Valencia : Repsol Honda - Preview
The climax of the extraordinary 2006 MotoGP World Championship takes place at the Valencia circuit in Spain this weekend, with Nicky Hayden looking to launch a sensational comeback to clinch his first world title. The 25-year-old American
rider sits eight points from the top of the standings and will be going all out in Sunday's 30- lap race to secure the championship he's led for most of the season.
Hayden rates the Valencia circuit as one of his favourites on the Grand Prix calendar and the Repsol Honda star proved his pace here last year, finishing just 0.097s seconds adrift of the winner, Marco Melandri on the Movistar Honda. After the disappointing result in Estoril, Hayden will be going into this weekend's decider with nothing to lose. If he scores nine points more than title rival Valentino Rossi, the crown will go to Hayden.
21-year old Spaniard Dani Pedrosa will be riding for the third time this year in front of his home crowd. The MotoGP Rookie of the Year has a brilliant record at Valencia in the smaller Grand Prix categories having taken the race win, pole position and fastest lap on three previous occasions – in 2004 and 2005 in the 250cc class and in 2002 on the 125. Pedrosa will be looking to bounce back from the Estoril weekend with a strong performance and has declared his intention to do all he can to assist Hayden's championship cause. A Repsol Honda one-two, with Hayden taking the chequered flag first, would add the Riders' world championship to the Constructors' and Team titles which are already in the bag.
The Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo first held a round of the motorcycle World Championship in 1999, and has hosted the final MotoGP event of the season since 2002. Completed in 1999, it's a modern venue with excellent viewing facilities for up to 150,000 fans. Many of the grandstands afford a view of almost the entire 4.005km (2.487 miles) lap, and the total weekend attendance last year was a staggering 212,312 spectators.
Dominated by medium to slow corners, MotoGP bikes spend much of their time in second and third gears at Valencia, and for this reason it's not regarded as a classic Grand Prix circuit. But there are challenges, chief among them the fast left-hander at the end of the lap which crests a rise and is the scene of spectacular rear wheel slides as the 250bhp MotoGP bikes become unweighted.
With practice beginning on Friday followed by qualifying on Saturday, Sunday's 30-lap Grand Prix of Valencia begins at 14.00 CET. This race also marks the end of the spectacular 990cc MotoGP era, with 800cc rules coming into effect for the 2007 season.
HOW HAYDEN CAN TAKE THE 2006 TITLE – The Repsol Honda ace needs to score at least 9 points more than Valentino Rossi to take the World Championship. The possible finishing results to ensure this are:
Hayden 1st (25 points) with Rossi 3rd or below (16 points)
Hayden 2nd (20 points) with Rossi 5th or below (11 points)
Hayden 3rd (16 points) with Rossi 9th or below (7 points)
Hayden 4th (13 points) with Rossi 12th or below (4 points)
Hayden 5th (11 points) with Rossi 14th or below (2 points)
Hayden 6th (10 points) with Rossi 15th or below (1 point)
Hayden 7th (9 points) with Rossi 16th or below (0 points)
Nicky Hayden (Championship: 2nd – 236 points):
"When I think about the last race I still feel pretty sick but the truth is I've got to get over it because whinnying or talking about it any more won't change that doughnut in the points column. My shoulder is feeling a little better, the clutch is finally better and my boy Elias did me a huge favour at Estoril and gave me hope!"
"Valencia is a track I really like and the atmosphere there is unreal – it's as good as it gets as far as a crowd to race in front of. So I go there with nothing to lose – I need to win and hope that Rossi has a bad weekend. I know that's a long shot but we won't surrender until the chequered flag on Sunday. I know my team is in my corner and I have lots of fans – especially back home – still riding with me. Also it's the last race for MotoGP as we know it so I am sure this one will be another classic!"
Dani Pedrosa (Championship: 5th – 202 points):
"It's been quite a difficult time since the race at Estoril, for obvious reasons. It's hard to just forget such an incident, especially when it was so important for Nicky and the team, but that is what I must do now. I have to put it behind me and to focus on getting the best possible result this weekend. I'll do everything I can to help Nicky – we have a big challenge ahead but we can make it. Valencia is a small circuit, but it's a good test of the bikes."
"On a MotoGP machine it's going to feel very tight and the key will be to get a good balance from the bike in the many medium and slow corners. It's very flat and it's very good for fans because they can follow the whole lap of a rider from almost every spot. And since it's the last race of the championship and in Spain, the atmosphere is going to very intense. I've been on pole position and won the race here three times before so I really hope the weather stays fine and I'm able to put in a strong performance this weekend and get the right result for the team."