Valencia : Kawasaki - Race
Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano took a hard fought seventh place in today's season ending Grand Prix of Valencia, as Nicky Hayden secured the 2006 world championship title with a third place finish.
Nakano was baulked off the start by the collision
between championship contenders Hayden and Valentino Rossi, but the 29-year-old Japanese rider recovered quickly and was immediately behind Rossi when the Italian crashed out of the race, and out of the championship running.
After battling with Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen for much of the middle part of the race, Nakano was eventually elevated to sixth place when the Australian missed a braking marker and ran straight on into the gravel trap.
The chattering problem Nakano suffered during practice returned as the race drew to a close, and the Kawasaki pilot was unable to hold off the challenge of Toni Elias, forcing him to settle for seventh place at the line.
Randy de Puniet was left disappointed and frustrated after crashing out of today's season finale just five laps into the race.
The 25-year-old Frenchman was pushing hard to make up for a bad start, but his race ended prematurely when he lost the front going into turn two, sliding off into the gravel without injury.
Kawasaki's Ninja ZX-RR machines will be back on track tomorrow, but not with Nakano or de Puniet at the controls. 30 journalists will be given the chance to test Kawasaki's MotoGP machine, including former world champions, Kevin Schwantz, Alex Criville and Dirk Raudies.
Shinya Nakano: 7th
"That was one hard race with which to end the season.
I was right behind Valentino from the start, and there was a chance to pass him on the straight, but it would have been a close pass, and I didn't want to crash into him when he was fighting for the championship. But then he crashed in front of me anyway in turn two, leaving me to battle with Chris Vermeulen. It was impossible to put in a pass, because we were struggling with the same problem in exactly the same places, but then I got the place anyway when he missed his braking marker and ran straight on. Towards the middle of the race I started to suffer the same problems with chattering that we had in practice, so I was unable to counter Elias when he came past me for sixth place. I'm disappointed to have finished the last race of the season outside the top five, but I'm also glad to have reached the chequered flag for the first time in three races. I would like to say a big thank you to the team, and to Bridgestone, for all their hard work throughout the season. They have been outstanding."
Randy de Puniet: DNF
"I got a really bad start, which put me back in sixteenth place at the first corner. I managed to pass Makoto Tamada and Carlos Checa quite quickly, and then I got held up behind Kenny Roberts. He was a little bit slower than me, so I had to try and pass, but I made two mistakes trying to put in a pass, and lost ground. Pushing to close the gap again, I got into turn two a little bit too hot, and the front tucked under on me. I am really disappointed, because Roberts finished eighth at the end of the race, so I think a top ten finish was a possibility for me today. I wanted to finish the season with a good result this afternoon, both for me and the team, but it wasn't to be. I'm sorry for the team, as they have all worked so hard for me this season."
Harald Eckl: Team Principal
"I think we were all expecting a better end to the season today, but it seems that neither rider had the ideal set-up for the conditions this afternoon. Shinya was finding it difficult to maintain his earlier pace once the race reached the halfway point, but at least he managed to ride through the chatter problems to end the season with a top ten finish. We need to work with Randy on his starts, because he put himself at an immediate disadvantage by being slow off the line this afternoon. When you're pushing to make up places lost at the start, then you obviously increase your chances of crashing, which is exactly what happened to Randy today. But, although we were hoping for a better result today, I would like to thank everyone in the team, as well as the two riders, for their hard work and dedication during what has been a long and arduous season."