Rossi’s team-mate Carlos Checa had an eventful sign-off race for the Factory team, with which he has ridden for six years. The Spaniard crashed out, remounted, and finally fought hard for a 14th place finish and two championship points. These were sufficient for Checa to keep seventh place in the championship overall.
After his difficult start Rossi immediately set about reducing the margin of advantage enjoyed by early leader Tamada, and on lap six he made a determined inside pass to lead the race for the first time. A gritty duel between the pairing saw Tamada pass on turn one of lap seven, leading the ranks ahead of Rossi, Nicky Hayden (Honda) and Biaggi. To the rapture of the 211,000-strong crowd, Rossi went back into a final leading position with a pass on the entrance to the last chicane.
Rossi and Checa’s combined season efforts on track, and the behind-the-scenes labour of their crews and Yamaha’s engineers, delivered the Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha squad the Teams’ Championship, with a total of 421 points.
VALENTINO ROSSI (1st, 47’16.145s)
“To win nine races has been unbelievable for everybody and we also won the team award, which was not so bad either! The finish of the season was perfect for us, three in a row. It was more difficult for me today than in Sepang and Phillip Island because I find this track worse than them. I slid at the start and lost some time but after two or three laps I was able to recover. Tamada was looking very strong, and I had a tough fight with him until he slowed and dropped back. My rhythm improved and I was able to push 100% to the end. Then there was a fight with Biaggi behind, and he was very strong. It is unbelievable to win here, and wonderful in front of this crowd. This year really has been unforgettable for me, my mechanics and Yamaha.”
CARLOS CHECA (14th, 48’24.187s)
“I couldn’t quite go at the speed of some of the other riders and I think I pushed the front too hard and then fell. I got restarted because even though the bike wasn’t perfect after the crash I wanted to get some points for the team championship. It was good because I also scored enough points to keep seventh place in the table. This was my last race with Yamaha so quite an emotional day, and now I will start a new era.”
DAVIDE BRIVIO - TEAM DIRECTOR
“I don’t need to say too much about what this year means because it is obvious. We won the first race and the last race and nine races in total. We were first in the riders’ championship and the teams’ championship, and won the qualifying competition. It is difficult to imagine anything better. We have to say thank you to Valentino, and to all the team and engineers for the fantastic job. They should all feel proud to have been part of this project this year. Also thanks to Carlos because even if he fell off, he got back on and fought all the way, as he knew that the points he scored were important to all of us. We wish him well for his future.”
JEREMY BURGESS – VALENTINO ROSSI’S CREW CHIEF
“I have to say that we didn’t expect to have to win so many races to win the championship but it turned out that way, due to a couple of tumbles and finishes off the podium. We had to get as many points as we could so we had to win as many races as we could. Now we can look forward to next year.”