The 2010 MotoGP World Championship comes to an end this weekend at Valencia, the sport's traditional grand finale. Valencia is one of the most popular MotoGP rounds of the year, with a weekend crowd exceeding 200,000 and a spine-tingling...
The 2010 MotoGP World Championship comes to an end this weekend at Valencia, the sport's traditional grand finale. Valencia is one of the most popular MotoGP rounds of the year, with a weekend crowd exceeding 200,000 and a spine-tingling atmosphere, thanks to the track's unique stadium-style grandstand layout and the fervent local fans.
Although the MotoGP world title was decided at last month's Malaysian Grand Prix, the fight for victory at Valencia will be as intense as ever, with every rider on the grid determined to finish the season in the best-possible style before commencing their winter testing programmes at Valencia next week.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) has as much to prove as anyone at the end of what has been his best season in MotoGP. The Spaniard had an outside chance of this year's world title until he crashed and broke his left collarbone at last month's Japanese Grand Prix. Going into Motegi Pedrosa had scored two wins and two second places at the previous four races to close the gap on eventual champ Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha), but his injury forced him to miss the next three races. He raced again at Estoril last weekend, finishing a brave eighth, his left shoulder and arm still causing him pain and numbness.
This weekend Pedrosa's aim is simple -- to hold onto second place in the championship. The former 125 and 250 World Champion has a remarkable record at Valencia, with five GP victories across three classes, thanks to his inch-perfect riding around a tight, sinuous racetrack that pay big rewards for accuracy. He won the 125 GP in 2002, the 250 GP in 2004 and 2005 and the MotoGP event in 2007 and again last year.
Team-mate Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) is fighting to achieve his best-ever championship position in the elite class. With seven podium finishes to his credit so far this year (including three from the last four races), Dovizioso currently lies fifth overall, just ten points behind fourth-placed Casey Stoner (Ducati), the 2007 World Champion. Dovizioso needs a great result at Valencia if he is to overhaul the Australian and he is looking forward to the weekend and then starting off-season testing alongside his MotoGP rivals on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Both Repsol Honda men will carry the logo of an important new team sponsor for the first time at Valencia. "One Heart" is the slogan of Astra Honda, Honda's subsidiary operating company in Indonesia, which plans to increase motorcycle production in this important market to four million machines by the end of next year. This new partnership will continue throughout the 2011 MotoGP season.
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) can't wait to get on track at Valencia after scoring his best MotoGP result at Estoril last Sunday when he missed his first podium by just 0.059 seconds. The fourth-place result -- beating his previous best of sixth place -- has given Simoncelli a huge confidence boost. The impressive rookie with the spectacular style has made great improvements to his riding technique and set-up skills at recent races and will be doing everything he can to make the top three this Sunday.
After two days of rain-lashed practice at Estoril, Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) shares the MotoGP paddock's hopes for better conditions at Valencia. The Frenchman rode brilliantly in Portugal, scoring his best result since he returned from breaking a leg during July's German GP, and once again proving that he is one of the fastest non-factory riders in the sport.
Valencia will be a weekend of farewells for Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) who is set to ride his last GP race before switching to World Superbikes next season. Melandri began his full-time GP career in 1998, winning the 2002 250 World Championship and scoring victories in MotoGP (five wins), 250 (ten wins) and 125s (seven wins). This year has been a difficult year for the Italian who has struggled to feel at one with his factory-spec RCV, but Melandri will be doing everything he can to score his best result of the year on Sunday. He definitely has form at Valencia -- he won the 2002 250 GP at the track and the 2005 MotoGP race.
Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V) has great memories of Valencia. This time last year the Japanese ace won a nail-biting battle with Simoncelli to win the final 250 World Championship. There is no title up for grabs for Aoyama on this occasion, but he will be working hard with his team to conclude his rookie MotoGP season with a strong result.
Toni Elias (Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki) was crowned the first Moto2 World Champion at last month's Malaysian Grand Prix but the Spaniard hasn't actually won a race since Motegi, the weekend before his coronation, and is super keen to prove himself once again with a final victory at Valencia before returning to MotoGP in 2011. Elias has dominated Moto2 this season, winning seven of the 16 races so far, and although he's not a great fan of Valencia (he has yet to win a GP event at the Spanish track) he will be fully focused on achieving an eighth Moto2 win on Sunday.
Of course, the Honda-powered series has a reputation for frantic, topsy-turvy racing, so any one of several dozen riders will be in with a chance of the final Moto2 victory of 2010. One man who deserves to win a 2010 Moto2 race more than most is Julian Simon (Mapfre Aspar Team, Suter). The rider from Villacanas has scored five runner-up finishes so far this year -- including four in a row from the Indianapolis to the Japanese GPs -- and dearly wants to win a race before the year is out. He also needs maximum points because his second place in the championship standings is under threat from Andrea Iannone (Fimmco Speed Up, Speed Up) who is just six points down on Simon.
Valencia's Ricardo Tormo circuit is a tight, technical and very asymmetric racetrack, dominated by left-handers, which places very different demands on the left and right sides of the tyres. The venue was christened after Spanish Grand Prix racer Ricardo Tormo, who won the 50cc World Championship in 1978 and 1981.
Machine priorities at the Ricardo Tormo venue are agile handling for the many changes of direction and edge grip -- Valencia packs 14 corners into just 4km (2.5 miles). Despite the track's sinuous nature, horsepower is also crucial for the 0.876km (0.544 mile) start-finish straight which allows machines to exceed 315km/h (195mph), even though the straight follows a low-speed final corner.
The circuit is almost completely surrounded by grandstands, giving the venue a unique stadium feel. This Grand Prix is always a hugely popular event with more than 200,000 fans visiting over the weekend.
Honda has enjoyed considerable success at Valencia, with four different riders winning the elite class on the factory's RCV machines since the venue joined the MotoGP calendar in 1999: Alex Barros (2002), Valentino Rossi (2003), Marco Melandri (2005) and Pedrosa (2007 and 2009).
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa says:
"In a couple of days I will get back on the bike again at Valencia and I really hope to feel better than I did on Sunday in Estoril. The last medical checks I had this week have shown that the nerves are not affected and this is positive, even though I'm feeling the same symptoms of numbness. I went to Clinica Dexeus to have an electromyography scan in my left arm from the neck to the hand. It showed that the nerves are OK, so I will continue having physiotherapy and I hope that gradually the lack of feeling passes. Despite the circumstances, I'm going to Valencia in a good mood because this is a track I love and the atmosphere there is always special. Last year we had a great race, so I want to get a good result regardless of my physical condition. We have a new sponsor this weekend from Honda in Indonesia. When I visited Indonesia this year I was really amazed by how many people follow MotoGP there. They are very passionate and knowledgeable about the championship, so it's good that this new sponsor on the Repsol Honda machine can create a link with this country."
Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso says:
"I'm very happy that we were back on the podium in Estoril. It means we are competitive and that we can go to Valencia with the target of fighting for fourth position in the World Championship. Valencia is quite a slow and twisty track which makes it a technical and challenging circuit which isn't easy to ride. It's not one of my favourite circuits on the calendar but that's really not important -- because we are determined to have a very good race on Sunday and finish off the year as strongly as possible. The Valencia weekend is a special event, not only because it is the final round of the season but also because on Tuesday and Wednesday after the Grand Prix there are two important days of testing in preparation for the 2011 season. I'm really looking forward to getting the maximum out of these two days of testing before we head into the long winter break."
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli
"My result last Sunday -- so close to my first MotoGP podium -- gave me a lot of satisfaction but also a slight bitterness. However, after the race I was happy because I had been consistent from start to finish and I fought on equal terms with riders who only recently were faster than me. Lately I've improved a lot and after Estoril I've gained even more belief that I can ride with the best. I can't wait to get to Valencia to prove myself and to make up for the bitterness of last year's result, when I lost the 250 title. I like the circuit and I want to make the podium which I missed in Portugal by a few milliseconds. Finishing the season on a high like I'm doing is definitely a good omen for next year. We must still improve, but the work we are doing is getting results which makes me happy, but also Honda and the team who are helping me a lot."
LCR Honda rider Randy de Puniet says:
"After the bad weather in Australia and Portugal I really hope to get a dry GP in Valencia which is a very physically demanding track. I like the atmosphere there as it is another warm Spanish GP. Following on my last performance in Estoril I aim to close this season with a very good result. Simoncelli's last performances are very impressing but I strongly want to close the gap, scoring important points for the standing. After my bad injury in Germany in July I still struggled with my leg but I was delighted with my sixth place in Estoril. I experienced the podium in Valencia in the 250cc class and I am determined to be fighting at the front again."
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Melandri
"Last Sunday was another disappointing day in a disappointing season. I cannot explain why we haven't been able to find the key to our problems. We tried in vain and this gives me much bitterness. Valencia will be our last opportunity to redeem a season I'll want to forget. I like the track -- I have won here in 250 and MotoGP -- but the hopes of another success this weekend are very small and I deeply regret that."
Interwetten Honda MotoGP rider Hiroshi Aoyama
"Sometimes I feel quite good in Valencia, sometimes I don't, so I hope that this time I will be comfortable with the bike and the tyres and that I will have the confidence to push. I quite like the track and last year I won the 250 world title there."
Moto2 RIDER QUOTES
Gresini Racing Moto2 rider Toni Elias says:
"After winning the world title in Malaysia we haven't managed to get a result that reflects our potential demonstrated throughout the season. Phillip Island was the fault of the bike and Estoril was my fault. I'm sorry because I really wanted to honor my title in the best way possible. Now I have one last race which I will apply the same strength and determination which made me champion. Valencia is certainly not my favorite track but I'll try to do my best for me and my team, to which I owe so much. Closing with a win would be a great gift for me and for them and in some way it would redeem the disappointments in Australia and Portugal."
Mapfre Aspar Team Suter rider Julian Simon says:
"After a difficult weekend at Estoril we go to Valencia knowing that second place in the championship is a real possibility -- it is all in our hands, so we are really looking forward to this challenge. I am spurred on by the prospect of racing in Spain again, in front of the home fans and at a circuit I love. I am determined to have a good result on Sunday and secure second overall in the first-ever Moto2 championship."
Fimmco Speed Up rider Andrea Iannone says:
"After my crash at Estoril I really want to end the year with another great result at Valencia. I was sorry about the crash -- I had started from the back row of the grid and a podium finish was possible, so at least we once again proved that we have a very fast pace. Of course, we can still get second place in the championship, which is a big incentive, but I also want to win or make the podium as a big thank you for all the hard work my team has done for me this year."
Interwetten Moriwaki rider Thomas Luthi says: I hope that we will be able to attack again, especially after the weekend in Estoril. We have to try to find a good set up and I hope that the weather will be good again for a change as the last two races were miserable. If we can get good settings for the bike and I can be strong in the practices, I want to be able to attack in the race as well for the end of the season. In Valencia I had all kind of results already, bad, good, everything, so I cannot say how it will work this time. I hope it will go well."
HONDA 125 RIDER QUOTE
Interwetten Honda 125 Team rider Marcel Schrotter
"I hope I will be able to have the best result of the season in Valencia. I know the racetrack, had a good result last year and I am looking forward to it. I am disappointed that the race went like it did in Portugal and I hope I can leave Valencia happy again."