The reigning World Champion stalked Sete Gibernau (Honda) for almost the entire race, passing him for the first time two laps from the end but allowing the Spaniard back in front with a mistake halfway through the final circulation.
The pair diced their way through the decisive series of fast right-handers in the second half of the lap before Rossi demonstrated that he has talent and determination in equally abundant measures with a brave pass on the brakes into the final left-hand hairpin.
The Italian's effort was particularly special thanks to the hard work put in by the Gauloises Yamaha Team engineers and staff, who worked against the clock to find the ideal set-up for his YZR-M1 after an uncharacteristic crash in this morning's warm-up.
Meanwhile, Rossi's Gauloises Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards kept his promise of passing as many riders as possible after starting from 15th on the grid. The American made steady progress despite the dusty track surface, making overtaking precarious anywhere off the racing line, eventually sealing ninth place on his Yamaha MotoGP debut.
VALENTINO ROSSI, 1st (Race time - 45’43.156; Fastest lap - 1’40.496)
"That was an amazing race, an incredible victory and really difficult, especially after the fall I had this morning in the warm-up. Luckily I wasn't hurt and the team did a great job to fix the problem and set up my other bike for the race. Gibernau set a fast pace from the start but I just tried to stay with him and then attacked at the end. I got in front but I made a mistake on the last lap on the braking and Gibernau got past. We passed each other again in the fast rights but I got a better exit and there was enough space for me to pass him in the final corner, it was the only place where I could pass. We touched but motorbike races are sometimes like this. I know Sete is not happy but there are going to be 16 more races this year and there will be many more hard battles. The level of this race was really high."
COLIN EDWARDS, 9th (Race time - 46’20.764; Fastest lap - 1’41.596)
"The setting we found for the bike at the tests and during qualifying didn't seem to work after the change in conditions, and with the wind and the dust this morning we decided to make some adjustments. We basically went back to the base setting we'd found at the Phillip Island and Catalunya tests but it didn't work in the way we had hoped. It was a difficult race, it was hard for me to get any traction down. Despite that I was in the fight for sixth until another rider sneaked past on the inside and I lost touch with the group I was following. We were searching for something and didn't find it but we've learnt a lot as a team this weekend. Now we have to move on and put this lesson to good use at Estoril."
JEREMY BURGESS – ROSSI'S CREW CHIEF
"In spite of the problems we had this morning, everything came good for the race – especially Valentino. He rode very intelligently behind Gibernau and then passed him at the end. He opened out 0.3 seconds in the first section and looked comfortable but he made a small mistake, which set up a brilliant finale. It's a great start to the year for us – pole position, a new lap record and the race win. We couldn't ask for more."