the pain, suffered a technical problem in the race.

Pedrosa, who had given Honda's troubled RC212V its desperately needed first victory at the mid-season German Grand Prix, concluded the year with a reminder of his talents by overtaking Stoner en route to victory at Valencia - although the Spaniard's 125 point deficit to Stoner in the final standings underlined the extent of the Australian's awesome season, which carried Ducati to all three world titles.

Pedrosa was the only Honda rider to win in 2007, although factory team-mate and outgoing world champion Hayden had been on fiery form at Phillip Island - aggressively matching Stoner for the first ten laps before being bitterly sidelined by a broken engine. The American, whose riding style had to be adapted for the reduced power of the new 800cc engines, finished the season just eighth in the championship, with one pole and three podiums to his name.

Joining Stoner (10), Rossi (4) and Pedrosa (2) in standing on the top step of the MotoGP podium during 2007 were Vermeulen (1) and Loris Capirossi (1).

Vermeulen's debut grand prix victory, in the rain at Le Mans, marked the first ever win for Suzuki's GSV-R and was the first by any Suzuki rider since Sete Gibernau on a 500cc two-stroke, in 2001. Despite the victory, Vermeulen finished two places behind team-mate John Hopkins in the world championship standings - Hopper having used his first four grand prix podiums to nail a creditable fourth in the points.

Hopkins will move to Kawasaki in 2008, when Vermeulen will be joined by Stoner's team-mate Capirossi. The hard-charging Italian led Ducati's grand prix challenge from the factory's entry in 2003 until 2006, but the former 125 and 250cc world champion just couldn't get comfortable on the GP8. Nevertheless, Loris salvaged some pride with victory in the dry/wet event at Motegi, which highlighted his four podium appearances of the year and seventh place in the world championship standings.

Melandri was announced as Stoner's 2008 team-mate as early as Laguna Seca, just before the summer break. The #33, Honda's leading satellite rider for the last three years, was openly disappointed at his level of support from HRC this season - when all the non-factory RCV riders felt they were left to make the best of a bad situation.

Nevertheless, Melandri still scored two second place finishes, aided by his Bridgestone tyres, in addition to a painful third while riding injured at Laguna Seca - helping him finish fifth in the standings. Gresini team-mate Toni Elias took two podiums, one before and one after a nasty femur-breaking accident at Assen.

Melandri, Elias and Alex Barros (third at Mugello) were the only non-factory riders to finish on the MotoGP podium during 2007.

Kawasaki's first 800cc motorcycle drew praise from throughout the paddock and was generally considered capable of much more than its single podium finish - in the hands of Randy de Puniet at Motegi - during an unsettled season in which Olivier Jacque was replaced by Anthony West from Donington park onwards. West will remain green for 2008, when de Puniet switches to Honda LCR.

LCR fielded Carlos Checa this year, but the Spaniard - along with fellow class veteran Barros and another former race winner, Makoto Tamada - waved goodbye to grand prix racing at Valencia. Checa and Tamada will switch to WSBK, while Barros has decided to hang up his helmet after a huge 17-year premier-class career (plus one season in WSBK).

MotoGP faced a fork in the road during the tail end of 2007, when continued unrest over this season's tyre restrictions prompted the possibility of a controversial single-brand rule being imposed.

The question was whether MotoGP, being a prototype championship, should continue to operate as a 'pure' open-tyre formula - and accept the consequences when one of the brands suffers a bad weekend (or even a bad season) - or should MotoGP's main priority be to protect 'the show'?

In the end a compromise was reached, whereby open tyre competition was given a second chance - but with the tyre rules loosened to help ensure more balanced competition next year, when Rossi will also join Stoner on Bridgestones.

How will you remember the 2007 MotoGP season? Add your comments below...