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Rossi and Hayden set for final battle in Valencia
with 2006 title on the line
MotoGP 20/10/06

After a magnificent season and one of the most exciting races
of all time at Estoril, the 2006 MotoGP World Championship will
go right down to the wire. The final race of the year, the Gran
Premio bwin.com de la Comunitat Valenciana, will welcome
what will surely be a sell-out crowd gathered to see either
Valentino Rossi or Nicky Hayden take the ultimate accolade in
motorcycle racing.

Rossi leads the championship for the first time this season, and
could not have chosen a better race to enter with an 8 point
advantage. The Italian has made an outstanding comeback
against all odds after a series of DNFs gave him his worst ever
start to a premier class season. Since his last mechanical failure
at Laguna Seca, the reigning World Champion has been on a
run of five consecutive podium finishes, his last victory coming
in Malaysia at the start of the triple flyaway. If Rossi can make
it six wins this season at Valencia, or finishes above rival Nicky
Hayden in the race, then he will take a sixth consecutive
premier class title and become the only champion of the 990cc
era.

Having led the championship for nearly the entire season, Nicky
Hayden suffered a crushing blow in Portugal when team-mate
Dani Pedrosa took him out of the race on lap five. Hayden has
offered the opinion that the Spaniard could make it up to him
with a second place at the Cheste Circuit this weekend, which if
combined with a Hayden win would send the crown to
Kentucky. For the first time this year, the title is out of the
American’s hands, and the 51 point advantage that Hayden held
after his last win at Laguna Seca has been slowly converted into
the current 8 point deficit. With nothing left to lose, the Repsol
Honda rider will be going all-out in what may be his best chance
of a premier class title.

Although a discreet result in Portugal ended Marco Melandri’s
title hopes, the Italian could still catch Hayden for second place.
19 points behind his American rival, the rider who recently
renewed his contract with Fausto Gresini’s team for 2007 will
have last year’s race in Valencia fresh in his mind, where he
took glory and edged out Hayden to become the 2005 MotoGP
World Championship runner up.

Loris Capirossi, one of the season’s outstanding performers,
also saw the mathematical possibility of a title slip away at
Estoril. Rumours abound that the Italian, who is the only other
rider apart from Hayden and Rossi to lead the championship
this season, will give the Desmosedici GP07 800cc prototype a
run-out in Spain for the final race.

As mentioned previously, Dani Pedrosa will want to make
amends for the all-Repsol Honda crash in the last round by
helping his team-mate win in the Spanish rookie’s home
country. His final race on a 990cc machine before the
introduction of new rules which seem to favour Pedrosa’s build
and style more, he will be eager to show the kind of riding that
left him with a possibility of maiden season glory until lap five in
Portugal.

Kenny Roberts Jr’s season has continued to improve alongside
his KR211V bike. As new parts have been added and chassis
his KR211V bike. As new parts have been added and chassis
modified, the American has climbed up the standings to
currently lie in sixth. Roberts Jr was even battling for the win
until the very last lap at round 16, admitting later that he was
expecting to see the chequered flag one lap earlier than it
appeared.

The aftermath of Estoril created much excitement in the
premier class, with a number of developments on Sunday night.
Lucio Cecchinello confirmed on Monday that it would be all
change in his LCR Honda team next season, with Casey Stoner
leaving the team and veteran Carlos Checa moving to the
Italian’s one-rider outfit. Speculation abounds as to the future
of Herve Poncharal’s Tech 3 Yamaha team as a result of the
switch, whilst Stoner later confirmed that he will race for Ducati
in a one year deal with the option of an additional season.
Surprise victor on Portuguese soil Toni Elias is also said to be
close to renewing his deal with Gresini Racing.

Sete Gibernau will miss his home race after breaking one of the
plates inserted into his collarbone when he crashed with Stoner
two weeks ago. The Spaniard has already been forced out of
four races this season after the spectacular crash in Catalunya
back in June, three of those times replaced by Alex Hofmann in
the Ducati Marlboro team. This time round, Troy Bayliss will
return for Ducati to close their 990cc era, having competed in
their first race in the cylinder class.

In 250cc, Andrea Dovizioso will need a repeat of the kind of
performance that took him to victory in Portugal if he wants to
take the quarter litre title this season. He lies 13 points behind
Jorge Lorenzo, who could have already been crowned 250cc
champion if results had gone his way last time round. Both
riders will continue their rivalry next year in the quarter litre
category, Dovizioso becoming the latest rider to confirm that he
is staying in 250cc for another year.

The battle for third place rages on too, with Alex de Angelis
holding a ten point advantage over Hiroshi Aoyama. The
Japanese rider confirmed this week that he will stay in 250cc
despite receiving an offer from a MotoGP team, revealed by
Harald Bartol and Harold Eckl to be Kawasaki Racing. De
Angelis, yet to win a race in the class, could complete his best
ever season in the category by taking the bronze in the overall
classification.

2006’s best privateer Roberto Locatelli and Yuki Takahashi
complete the top six in MotoGP’s second tier.
Alvaro Bautista, the dominant force in 125cc racing, has been
breaking yet more records since his championship win in
Australia. The Spaniard, on his debut ride on the latest version
of the 125cc Aprilia, was the runaway leader in the bwin.com
Grande Premio de Portugal as he took his seventh victory of
2006.

Bautista also overtook Valentino Rossi and Kazuto Sakata as the
rider with the most podium finishes in the category in a single
season, having taken a rostrum place on 14 occasions this year.
The Italian and Japanese were both title winners in the year of
their records, in 1997 and 1993 respectively. Bautista’s 325
points earned this season also puts him above Rossi’s 1997
total of 321 the previous record.

Mika Kallio’s third place at Estoril, coupled with Mattia Pasini’s
crash at the same race, confirmed the Finn’s second
consecutive runner-up finish in the 125cc category. The KTM
rider moves up to 250cc next season.

Hector Faubel, Sergio Gadea and Lukas Pesek round off the
lower cylinder class’ top six.

The Circuito de la Comunitat Valenciana was completed in 1999
and held rounds of the MotoGP and Spanish Motorcycle
Championships in the same year. The Cheste track has several
layouts, running anticlockwise with varying lengths. MotoGP
events are held on a 4km track comprising of five right handed
corners, eight left handers and a 650m straight. The circuit
layout which allows all parts of the circuit to be seen from any
stand helps to create a unique atmosphere enjoyed by Spanish
and international riders alike and as the last race of the season
there is always a party feeling to the Grand Prix, which was
voted best GP of 2005 by IRTA.

Practice for the Gran Premio bwin.com Gran Premio de la
Comunitat Valenciana get underway on Thursday, with the main
attraction of the crucial MotoGP race taking place on Sunday at
motogp.com

Source: MotoGP
 
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