Rossi became only the third rider in history to win the premier-class title on five occasions, emulating the achievements of Mick Doohan and Giacomo Agostini and adding to his championships in the 125cc and 250cc classes. Now a seven-time World Champion, Rossi marked the achievement by wearing a t-shirt bearing the famous number 7 worn by the legendary Barry Sheene and launched into a riotous celebration with his fan club, dressed as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to commemorate the occasion. The Italian secured the championship with four races to spare thanks largely to the swift action of his mechanics, who resolved a series of tyre and set-up problems during this morning’s warm-up session and allowed him to charge from seventh on the grid to a sensational second place behind eventual winner Loris Capirossi (Ducati). Rossi’s Gauloises Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards finished in tenth place after struggling with front set-up problems all weekend.
VALENTINO ROSSI (2nd - + 1.999)
“I am very happy because I gave more than 100% in the race today. We have been in trouble all weekend and this morning I wasn’t sure if I would finish on the podium. But I got a good start and rode a clever race whilst other riders seemed nervous and made mistakes. Little by little I moved to the front and I felt comfortable with the bike. I passed Hayden and then swapped positions with Capirossi a couple of times. In the last seven laps he changed gear and I couldn’t go with him. Anyway, 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!”
COLIN EDWARDS (10th – +22.275)
“We made the same mistake as we did in the first round at Jerez, but in reverse. This morning we went to a different construction front tyre and we fixed the problem we had but then the balance of the bike wasn’t right and we didn’t have time to sort it out. The rear was sitting way too low and started to go quite early in the race. From then on it was a case of survival. At least we know where we went wrong and I’m really looking forward to Qatar because I had a great race there. I want to say congratulations to Valentino because he’s done an awesome job this year.”
JEREMY BURGESS – ROSSI’S CREW CHIEF
“Obviously the situation in Motegi meant that the celebrations were put off for a week but now we can celebrate. 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?”