Nicky Hayden (Honda) lifted the title after claiming third place behind surprise winner Troy Bayliss and Loris Capirossi (both Ducati), with Rossi recovering to cross the line in 13th place but missing out on the title by just five points.
The fifth lap mishap came after a bad start from Rossi, who looked to be in perfect shape to defend his eight-point advantage going into the race after qualifying on pole position. However, the bad luck that followed the Italian throughout the first half of the season returned to strike its final, decisive blow when the front end of Rossi’s YZR-M1 tucked under braking and sent him spinning into the gravel. Another heroic charge from the defending champion saw him recover seven places and brought him back into the points but it wasn’t enough to hold off Hayden.
The last ever MotoGP race of the 990cc era, before maximum engine capacity is reduced to 800cc in 2007, also proved to be a let-down for Rossi’s Camel Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards. The Texan had shown good pace throughout the weekend but higher track temperatures reaching 43ºC this afternoon did not suit the set-up of his machine and he was unable to reproduce that practice form. After starting tenth on the grid he made up one place to finish ninth, a result that lifted him to seventh in the final championship standings.
COLIN EDWARDS (9th; +26.072)
“Well, obviously that was a disaster from all angles! After two or three laps I lost the front a couple of times but I’m not really sure why. We chose a soft front here but it was the same one as in Motegi and Estoril and it had worked great all weekend here. Today it was quite a lot hotter so maybe that’s what did for us. Basically from then on I couldn’t turn it properly, I had to put it all on the knee and slow right down to turn, otherwise I was going straight on. I was really feeling that I might crash any minute and I had to follow Hopkins for the whole race; without any corner speed I just couldn’t get the jump to pass him. It’s a disappointing end to a difficult season for me. I want to say a huge thank you to my team and everyone at Yamaha for all their work throughout the year; they’ve never given up and I’m sorry that we couldn’t finish on a better note. Bad luck to Valentino, he’s shown once again how good he is this season and I’m sorry for him and for the whole team. It’s all over for another year but we’ll both be back in March with the new bike, ready to get some serious revenge!”
VALENTINO ROSSI (13th; +38.546)
“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. 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!”
DAVIDE BRIVIO – CAMEL YAMAHA TEAM DIRECTOR
“It is normal that the feeling now within the team is one of isappointment 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. 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.”