Valentino Rossi claimed the MotoGP championship lead in only his sixth race outing for Yamaha after winning an epic last-lap battle with Honda’s Sete Gibernau in Holland.

Valentino Rossi claimed the MotoGP championship lead in only his sixth race outing for Yamaha after winning an epic last-lap battle with Honda’s Sete Gibernau in Holland.

Carlos Checa took an early lead in the grand prix held at Holland's Assen circuit on Saturday, but became ensnared in the field after less than a lap. As he slipped into the field, Gibernau and Rossi positioned themselves at the top of the field.

There was a brief change in the order when Alex Barros bumped Rossi into third place with 10 laps to go. But after another pass by Rossi and a Barros repass, the Honda rider crashed out moments later at the end of the straight.

Barros' stint in second place did help to widen the gap between the front two; a gap which Gibernau was able to sustain until the last lap. However, a fearless overtaking manoeuvre by the Italian proved to be the deciding move in the race.

While diving inside Gibernau in a tight right-hander, the riders made contact as Rossi almost lost he front of his M1. With nowhere to go, Gibernau punched his front mudguard into the rear of Rossi's machine, allowing Rossi the advantage in the final charge for the flag.

"I'm sure Sete is pretty angry right now but it was a great, great battle", Rossi commented after the race. "At the start of the race I could follow Sete quite easily but when the tyres started to go off it was really hard. I lost control of the bike a few times but luckily I could hang on and take the win, which is very important for the championship."

Runner-up Gibernau said: "We've had another good race, aside from the fact that I am obviously annoyed because I wanted to win. I had a good chance right until the end but we touched on the last lap - Valentino explained that he almost fell and, if that's the case, then there's nothing for me to say. These things happen in racing. We had a good battle in another great race".

Rossi's win means both he and Gibernau are level with 126 points, though Rossi leads the championship by virtue of race wins. After the latest successes, the Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team leads the teams' championship, and Yamaha also leads the manufacturers' table.

Davide Brivio, Gauloise Fortuna Yamaha team director, said: "It's another victory for us but Valentino is able to make every victory different. Here we are with four wins in six races, we now share the points lead with Gibernau, but we lead the constructors' and team's classifications. Unfortunately, we could not continue that success with Carlos, who had some problems with the settings. So we have to work even harder to put Carlos back on the podium as soon as possible."