Rossi takes world title with win number eight in Australia


Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha) secured the 2004 Riders MotoGP Championship today at Phillip Island after winning an intense 27-lap battle with his main championship rival Sete Gibernau (Honda). The win gives Yamaha its first title in the premier class since 1992, and Rossi has now won more victories in one season than any Yamaha rider in history.

Rossi reduced Gibernau’s long-term lead from 1.195 seconds to almost nothing on the seventh lap of the 4.448km Island track. On lap 19 Rossi made a successful move up the inside at the first corner, but could not shake Gibernau immediately. Gibernau then re-passed him on the first corner of lap 23.

Rossi, determined to be champion in true style, overtook again before Gibernau pushed to the front at Honda corner, as Rossi ran wide. The decisive move came when Rossi made a seemingly impossible and final pass on the inside going back into the entrance of Lukey Heights. He held on to take a magnificent victory, by 0.097seconds, and his fourth premier class title.

Aside from Rossi, in the 55-year history of Grand Prix racing only three riders, Giacomo Agostini, Mick Doohan and Mike Hailwood have won four or more consecutive premier class titles. Only six riders before Rossi have scaled the heights of taking four premier class titles throughout their entire careers.

Rossi’s team-mate Carlos Checa finished in tenth after his own tough battle around the challenging Phillip Island circuit. Checa, fighting his way past the middle order, was 11th on lap 13, involved in a personal duel with his fellow Catalan Ruben Xaus (Ducati) for most of the race. He was a clear tenth, having been boxed in on the first lap from a fifth row grid position.

Fortuna Gauloises Tech3 riders Marco Melandri and Norick Abe had troubled races here in the seaside sunshine. Marco was forced to retire from the race on lap 16 with an eye problem that seriously impaired his vision. Abe finished 17th.

Norick had been struggling all weekend to achieve a machine set-up that he felt comfortable with over the demanding 4.4km of Phillip Island. But despite frenzied efforts from a dedicated crew, the Japanese never felt at home here in the race.

Marco had been having trouble with his left eye this morning and after swift treatment from the Clinica Mobile staff, the tough Italian elected to race. But the trouble flared up again in the early laps of the race and rather than risk crashing, he wisely chose to return to his pit garage.

The final round of the championship takes place at Valencia on October 31, with the present championship table featuring Rossi on 279 points, Gibernau on 244 and Max Biaggi (Honda) on 197.

Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha) first
“Today was a fantastic finish to a fantastic championship. This track is great and today there was a hard battle up until the last lap. In some parts I was faster than Gibernau and some other places slower. I was sure of my feeling on the bike though. I made a bit of a bad start but wanted to stick with Sete. I managed to pass him early on in the race but he came back, and then at the end it became a great battle again. The last lap was a lot of fun for everybody watching it. I want to say thanks to everyone who has worked so hard, to Yamaha and all my team. It was fantastic, thank you. I think this year has been my best championship winning year.”

Carlos Checa (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha) tenth
“The start was difficult because there were so many bikes in front, so I had to close the throttle, and then lost some places. This was a race I was never going to win. I knew that from the beginning as I was starting from the back. If I had had a better start I would have been able to stay with the second group. I had good fun sometimes with Xaus and that made it more interesting. Riding alone is not so exciting, especially in tenth position. I am looking forward to having a better race in Valencia.”

Davide Brivio, Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha team director
“This is like a dream come true for us all. Like a movie with the best-ever storyline. If we wrote a script it could not have been better or more exciting. It was a hard job for all our engineers and Yamaha took a big commitment supporting Valentino in this challenge. This was also a big motivation for everyone and our engineers were obviously just waiting for the opportunity to show what they can do.”

Jeremy Burgess, Valentino Rossi’s crew chief
“The target was the championship and we’ve got it. We made a decision after the warm-up to change the bike and run a harder rear tyre. I think it was vindicated by the win. I think we always expect to win but you have to win enough races to win a championship. We approached it one race at a time and it has been a very good year.”

Norick Abe (Fortuna Gauloises Tech3) 17th
“A tough race. This has been a bad weekend. We tried so many things to try and solve the rear traction problems and even the front-end wasn’t good until this morning. We tried a new rear setting for this afternoon, but it didn’t work. I was sliding and bouncing around all race long.”

Marco Melandri (Fortuna Gauloises Tech3) DNF
“The bike was okay, but after a lap and a half of the race my eye began to play up. I couldn’t focus and couldn’t judge distance properly. I hung on as long as I could, but it was getting worse and I just had to stop.”

Hervé Poncharal, Fortuna Gauloises Tech3 team director
“This is a great day for Yamaha. All the teams feel involved and we’re as happy for Valentino as if he were our own rider. Shame about Marco because an eye problem is never good and he was riding well. Norick just couldn’t get his weekend together here and that sometimes happens. We’ll hope for better in Valencia.”