A historic and incident-packed Grand Prix
Michelin riders dominated Sunday afternoon's incident-packed Portuguese Grand Prix, taking the top five finishing positions.
With one round remaining only two riders can now win the 2006 MotoGP crown and they are both Michelin
men – Valentino Rossi (Camel Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin), who finished second on Sunday, and Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin), who DNFed.
The race was won by first-time MotoGP winner Toni Elias (Fortuna Honda RC211V-Michelin) who beat reigning champ Rossi by two thousandths of a second. Kenny Roberts Junior (Team Roberts KR211V-Michelin) finished third a further 0.174 seconds behind. All three riders chose different compound Michelin slicks, Elias choosing a medium rear, Rossi a hard rear and Roberts Junior a soft rear.
"Our riders were able to dominate this weekend," said Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "We had the top five places in qualifying and the top five in the race, well ahead of our rivals. Our tyres' performance and consistency were very good, Toni riding his fastest lap on lap 20, and the race for the lead was one of the most entertaining this year. Toni rode some great races earlier this season but then he got injured at Assen. We didn't expect him to win here after he qualified 11th. But it's funny, at Sepang one of the TV channels did interviews with some of our riders, all of them wearing Michelin podium caps. After Toni had finished his he gave back his cap and told me he wanted me to give it back to him when he got his first MotoGP podium.
He really deserved the win and the cap too!"
"The race wasn't easy for anyone because conditions were much cooler today, though Kenny was the only top guy to change his tyre choice after morning warm- up," he added. "I feel very sorry for Nicky. Today's race proved once again that anything can happen at any time in bike racing. The last race at Valencia will be very exciting, the title won't be decided until the chequered flag."
Former 125 and 250 GP winner Elias was ecstatic after passing Rossi just a few metres before the finishing line for one of the closest-ever finishes in premier-class racing. The 23-year-old Spaniard came through from eighth on the first lap to battle for the lead with Rossi, Roberts and Colin Edwards (Camel Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) who finished fourth, just 0.864 seconds behind Elias. Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V-Michelin) finished fifth, his best result of the year.
"This is a dream I have dreamed many times," said Elias. "I had never led a MotoGP race before, so I was a little nervous in the last laps with two World Champions right behind me. When Valentino passed me at the chicane on the last lap I concentrated very hard on the last corner and I had good grip, so I could pass him on the way to the finish line. My thanks to Honda and to Michelin."
This race will also be remembered for a lap five incident in which Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) crashed at Turn Six, taking team-mate Hayden with him. Hayden had gone into this race 12 points ahead of Rossi, now he goes to the final round at Valencia eight points in areas. This is the first time since 1992 that the premier- class crown has gone down to the final race.
Press Release Michelin