The 990cc MotoGP era was dominated by Valentino Rossi but there was one man who chased him harder than anyone. Sete Gibernau took four wins in both 2003 and 2004 to clinch the runners-up spot behind Rossi and was ready to try and go one better in 2005. An increasingly bitter feud was starting to develop between the two though after an incident at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix in October 2004.
Rossi, along with Max Biaggi, were relegated to the back of the grid after cleaning their grid slots illegally. Both respective teams had used their own scooter to do burnouts on the grid hatchings to give their riders better grip off the line and Rossi felt it was Gibernau that reported the offence to the stewards. True or otherwise, Valentino wouldn't forget the incident and declared that Gibernau would never win another race.
It was a bold prediction and one that would be put under serious threat at Jerez, host of the opening round of the 2005 MotoGP season. Rossi was the sole Yamaha rider in the top 12 but in a show of his brilliance, he'd stuck the YZR-M1 on pole. Gibernau was right alongside him with Marco Melandri an excellent third on the second Movistar Gresini Honda.
Sete stormed off the start line and was ahead of Rossi as they braked for turn one but the World Champion dived up the inside of him. Rossi ran wide, allowing Gibernau through and a few corners later, Nicky Hayden pushed him down to third. The American held P2 for four laps before Rossi responded, taking the place back at the Dry Sack hairpin. The American valiantly hung on to the tail of the leading duo but with seven laps to go, he lost the front of his Honda under braking for the final corner. Hayden's superb ride was over and the top two were left to scrap it out at the front.
Gibernau's lead lasted all the way until the end of lap 25, just over two from the finish, where Rossi lunged up the inside of him at the final corner. As he'd done so many times before, Valentino put the hammer down and attempted to escape but the last lap would bring an unexpected twist.
As Rossi hit the brakes for the Dry Sack hairpin, the Yamaha squirmed underneath him and continued past the apex of the corner. Gibernau capitalised and swept around the outside of Rossi into turn seven, regaining the lead. Rossi's confidence looked to have turned into desperation and he made a move at turn 11, only to lose the lead again at the next corner. Only one turn remained, the left-handed hairpin, turn 13.
Gibernau defended but Rossi wouldn't be denied and charged up the inside. Gibernau wouldn't give an inch and the two collided, sending Sete into the gravel trap. Rossi rode on to claim a controversial victory while his rival, along with the sell-out crowd, were furious with second. Despite their protestations, the victory stood.
It's amazing when you look through sporting history at certain incidents, and wonder how differently things might have turned out. Rossi would go from strength to strength, winning another 36 races to take his championship haul in the premier class to seven.
On the other hand, Gibernau's career never recovered. After his defeat in Jerez, Sete never won another Grand Prix, just as Rossi predicted.
2005 Gran Premio Marlboro de Espana – Race Classification (27 Laps)
|1||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha||Gauloises Yamaha Team||45:43.156|
|2||Sete Gibernau||Honda||Movistar Honda MotoGP||+8.631|
|3||Marco Melandri||Honda||Movistar Honda MotoGP||+18.460|
|4||Alex Barros||Honda||Camel Honda||+26.938|
|5||Shinya Nakano||Kawasaki||Kawasaki Racing Team||+27.659|
|6||Troy Bayliss||Honda||Camel Honda||+28.509|
|7||Max Biaggi||Honda||Repsol Honda Team||+30.618|
|8||Makoto Tamada||Honda||JIR Konica Minolta Honda||+36.887|
|9||Colin Edwards||Yamaha||Gauloises Yamaha Team||+37.608|
|10||Carlos Checa||Ducati||Ducati Marlboro Team||+39.678|
|11||Alex Hoffman||Kawasaki||Kawasaki Racing Team||+42.283|
|12||Toni Elias||Yamaha||Fortuna Yamaha Team||+55.457|
|13||Loris Capirossi||Ducati||Ducati Marlboro Team||+1:02.372|
|14||John Hopkins||Suzuki||Team Suzuki MotoGP||+1:19.346|
|15||Roberto Rolfo||Ducati||D'Antin MotoGP – Pramac||+1:33.607|
|16||James Ellison||Blata||Blata WCM||+1 Lap|
|17||Franco Battaini||Blata||Blata WCM||+1 Lap|
|18||Ruben Xaus||Yamaha||Fortuna Yamaha Team||+3 Laps|
|Nicky Hayden||Honda||Repsol Honda Team||+7 Laps|
|Kenny Roberts||Suzuki||Team Suzuki MotoGP||+16 Laps|
|Shane Byrne||Proton KR||Team Roberts||+25 Laps|