MotoGP - Round 17

Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) slid out of the Grand Prix of Valencia today and lost his grip on the MotoGP World Championship for the first time in six years on the final day of an implausibly dramatic season. Nicky Hayden (Honda) lifted the title after claiming third place behind surprise winner and World Superbike Champion Troy Bayliss and Loris Capirossi (both Ducati), with Rossi only managing to cross the line in 13th place he misses out on the title by just five points.

The fifth lap mishap came after a bad start from Rossi, who looked to be in perfect shape to defend his eight-point advantage going into the race after qualifying on pole position. However, the bad luck that followed the Italian throughout the first half of the season returned to strike its final, decisive blow when the front end of Rossi's YZR-M1 tucked under braking and sent him spinning into the gravel. Another heroic charge from the defending champion saw him recover seven places and brought him back into the points but it wasn't enough to hold off Hayden.

The last ever MotoGP race of the 990cc era, before maximum engine capacity is reduced to 800cc in 2007, also proved to be a let-down for Rossi's Camel Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards who finished ninth.

The ‘Kentucky Kid’ is now the 2006 MotoGP World Champion. Nicky Hayden has taken on the best riders in the world and triumphed in what has been a gruelling 17-race season spanning the globe – the toughest task in motorcycle racing.

But here at Valencia, Spain the 26-year-old has achieved his life ambition and taken the greatest prize in two-wheel racing.

At the end of an emotional day Nicky said. “When you dedicate your life to something and the dream comes true it feels so good. This is a proud day for me, the team and my family. I want to thank everybody back home and I hope they’re partying back there in Owensboro. When I went down at the beginning of the Estoril race I thought the dream was over but I just didn’t give up. Anything can happen in racing and you just keep fighting until the end. I just believe good things happen to good people and this is a great day for me. 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. 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.

Nicky’s two wins and 10 podiums, combined with his 16/17 points scoring finishes have made him the first American rider since Kenny Roberts JR in 2000 to lift the biggest prize in bikesport.

Nicky’s consistency has been his greatest strength this year. Even when the Repsol Team has struggled to adapt his development Honda RC211V to a certain track, his sheer grit and refusal to yield to circumstance has ensured he has scored points when a lesser rider might have crumbled. Nicky’s competitive urge and the huge amount of experience he has gained over four seasons of premier class racing have finally come together to give the bike-crazy Hayden family it’s first World Champion.

For a kid who started riding when he was three and was telling his dad Earl he wanted to be a World Champion when he was five – this first World crown is the culmination of years of hard graft learning the craft of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

Nicky’s dirt-riding skills gave him a head start over most of his rivals when he graduated to riding the big 990cc four-strokes and it was no surprise then that he secured the Rookie Of The Year title in 2003.

But further success then seemed a long time coming. His 2004 season was blighted by injury and it wasn’t until he won his ‘home’ race at Laguna Seca in mid-2005 that belief started to course through his veins. Nicky finished 2005 with four consecutive podium finishes and this was a pattern he would continue in 2006.

Hayden scored four top three finishes in Spain, Qatar, Turkey and China, then dropped to a fifth in France before regaining momentum with wins the Netherlands and again at Laguna Seca. But then success tailed off with a ninth in the Czech Republic, fourth in Malaysia and two fifth places in Australia and Japan.

He had to dig deep to get his title-winning season back on course with just two rounds to go and with only a 12-point lead over his nearest rival Rossi. But when he needed a big performance, he found it when it mattered most…

To dethrone a multiple MotoGP title winner in Rossi is a towering achievement and to do it while developing a second generation RCV machine for Honda puts Hayden’s 2006 performance among the best yet seen in the four-stroke era. This was one of the closest title contests in years with an ebb and flow to it that has gripped race fans for seven tense months.

Nicky is no stranger to winning, but now he has a World title to add to a string of American Championships. It’s taken this former US flat-tracker four years to fulfil a dream, and this success is without doubt the sweetest yet tasted for Nicky.

The approachable, amiable and supremely able rider formerly known as ‘Mr Dirt’ for his success on the cinders can now formally call himself ‘Mr MotoGP 2006’.

Valencia MotoGP race - 30 Laps

1. Troy Bayliss Ducati AUS 46'55.415
2. Loris Capirossi Ducati ITA 0'1.319
3. Nicky Hayden Honda USA 0'9.230
4. Daniel Pedrosa Honda ESP 0'12.065
5. Marco Melandri Honda ITA 0'16.306
6. Toni Elias Honda ESP 0'17.390
7. Shinya Nakano Kawasaki JPN 0'19.329
8. Kenny Roberts Team Robert KR USA 0'23.174
9. Colin Edwards Yamaha USA 0'26.072
10. Carlos Checa Yamaha ESP 0'28.194
11. John Hopkins Suzuki USA 0'29.364
12. Makato Tamada Honda JPN 0'29.707
13. Valentino Rossi Yamaha ITA 0'38.546
14. James Ellison Yamaha GBR 1'20.013
15. Garry McCoy Imor X3 AUS -7 Laps


Best Lap - Loris Capirossi 1'32.924

MotoGP Final 2006 Rider Championship Standings
1. Nicky Hayden Honda USA 252
2. Valentino Rossi Yamaha ITA 247
3. Loris Capirossi Ducati ITA 229
4. Marco Melandri Honda ITA 228
5. Daniel Pedrosa Honda ESP 215
6. Kenny Roberts Team Robert KR USA 134
7. Colin Edwards Yamaha USA 124
8. Casey Stoner Honda AUS 119
9. Toni Elias Honda ESP 116
10. John Hopkins Suzuki USA 116
11. Chris Vermeulen Suzuki AUS 98
12. Makato Tamada Honda JPN 96
13. Sete Gibernau Ducati ESP 95
14. Shinya Nakano Kawasaki JPN 92
15. Carlos Checa Yamaha ESP 75
18. James Ellison Yamaha GBR 26

MotoGP Team Standings

1. Repsol Honda Team 467
2. Camel Yamaha Team 371
3. Ducati Marlboro Team 356
4. Fortuna Honda Team 344
5. Rizla Suzuki 214
6. Team Roberts KR 134
7. Kawasaki Racing Team 129
8. Honda LCR 119
9. Tech3 Yamaha 101
10. Konica Minolta Honda 96
11. Pramac D'Antin 33
12. Ilmor SRT 2

MotoGP Manufacturer Standings

1. Honda 360
2. Yamaha 289
3. Ducati 248
4. Suzuki 151
5. Team Robert KR 134
6. Kawasaki 109
7. Imor X3 2

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