In a dramatic fashion, Nicky Hayden today became the new world champion, finishing in third place on his Repsol Honda, helped by Valentino Rossi's thirteenth place -- due to a fall in the fourth lap of the "Gran Premio de la Comunitat Valenciana".
In a dramatic fashion, Nicky Hayden today became the new world champion, finishing in third place on his Repsol Honda, helped by Valentino Rossi's thirteenth place -- due to a fall in the fourth lap of the "Gran Premio de la Comunitat Valenciana". This was the season finale of the FIM Road Racing World Championship (MotoGP), and took place on the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, Spain.
The race was won in convincing fashion by Troy Bayliss on a Marlboro Ducati, who took the lead at the first corner of the race and never looked back. He was followed by his teammate, Loris Capirossi, giving the Italian squad its first-ever one-two MotoGP finish.
It was a triumphant return, with the maiden MotoGP victory, for the Australian, who was racing in Valencia as a replacement for the injured Sete Gibernau. Bayliss, a veteran of three MotoGP campaigns with Ducati and Honda, had switched back to World Superbikes for the 2006 season, and clinched the WSBK title for Xerox Ducati earlier this month.
Bayliss took the chequered flag 1.3 seconds ahead of his teammate, and Capirossi, who also set the fastest lap of the race, was in turn 7.9 seconds ahead of Hayden, who was riding very conservatively by the end to ensure his third place and the championship.
My start wasn't so great, some guys overtook me," Capirossi recounted. "Anyway, I got past them and tried to follow Troy, but he rode really, really well today. My pit board told me that second was good enough for third in the championship but it would have been difficult to beat him. I am really happy with third overall and we are only 23 points behind the champion."
In his need to recover places, Rossi lost his Yamaha on the fifth lap as his front wheel lost traction, taking him to the floor. The seven-time world champion was able to pick up the bike from the gravel trap and continue on the race, but 20th in the classification.
"Basically I made two mistakes today - one was at the start and then the second one was the crash," the MotoGP legend admitted. "It has been a very emotional season, with some great moments, some bad luck and now some mistakes. But this is racing."
Quickly, the pitboard showed Hayden the good news: "Rossi P20". From that point on, the American, who was fighting with Bayliss for the lead, started to regulate the situation on board his Honda RC211V. Rossi charged through the field, but was not able to do better than 13th by the finish, falling five points short of Hayden's total.
Hayden held the third place until the chequered flag fell, as the Kentucky Kid crossed the finish line after what surely were the longest laps of his life riding a bike.
"I swear on the warm-up lap this morning I was riding round in front of a full house here and I had tears in my eyes because I knew this was the chance of a lifetime and I had to go for it," Hayden recalled. "I've felt all year that this was my year -- even at Estoril when Elias beat Rossi I believed it. I knew that, win or lose, I was going to sleep well tonight because I was gonna give it my all today."
He indeed gave it his all, and snatched the championship from the grasp of one of the greatest riders of all time, ending the season with 252 points, five more than Rossi, who finished with 247. Capirossi's second place today secured him top third in the standings with 229.