Sete Gibernau, born December 15, 1972, in Barcelona, is the perpetual underdog in the World Motorcycle Championship, notorious for being the pretty much the only rider ever to be able to stand up to Valentino Rossi in terms of race performances.
He comes from a family of motorcycle-manufacturers, his grandfather, Francisco Xavier "Paco" Bultó was the founder of the “Bultaco” motorcycle company.
In his early days as a motorcycle rider he competed in many different bike categories racing mainly motorbikes built by his uncle, Don Paco Bultó, - then in charge of “Bultaco”.
1996 was the year he felt he was ready to move on to something bigger. Supported by Wayne Rainey he got a ride on a 250cc Yamaha in the World Motorcycle Championship.
In 1997 he moved up to 500cc, as third rider for the Repsol Honda team, manning the last two cylinder machine Honda ran through 1997 and 1998.
Being perpetually hindered by the handicap presented by his bike, I remember he used to shine during wet races. Something magical happened with Sete whenever it rained, and it didn’t take long for the Honda team bosses to notice.
In 1999, when Mick Doohan, Quick Mick, the ultimate Number One of the team was injured he got picked to fill in for him. It was a good year for Gibernau, however he failed to deliver in the following (2000) season, thus the team no longer felt they needed his services.
He moved on to Suzuki for the 2001 and 2002 seasons, however this move seemed more like it was killing the little spirit that was left in him after the demoralizing 2000 season with Honda (when he finished 15th after a promising 5th position in the previous season) Nobody expected anything from him when he signed for Fausto Gresini’s Movistar Honda for the upcoming 2003 season.
2003, however, would prove to be the year he’d forever engrave his name into motorcycling history.
Despite a disastrous start of the season for the team, which lost its no.1 rider in Suzuka in the season-opening race, teammate Daijiro Katoh’s death seemed to bring out something not only wonderful but also a bit scary in the spiritual Spanish rider.
He started seriously winning races and soon he emerged as a real contender for the championship title.
Valentino Rossi, however, had other plans for the title and he denied the Spaniard a well deserved championship.
2004 was a controversial year. Rossi had moved to Yamaha and this - in many people’s opinion - gave the green light for Sete to finally secure his much-craved championship victory.
It was no to happen though. The perpetual underdog was probably not comfortable being the fav. A regrettable incident he had with Valentino Rossi also cast further shadow over the season. Word has it Gibernau insisted that Rossi be penalized when the latter’s crew laid down extra rubber on his starting position in Quatar. As a result Rossi and a few other riders got sent to the back of the pack and - though this is probably just press-hype - Rossi cast a jinks on his rival.
Sure enough Sete didn’t mange a single race win following that.
For 2006 Gibernau joined Ducati to team with the experienced Loris Capirossi. Ducati probably felt that the Spanish rider -well known for his dexterity on precarious surfaces- was the one they needed to tame the hardly rideable Desmosedici.
Whatever the future has in store for this outstanding rider, I hope one day he’ll be able to achieve a championship title, a prize often so close to his grasp, but one that to this day managed to elude him.