“It's our last chance of the season”
Both Repsol Honda Team riders are relishing the chance of finishing the 2007 season in winning style this weekend as the Grand Prix of Valencia takes place Sunday.
A vibrant atmosphere is assured at the tradition season curtain-closer
with huge numbers of fervent Spanish motorcycle fans once again expected to pack the vast grandstands that border the 4.005km (2.487 miles) Valencia circuit.
Nicky Hayden is relishing his return to the scene of his extraordinary World Championship victory last year. Few can forget the emotional conclusion to the spectacular 2006 season where the American overturned an eight-point deficit to Valentino Rossi and clinched his first world title. While 2007 hasn't gone to plan for Hayden, he has regained front-running pace in recent races and that, combined with his confidence at the Valencia circuit, should make him a real threat this weekend. The 26-year-old likes Valencia and has a good recent record here, having finished second in 2005 and third last year.
Dani Pedrosa comes to the third Grand Prix of the season on Spanish soil still in with a slim mathematical chance of taking second place in the MotoGP World Championship. The Repsol Honda star lies 24 points behind Valentino Rossi, with 25 points available for the win. The single point earned for 15th place would be enough for Rossi to fend off his rival, but it's certain Pedrosa will be aiming for victory in front of his home fans to keep the possibility of second place alive.
The 22-year-old from Barcelona has claimed pole position for the three races running up to Valencia and was on the podium in Malaysia two weeks ago. His record at Valencia is excellent, having taken the race win, pole position and fastest race lap on three previous occasions – in 2004 and 2005 in the 250cc class and in 2002 on the 125cc machine. Pedrosa also still holds the 250cc lap record at Valencia – set in 2005.
There are certainly more challenging and scenic circuits on the MotoGP calendar than Valencia, but its status as the final race of the season combined with the jubilant atmosphere generated by the vast and passionate race-day crowd guarantees that the Grand Prix of Valencia is a special occasion. Last year's attendance for the weekend was a stunning 233,399 fans, with 129,466 of those witnessing Hayden's ride to the world title on race day. Largely characterised by tight second and third gear corners, the left-handed track keeps the MotoGP riders busy as they thread their 210+ bhp machines through Valencia's relentless sequence of turns.
The race weekend begins on Friday with two hour-long practice sessions, before a further hour of practice on Saturday morning is following by qualifying in the afternoon. Sunday's 30-lap race begins at 2pm local time (1pm UK time).
“Valencia is a home track for me and the atmosphere is always very special because of this, and also because it's the final race of the season. The motivation of everyone will be very high as it's the last chance to get a good result and finish the year on a high – and certainly my target will to win here, and also to enjoy the weekend. We've had great potential in recent races but usually one area or another has given us a problem, so I hope that this weekend everything can come together and we can get the reward I believe we deserve. The track layout itself is not one of my favourites of the year but I seem to have gone well here in the past and it's a circuit that I have a lot of confidence at. Combined with the welcome from the crowd, this makes it a really special occasion for me and I'm very much looking forward to the race. Let's hope we can give the fans something to cheer about.”
“Well here we are on our way to Valencia and I can't quite believe it's the last race of the year. I'm really looking forward to this weekend but actually I'm not that happy the season is nearly over because we've had decent pace in the last few races and in some ways I wish the season was starting again, not ending. Obviously the season hasn't gone exactly as I'd have liked and I wish there was some more races to go. Nonetheless, I'm really looking forward to going back to Valencia because the circuit has a special place in my heart with everything that went down there last year. On top of that I just like the track and the way it's laid out in such a tight area. It's a track I've gone well at in the past and certainly it's our last chance of the season so we'll try to go out with style. It'll be my last race with the number one plate this year so I'll definitely be pushing as hard as always. To be honest I can't wait for the weekend to begin.”