Sete Gibernau - 2006 Rider Profile
2006 Rider Profiles
Born: 15 December 1972 in Barcelona (Spain)
Marital Status: Single
Height: 1.77 m / 5'10"
Weight: 70 kg / 154 lbs
2006: MotoGP World Championship (Ducati Desmosedici)
2005: 7th - MotoGP World Championship (Honda)
2004: 2nd - MotoGP World Championship (Honda)
2003: 2nd - MotoGP World Championship (Honda)
2002: 16th - MotoGP World Championship (Suzuki)
2001: 9th - 500 World Championship (Suzuki)
2000: 15th - 500 World Championship (Honda)
1999: 5th - 500 World Championship (Honda)
1998: 11th - 500 World Championship (Honda)
1997: 13th - 500 World Championship (Yamaha)
1996: 22nd - 250 World Championship (Honda/Yamaha)
1995: 3rd - 250 Spanish Open Championship (Yamaha)
1994: 5th - 250 Spanish Open Championship (Yamaha)
1993: 3rd - 250 Spanish Open Championship (Yamaha)
1992: European Championship Rider (Honda)
1991: 1st - 125 Spanish Junior Championship (Gilera)
1990: 3rd - Gilera cup, race debut
Sete Gibernau is the most successful Spanish MotoGP rider of his generation. Twice World Championship runner-up and winner of nine MotoGP races over the past few seasons, the 33-year-old opens a new chapter in his career by joining the Ducati MotoGP Team for 2006.
Famed for his lightning-quick speed and impressive aggression, Gibernau has been the only rider to offer a serious title challenge to Valentino Rossi in recent years. Second overall in 2003 and 2004, his speed was undiminished last year but he lacked the luck to turn that swiftness into results. Despite starting 14 of the year's 17 races from the front row of the grid, including five from pole position, he ended up seventh overall after suffering seven DNFs.
Like many of today's MotoGP stars, bike racing is in Gibernau's blood. His grandfather is none other than Don Paco Bulto, founder of the Bultaco motorcycle marque, once famous for its success in the hands of Spanish legend and 13-time World Champion Angel Nieto. And his father once worked as Bultaco's race manager.
So Gibernau grew up surrounded by motorcycles and he rode bikes pretty much every day (he broke a collarbone for the first time aged four!) but unlike many of his MotoGP rivals he didn't begin serious competition until he was an adult. He commenced his roadrace career at the age of 18, having competed in just one other event, a trials event, when he was 12. Gibernau spent his debut 1990 tarmac season contesting the Gilera Cup, a low-cost, one-make series for 125 streetbikes, graduating to a Cagiva Mito the following year, when he won both the Spanish and Catalan Junior 125 titles.
Talent spotters from the official Catalan team were quick to realise his potential and signed the Barcelona teenager to contest the 1992 250 European championship. But if Gibernau thought this was his big break he was in for a rude awakening. Within a matter of months (luckily after he had made his GP debut as a wild card at Jerez) the team lost its sponsor. Suddenly he was struggling to fund his own racing operation; the road to the top is never easy.
But Gibernau's talent had been noticed by others, including racing legend King Kenny Roberts, winner of seven World Championships as a rider and team owner, who was establishing a team to contest the prestigious Spanish Open series. Roberts hired Gibernau for 1993, fielding him alongside his son Kenny Junior in the Team Roberts 250 outfit. Over the next three seasons Gibernau won numerous Open 250 races and learned plenty from King Kenny, who also taught his new protégé the art of dirt track racing on his Californian ranch.
Gibernau's full-time GP career began in 1996, aboard a privateer Honda RS250. But by the end of the season he had won his first factory deal, riding a Yamaha YZR250 for Team Rainey, the squad run by three-time 500 World Champion Wayne Rainey. Impressed by Gibernau's talent and attitude, Rainey promoted him to 500 GPs for 1997. The youngster took a mature and intelligent approach to his premier-class apprenticeship, which paid dividends with steadily improving results, including an excellent sixth place at the season finale.
For 1998 Gibernau switched factories, joining Honda to replace the injured Takuma Aoki. He didn't disappoint his new employers, scoring his first podium finish at Jarama that summer, despite riding an under-powered NSRV500 twin against the faster V4s. Gibernau was awarded NSR V4 power in 1999, following the retirement of five-time champ Mick Doohan, and came within four seconds of achieving his first world-class victory at that year's South African GP. This relentless progress to the very top of his sport stalled briefly in 2000, when his team battled technical problems, and at the end of that year Gibernau was snapped up by the Suzuki factory.
The 2001 season produced Gibernau's long-awaited maiden GP win, achieved in front of a rapturous crowd at Valencia, on a treacherous damp track. He also got close to the podium at Catalunya where he finished less than a second outside third place. In 2002 the premier class underwent a seismic change in technical regulations, aimed at attracting a wider audience to the sport. Most teams embraced the new rules, immediately replacing the screaming 500cc two-strokes that had dominated for decades with faster and more technically advanced 990cc four-strokes. Gibernau and team-mate Kenny Roberts Junior were among the converts but Suzuki had started their new project later than some factories and lagged behind, though Gibernau proved his burgeoning talent by leading the soaking-wet Portuguese GP until a technical gremlin caused him to crash in the final stages.
In 2003 Gibernau finally obtained machinery that allowed him to fully demonstrate the skills he had been acquiring over the years. But his most successful season so far began with tragedy when team-mate Daijiro Kato lost his life after a high-speed crash at Suzuka, Japan. Like most of the paddock Gibernau - who still wears Kato's signature number 74 on his riding kit - was stunned by Kato's death but responded by digging deeper to win two of the next three GPs, in South Africa and France. He went on to score another two victories, in the Netherlands and Germany, and a further six podium finishes to end the season second overall, behind champ Rossi.
Then Gibernau raised his game some more for 2004. He won two of the year's first three GPs, in Spain and France, to lead the World Championship for the first time but two minor tumbles midseason dropped him to second behind arch-rival Rossi. He won a further two GPs, in the Czech Republic and Qatar, to take the runner-up spot once more. During 2003 and 2004 Gibernau had built a reputation for superb speed and consistency, winning eight GPs, taking a total of 17 podiums and scoring no less than six pole positions.
Last year Gibernau was faster than ever and the quickest man in MotoGP, winning the prize for the fastest combined qualifying time from the entire season. But luck seemed to have deserted him. He had victory within his grasp on numerous occasions but was denied by a bizarre run of ill luck - if he didn't have a tyre problem then he ran out of petrol or his engine blew up. Despite this catalogue of misfortune Gibernau kept his head throughout, scoring his fifth pole of the year at the season-ending Valencia GP. But perhaps this period of adversity had encouraged him to seek out new adventures and new motivation. After months of media speculation about which team he would ride for in 2006, Gibernau announced that he was joining the increasingly successful Ducati MotoGP Team.