Who said Valentino Rossi was just a racer? All through the 2004 season, the charismatic MotoGP World Champion's qualifying performances demonstrated that he could also ride against the clock. In fact, the London-based Italian was so consistently quick that he has won the 2004 BMW MotoGP Best Qualifier Award.
Rossi's cumulative qualifying time for this year's championship was 29 minutes, 24.225 seconds. This came from adding together the qualifying times from each round and included the official MotoGP winter test session in March.
Along with his sixth world title trophy, Rossi was presented with a brand-new BMW 645Ci (worth ?80,000) at the end-of-season FIM Awards ceremony in Valencia.
The smiling Italian, who never seems to tire of winning, said: "My motivation for this season was very high to win with my new team, and I have come out as the winner. It is fantastic. Maybe I will have to build another garage for my new car!"
Rossi was only 0.963 seconds ahead of arch rival Sete Gibernau - who finished second in the 2004 MotoGP championship. Rossi, riding the M1 Yamaha, broke many records and rewrote the GP history books this season with eight wins and five pole positions (leading up to the Valencia round). The undoubted highlight of which was to become the first rider ever to win back-to-back races on different makes of machine.
Rossi was fastest in the official MotoGP winter test, in March, where he also won a BMW Z4 2.2i worth ?35,000. However, no one expected the 25-year-old to run away with the series, even though Gibernau, Biaggi and Tamada all won races, and six different riders clinched pole positions. Rossi qualified on pole for the opening race of the year in South Africa, wrong-footing his rivals right at the start, and was never headed in the battle for the BMW 645 Ci.
Last year Rossi also won the BMW Best Qualifier Award and on that occasion he collecting a BMW Z4 by finishing 4.7 seconds ahead of Max Biaggi. This means the Italian now owns (at least) THREE BMW cars!
BMW staged the last-ever BMW Motorrad International BoxerCup race (after the MotoGP) in front of 120,000 spectators who packed Valencia's grandstands from before sunrise. Thomas Hinterrieter won the title and was presented with the prize of a brand new BMW M3. The YoungStars award went to BMW Motorrad GB's Richard Cooper who received a brand-new MINI Cooper (no relation!).
BMW's support of motorcycling's premier sporting even didn't end there. The German company also supplied the safety cars at each round of the MotoGP series. These included the 745, 645Ci and M3 CSL cars. The final weekend also saw the brand new M5 take to the track when many of the MotoGP riders grabbed the opportunity to lap the circuit in the powerful V10, 507hp car.
The 17-race 2005 season starts in Jerez, Spain on April 10th with a schedule that includes a return to Laguna Seca in the USA, and a debut Grand Prix in China at the Shanghai circuit.