GAULOISES YAMAHA TEAM READY FOR SEASON FINALE AT VALENCIA
The MotoGP World Championship takes its traditional curtain call at Valencia next weekend in the final round of what has been an unforgettable season for the Gauloises Yamaha Team. With the riders', teams' and constructors' titles already in the bag, Yamaha will aim to put the seal on it's 50th Anniversary celebrations with another successful weekend at the Ricardo Tormo circuit, where both Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards will be aiming for a podium finish to end the season on a high note.
After an exhausting trip across Asia, Australia and the Middle East, Rossi returns to Spain for the third time this season looking to add to his earlier victories at Catalunya and Jerez and continue his love affair with the Valencia crowd, which is expected to top 120,000 people. Rossi has won there for the last two years, his 2004 Valencia success with Yamaha his ninth of the year, more than any other Yamaha rider had previously managed in a single season. This time he has the chance to go a step further by equalling Mick Doohan's all-time record of twelve wins in a season.
The MotoGP World Champion, who took his seventh world championship title three races ago at Sepang in Malaysia, followed up his championship success with victory at Qatar and second place at Istanbul, confirming his motivation to finish the season on a high note and taking his points total to a mammoth 351. By finishing ninth or higher at Valencia, Rossi would also set a new points record for the premier-class, surpassing his tally of 357 in the 2003 season.
Rossi's Gauloises Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards is also aiming for a points finish this weekend as he looks to end the campaign with a 100% point-scoring record. The American is the only MotoGP rider to have scored points in each of the sixteen rounds so far this year, a show of consistency which sees him tackling the last race of the year still holding an outside chance of finishing as the championship runner-up in only his first season with Yamaha.
VALENTINO ROSSI: LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Valentino Rossi heads to Valencia this weekend with one eye on the past and one on the future. The emergence of Marco Melandri and Nicky Hayden as key challengers over the course of the season has given the World Champion extra motivation as he looks ahead to defending the title for a fifth time in 2006, and he is expecting a strong challenge from them and other riders this weekend.
"Some new young riders have come to the front of the field over the last few races," says Rossi, "and I am sure we'll have another big battle in Valencia. "Of course I am not old and I hope that I have a few more years at the top yet! I am looking forward to Valencia and we hope our bike works well there and that we can find a good setting straight away.
"In Valencia we will really try for the win again; last year we won there with Yamaha and I also won the year before; I like ending the season with a victory! It is still possible for me to equal Doohan's win record and beat my own, and this is my aim for the last race. Our bike goes well in Valencia and it's always a great race. It is Spain, there are many people and the fans are wonderful. It's always a big party for everyone!"
COLIN EDWARDS: PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
With second place in the championship now only a distant possibility, Edwards will nonetheless be looking to take as many points as possible in Valencia with an eye to finishing higher than his current fourth spot. Valencia will also provide a chance for him to work on continuing to perfect the new riding style he adopted at Istanbul. After struggling to make the step up from podium regular to victory contender in 2005, the experienced Texan has decided that it is time to re-evaluate his approach to MotoGP racing following several years of success in the World Superbike series.
"I hate to be where I am in my career and having to learn something completely new but that is the situation we are in," explained Edwards. "I'm trying to put more corner speed into my riding, adding aspects of a 250cc style to my Superbike instincts, but I need more laps to get used to it before I can challenge to win races in MotoGP. I don't like thinking that the last race of the season will be like a test for me but we have to look to next season and see how we can improve. Hopefully this is the answer.
"I have ridden at Valencia for many seasons so it will definitely be a big help to be working on the new style at a track I know well. Melandri and Hayden are on fire at the moment so it will be very tough to beat either of them in the championship, but of course I am still going to try! I never give up and so I'll keep fighting until the end and see what happens this Sunday. I've had some highs and lows this season, but it would be really nice to finish off with a podium and a nice memory to take home over the winter!"
DAVIDE BRIVIO: SIGNING OFF ON A HIGH
Gauloises Yamaha Team Director Davide Brivio has challenged his staff to end the season on a high note this weekend as they look to put the gloss on a sparkling year of celebrations for Yamaha's 50th Anniversary. Motivation within the camp has remained high even with the riders', teams' and constructors' titles already decided and the Italian is asking for more of the same, with three more days' of intense effort required before the end of season celebrations can begin.
"This weekend is the last race of what has been a very good season for us," says Brivio. "It has been a great pleasure to help bring so much success to Yamaha in its 50th Anniversary year and we want to finish it in the best possible way. We took the victory at Valencia last season and it would be nice to do the same again.
"We have two targets for the weekend really. One is for a Yamaha victory and the other is to improve Colin's fourth position in the championship. It will be difficult because the riders in front of him have a good advantage now and they are looking strong but it is not over yet so we will be trying our best. We have a lot of guests and VIPs from around Europe and Japan coming to the race so it would be nice to put on a good show for them and enjoy the celebration party together."
BLAST FROM THE PAST: CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF YAMAHA GLORY
In its short history the Valencia circuit has proven to be a happy hunting ground for Yamaha, with Regis Laconi winning the first race there on the YZR500 in 1999 and Garry McCoy following up with victory on the same bike one year later. However, the factory's most memorable success at the Spanish circuit came last season when Valentino Rossi capped off a remarkable first year as a Yamaha rider with his ninth victory of the season, a record for the factory, and his third win in succession.
"To win nine races in my first season with Yamaha was unbelievable for everybody and we also won the team award at Valencia, which was not so bad either!" said Rossi. "The finish of the season was perfect for us, with three wins in a row. It was more difficult for me at Valencia than the two previous races at Sepang and Phillip Island because generally I find the track worse than them. I slid at the start and lost some time but after two or three laps I was able to recover.
"Makoto Tamada was looking very strong, and I had a tough fight with him until he slowed and dropped back. My rhythm improved and I was able to push 100% to the end. Then there was a fight with Max Biaggi behind, and he was also very strong. It was incredible to win the final race of the season at Valencia -- especially in front of such a great crowd. The 2004 season was really unforgettable for me, my mechanics and Yamaha."
Advertising itself as a circuit that is also a stadium, the Valencia track is a beautifully appointed, if somewhat cramped, facility where slower corners are the norm. Occupying a small footprint off the side of the Madrid/Valencia freeway, the Ricardo Tormo circuit features a seemingly 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.
More suitable for the smaller classes, Valencia is an awesome challenge in its own way for any MotoGP rider; an intense exercise in concentration and preparation, as the track can easily catch out the unwary, especially in the frequently wet conditions of late October and early November.
The continual stop-start nature of Valencia means that suspension setting must offer the correct balance between beneficial weight transfer, which aids alternately front and rear grip, and firm enough settings for spring rates and compression damping, to prevent the machine oscillating as the power is turned on and off. With short but highly loaded periods of front end grip required throughout a lap, and with a lot of corner entries with the brakes still applied, the balance between agility and stability has to fall on the side of greater manoeuvrability. Nonetheless the bike has to be planted enough not to lose corner speed through the quick penultimate corner, which runs over the brow of a hill, or induce tail hopping under hard braking from 300km/h.
Instantaneous and yet linear throttle response is a highly desired commodity at Valencia, its point and squirt nature demanding a combination of controlled throttle openings on the many low speed corner exits, with a clean and crisp power off nature required on entry. The relatively low gearing of Valencia exacerbates the potential for highsides even further, as most of the lap is spent in second gear, with an entire three-corner complex taken in first gear. Nonetheless, most crashes come from a loss of front grip on the high number of downhill corner entries.