Valencia : Camel Yamaha - Preview
One of the most exciting seasons in the history of the MotoGP World Championship reaches an intense climax next weekend as Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden (Honda) go head-to- head for the title in a final-round shootout at Valencia. The
amphitheatre-style surroundings of the Ricardo Tormo circuit on the outskirts of the Spanish city provide the perfect stage for the ultimate instalment of a 17-round epic that began on the Iberian peninsular in less than perfect fashion for Camel Yamaha rider Rossi nine months ago.
Since being knocked from his bike in the first corner of the first race at Jerez, the Italian has been through virtually every emotion known to a motorcycle racer. A dramatically unpredictable season of twists and turns has seen Rossi visit the gravel traps, the hospital and the top step of the podium in almost equal measures, with technical problems also robbing him of vital points in the first half of the season. However, since finding himself a massive 51 points behind Hayden after round eleven at Laguna Seca, the five-time World Champion has shown his true colours with a string of five consecutive podium finishes.
His latest, second place in the Grand Prix of Portugal at Estoril, coupled with a crash for Hayden, finally lifted him above the American to the top of the standings for the first time this season and opened up an eight-point gap between the pair with one round to go. It means that for the first time in fourteen seasons the destiny of the MotoGP World Championship will be decided in the final round, with the drama set to unfold in front of a sell-out crowd in excess of 120,000 people in the firecracker atmosphere of Cheste.
Colin Edwards will once again be looking to play the role of good team-mate after his star performance at Estoril just over a week ago. The Texan was back to his best form in Portugal, qualifying second on the grid and providing a crucial helping hand to Rossi in the early stages of the race – only to narrowly miss out on his second rostrum of the season as he took fourth place at the line. This weekend Edwards' clear objective is to go at least one position better and make sure he is celebrating alongside Rossi on Sunday evening.
With its unique stadium-style surroundings the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia is a spectacular, if somewhat cramped facility characterised by a never-ending burst of tight corners, connected by short straights. The long penultimate looping left-hander and the fast entry to turn one contrast violently with the otherwise geometric flip-flop chicanes and slow-speed corners of the infield.
"Valencia isn't one of Valentino's favourite tracks because it is so tight and twisty, but we won there in 2004 and finished third last year after starting well down the grid, so we know the M1 works well," says Jeremy Burgess, Chief Engineer to Valentino Rossi. "One of the big lessons we have learnt this season is that if you want to win in this class nowadays then you really have to start from the front so we will again be using the free practice sessions to make sure we have the right bike settings for both qualifying and the race."
"Technically there is not much to say about Valencia other than the obvious fact that it has a lot of low gear usage and very little throttle – with the back straight and the start-finish straight being the only two high speed sections. The last long left is different to any other corner in the world and it can be crucial to the outcome of the race so for that reason it requires special attention when setting the bike up to make sure you have the speed coming towards the line. The rest is slow and anti-clockwise – there's not much else to say about it really!"