Valentino Rossi made history and gave the MotoGP season a dream start by beating rival Max Biaggi to the chequered flag in a closely-contested African Grand Prix in Welkom on Sunday.

Valentino Rossi made history and gave the MotoGP season a dream start by beating rival Max Biaggi to the chequered flag in a closely-contested African Grand Prix in Welkom on Sunday.

Piloting his new machine and starting from pole position, Rossi managed the unthinkable by securing Yamaha's first MotoGP win since 2002. The Italian also became the first rider to win consecutive premier-class races with different manufacturers.

As the red lights went out, Rossi led the field into the first turn. After the opening laps, Rossi, Biaggi and Sete Gibernau - both astride Hondas - edged away from the rest of the pack.

Gibernau made the first definitive move of the race when he passed Biaggi, whose Honda had lost momentum in an unsuccessful attempt to pass Rossi. But Biaggi, known as the Roman Emperor, had his revenge a lap later when he retook second place.

As the trio pushed their machines to their limits, Gibernau, despite fleeting appearances in second spot, was unable to keep up with the blistering pace set by Biaggi and Rossi at the front, and slowly started slipping back.

At that stage, the race became an all-out battle between Rossi and Biaggi, and Yamaha and Honda, with neither giving the other any opportunity to dominate the race.

In the tension filled arena of Phakisa Freeway, Biaggi's Honda narrowly avoided a collision with Rossi's blue Yamaha when the two riders swopped the lead of the race.

Seemingly better on acceleration, Biaggi's Honda did appear to be slower through the tighter sections of the track. This did not deter him as his top speed and tidy nature allowed him to edge ahead of the sliding Yamaha in front of him.

Unwilling to let Biaggi claim the lead, Rossi steeled himself as The Emperor performed some aggressive moves to pass the Yamaha wherever possible and with six laps to go, Biaggi thundered past the leader on the back straight.

And with both hurtling about the circuit at break-neck speeds, Rossi performed the late in the penultimate lap performing a move that would eventually win him the race.

By diving deep on the brakes entering a slow right-hander, Rossi pushed Biaggi wide just two turns ahead of the line and at the start of the last lap was a half-length ahead.

Both riders pulled out all the stops and though Rossi couldn't manage to pull away from the Honda, the latter was not able to get near enough for one last lunge at the first spot. Beating off the attack, Rossi celebrated as he crossed the line and handed Yamaha its first victory in years.

After the spectacle, Rossi said: "It's difficult to explain what I'm feeling at this moment. This race, this weekend, has been one of the best of my career. I rode very well over the three days and the race was very, very good - a great show - a great battle with Max. It was perfect; a great start, a good rhythm and then some good overtaking."

Biaggi commented: "The pace was very fast and I was riding well but in the last section of the track I always had a problem. We tried to fix it before the race but we couldn't so I had to ride over the problem. I tried my best, but it wasn't enough because Rossi was very, very fast in this place but it was very close. Honda has made a good effort, giving us the new chassis, so I'm sure we'll be back very, very soon."

Just over seven seconds behind the two Italians, Gibernau claimed the third spot, far ahead of Barros and Hayden, his fellow Honda riders. The other Yamaha riders finished in the ninth (Abe), tenth (Checa) and eleventh (Melandri) places.

Disappointing perhaps for the other teams was that the expected challenges from Hayden and Edwards were absent as the top two fought it out.

Original article from Car