the day MotoGP surrendered at the feet of Valentino Rossi

Today, April 18, 2024, it has been exactly 20 years since one of the historic moments that the MotoGP era has brought us. But it is also one of the most important milestones in Valentino Rossi's sporting career.

We travel back in time to April 18, 2004. That day and against all odds, Valentino Rossi defeated Max Biaggi. The rivalry between the two was at its peak, but that marked a before and after in the distribution of power, both between them and between Honda and Yamaha.

But let's go a little further back. MotoGP had arrived in 2002 but in a somewhat decaffeinated way, with the majority of the grid on two-stroke bikes and only 6 riders (at the beginning of the year) on the new four-strokes. Of those two drivers, Valentino Rossi was the fastest and most effective and Honda's supremacy was evident, so he took the title. And in 2003, although almost the entire grid already had the new four-strokes, Valentino once again swept the Honda.

The back and forth about Rossi winning because of the bike he had and not because of his talent ended up precipitating a completely unexpected leap. And by 2004, Valentino Rossi had signed for Yamaha. They say that the deal was closed under a table in a furtive meeting, but that is another story.

The important thing is that at that time, the Honda was indisputably the best bike on the grid, while the Yamaha was far behind. Conceptually they had nothing to do with each other, and neither in terms of performance, so the balance of power in recent years, despite the fact that Yamaha had not won a title since 1992, had been completely broken. Nobody was betting on Yamaha when Valentino did.

Then 2003 ended with Valentino winning in Valencia and closing his time at Honda, which contractually prohibited him from getting on the bike until January 1, 2004. So we can say that Yamaha had lost the winter by not having the instructions of Valentino Rossi and, therefore, the chances of winning that April 18, 2004.

Biaggi and Gibernau accompanied him on the podium

And on April 18, 2004, the unexpected happened.

Luckily for us, motorcycling is a sport in which there are many factors at play, and at the dawn of MotoGP the human side had even more capabilities to make a difference.

It must be remembered that there were two qualifiers at that time, one on Friday and the other on Saturday. But there was already the feeling that Valentino could do magic because he achieved pole, before a swarm of Hondas behind who could not help but bow down, given the speed one lap behind the Italian.

With Rossi in the first position on the grid, the race started and things were even more complicated for Valentino there. He was watched for much of the race by Biaggi, who seemed to be lying in wait, waiting for his moment. Max even went on to lead the race for several laps, but he saved his maximum attack for the end.

They fought with everything until the last lap, until the last corner, until the finish line itself, with Rossi overtaking Max in a maneuver in which it was clear that Rossi was going for everything.

As we have said, Valentino won the race and had that moment that was immortalized by the cameras and that had both a feeling and a warning to sailors, but he also took the title at the end of the year and the same thing happened in 2005.

Then came two difficult years in which he could not win the title, but in 2008 and 2009 he did. And later came the three titles of Lorenzo and that of Fabio Quartararo that followed, in some way, the line set by Valentino.

Thanks to that race on April 18, 2004, the best of his career according to Vale himself, the dynamics of MotoGP changed and the Yamaha M1 went from being an ugly duckling to the most desired. Now, again, the M1 is an ugly duckling. But remember that sometimes they turn into swans…

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