Troy Bayliss had opened up an early-season lead but Colin Edwards battled back with several straight wins to lead the series by a single point before the final races at Imola. Fittingly, it is said the Imola track is built on the site of an ancient Roman chariot track.
Bayliss, especially, arrived in San Marino in “win or crash” mode, since a win could mean the championship while even if he crashed, he could finish no lower than second overall. Edwards won the first race, which will go down in history as one of the closest and hardest fought races of all time. That meant that he could win the championship by safely staying behind Bayliss in the second race. He earned the respect of racing fans around the world by risking everything to win that race, too.