Sete Gibernau endured one of the toughest races of his life at Motegi when, despite suffering from fever, he fought from start to finish in one of the most intense events of the year - which would end with a controversial collision between the Spaniard and Makoto Tamada.

Gibernau had grabbed the lead into turn one, but was soon passed by flying Italians' Max Biaggi and Valentino Rossi, leaving the Telefonica Honda rider to begin his battle with class rookies Tamada and Nicky Hayden.

Sete swapped positions cleanly with the pair on many occasions, the Catalan cutting back past Tamada every time the Japanese made a lunge inside his #15 machine. Then, heading onto the last lap, the inseparable trio were contesting what was now third place - Rossi having recovered from an error to sit second - when Gibernau and Tamada touched at full speed along the back straight.

Tamada appeared to slipstream alongside, then cut across Gibernau's front wheel before he was fully past, causing contact that left Sete struggling to hold his shaking machine. He would bring the bike under control, but wasn't able to brake in time to make the following turn, allowing Hayden into fourth at the flag.

Four-times 2003 race winner Gibernau would recover to cross the line behind the American, and stopped soon after (pictured) when the combination of fever, exhaustion and shock at his near escape appeared to overwhelm him.

"I think it was one of my most difficult ever races. I was physically struggling all weekend - yesterday I had a 38? fever and also this morning. In the race I gave everything but I could only see two metres ahead because my eyes were watering," explained Gibernau. "In fact, I almost hit another rider several times because I couldn't see.

"Despite my condition, the fantastic work by the team over the weekend allowed me to fight at the front. It is a 'shame' that Tamada made what I thought was a dangerous move on the last lap. Luckily I didn't fall," he added.

Race direction reviewed Tamada's controversial move soon after and immediately disqualified the Japanese from third for dangerous riding - a ruling many, including Gibernau and his team manager, agreed with.

"I'm sure it's the correct decision, I don't want revenge or anything," said Gibernau, who made clear he hadn't filed a protest.

"Sete gave his all and had a great race," added team manager Fausto Gresini. "It was perfect until the last lap. It is a shame because I thought Tamada was out of order but the important thing is that Sete is okay."

 

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