He may have celebrated with 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs', but perhaps 'The Magnificent Seven' would have been a more fitting tribute to Valentino Rossi after the Italian sealed his seventh motorcycle world championship at Sepang on Sunday.

Just one week after he'd crashed out of the Japanese Grand Prix, Rossi started from seventh on the grid but swiftly arrived at the front and took the challenge to Loris Capirossi until the final seven laps, when the Ducati rider launched an unstoppable charge to the chequered flag.

"I am very happy. I know I gave more than 100% in the race, and we had a lot of problems this weekend," began Rossi. "I wasn't even sure if I would finish on the podium!

"There was a lot of pressure on me for the title, especially after my mistake at Motegi. For sure it's harder to win the title in this situation than to win a race when everything is okay.

"I tried my maximum in the race, but using different tactics from Motegi. I got a good start and rode a clever race whilst other riders seemed nervous and made mistakes. I recovered step-by-step, taking advantage of their mistakes to arrive with the leaders.

"I got to third behind Nicky and I thought I could fight because the bike was feeling okay and I knew that Nicky was having some of the same problems as me. Eventually I passed him and caught up to Loris and at some places I was faster, some slower.

"I passed him, but when he passed me back I knew that he had been playing with me, like a cat with a mouse, because in the last seven laps he changed gear and I couldn't stay with him, he was incredible!

"Winning a world title still always produces that fantastic feeling inside and I am very happy, even though we couldn't win the race. To come second was a great achievement because it was a difficult weekend. It was a great race and a great battle.

"This has been a very special championship because everyone was ready to fight us this year and all our rivals were very strong throughout. The last four races should be very interesting after the performance of Ducati here and in Motegi," he added.

Rossi would cross the finish line 1.9secs behind Capirossi and just 0.07secs in front of the second factory Ducati of Carlos Checa to secure his latest world title - the only man who had a slight chance of delaying the title celebrations, Repsol Honda's Max Biaggi, finishing sixth.

In contrast to the predictable scenes that would mark newly crowned F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso's own title success later that day in Brazil - the Spaniard's championship celebrations being little different to those that follow a 'normal' F1 race victory - Rossi marked his achievement by wearing a special t-shirt and helmet bearing the famous number 7 worn by the legendary Barry Sheene, then launching into a riotous celebration with his fan club, dressed as 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'.

"I put the number 7 on my t-shirt because this is the number of my championships but also because it was the number of Barry Sheene, who was a great hero of mine and a truly great racer," explained Valentino. "The celebration with my fan club, dressed as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was just a bit of fun to celebrate the seven titles, and also because I always liked the story as a child!

"Now I go back to Italy for a couple of days but we can also make a little party here - I have my mother and some of my best friends from Italy to help me celebrate!"

But before the partying began, Rossi reflected on his fourth MotoGP world title, which adds to his previous 500cc, 250cc and 125cc world championships, and paid tribute to his Yamaha team.

"So I am World Champion for the seventh time, which is incredible! Last year was a bit of a surprise but this time everybody was out to beat me. I want to thank all my mechanics, Jerry, the engineers... everybody who works for Yamaha!

"This year Yamaha has worked so hard again to give me the bike I need. At the start of the year we had some problems with the M1, but then we found the right way forward and the bike started to fly.

"The M1 has been great fun to race this year. Last year was a surprise to win but this time everyone was ready for me and I was the target. It has been a great achievement to beat all my rivals this year, because they have been very strong.

"I think for me the race at Mugello was the biggest emotion of the season, because it was in front of my home fans. Every year there is a different story to the championship, and this year has been a hard battle.

"The emotion to win a seventh world championship is difficult to explain. The first is like a dream, the second unbelievable; there are just no words to describe the seventh! The feeling is different to when I won the 125cc and 250cc titles, but just as good!

"Racing with Yamaha gives me a great taste and a great motivation to win; these last two championships have been two of the best," concluded Rossi.

The Italian has now become only the third rider in motorcycle grand prix history to win the premier-class title on five occasions, emulating the achievements of Mick Doohan and Giacomo Agostini.

After Sunday's race Doohan, who claimed five back-to-back crowns with Honda in the 1990s and had made the trip to Malaysia, was one of the first to offer his congratulations. "Valentino seems unstoppable and he really deserves what he's achieved," said Mick. "I was happy to get five titles and I'm sure he's the same!"

One man who links the career's of both Rossi and Doohan is crew chief Jerry Burgess, who has been with Rossi ever since he joined the premier-class - and before then had guided Doohan to his 500cc titles. Burgess was also the most significant member of the Repsol Honda Team to move with Rossi to Yamaha for 2004.

"Obviously the situation in Motegi meant that the celebrations were put off for a week, but now we can celebrate," smiled the Australian. "It has been a difficult weekend for all the teams, including ourselves, but we made a few changes in the warm-up and managed to give Valentino a bike that we knew could run for the podium.

"The season started with exactly the bike that we wanted and Yamaha has done everything we asked for. To win nine out of thirteen races is an excellent achievement by everybody and we have a great package. Good rider, good bike, good team... what more could you ask for?" concluded JB.

With four races still to go, Yamaha also has an excellent chance of claiming the two other MotoGP titles in their 50th anniversary year: Yamaha currently sits 44-points clear of Honda in the manufacturers' championship, while the Gauloises Yamaha Team is 127-points ahead of Repsol Honda in the teams' championship.

 

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