An eight-point lead and pole position should have been more than enough to hand Valentino Rossi his sixth consecutive MotoGP World Championship in Sunday's Valencia title showdown, but a thrilling season had one last dramatic twist in store.

Rossi - a 58 times grand prix winner, compared with Hayden's three victories - had previously always excelled under pressure, but fluffed the start of the 30 lap decider and was just seventh by the end of lap one. He then remained in that position until lap five, when he lost the front of his Camel Yamaha and with it his world title hopes.

"Of course this is a big disappointment for me because to arrive at the final race with an eight-point advantage and then not win the title is a disaster," confessed the 27-year-old, who rejoined the race 20th and last before finishing 13th. "Basically I made two mistakes today - one was at the start and then the second one was the crash. It has been a very emotional season, with some great moments, some bad luck and now some mistakes. But this is racing.

"All I can say now is a big 'congratulations' to Nicky because he is a great guy, a great rider and he is the world champion because he has been the best this year. I have known him a long time, I know his family well and even though I am disappointed I am also very happy for them. It has been a great fight with him this year - not like in the past with other riders when there have always been some polemics - and we have great respect for each other.

"I want to say a huge thank you to Yamaha, to all my team and engineers and to everyone else involved, they've done an amazing job this year and now I am looking forward to working towards next season with the 800; I am sure it will be another exciting season and another big battle!" concluded Vale, who lost the title by just five points.

"It is normal that the feeling now within the team is one of disappointment but we are also proud that we brought this fight to the final round after all the bad luck we had in the first half of the season," declared team director Davide Brivio. "Valentino has worked incredibly hard and shown on several occasions why he has been such a great world champion - even today he kept on fighting to the very end. It is a sad day for us but we are already looking to the future with great excitement about the new 800cc era and the chance to win the title back in 2007. I want to thank all our riders, team staff, sponsors and technical partners for their excellent work this season and, from our behalf, congratulations to Nicky Hayden."

After suffering accidents, technical problems and injuries, Rossi and Camel Yamaha overcame a 51-point deficit within just five rounds to take the title lead heading into the Valencia decider.