Originally published by Julian Ryder on Saturday, October 28, 2006
Valentino Rossi took pole for the fifth time on the Yamaha M-1 to put himself in the best possible position to take his eighth world title tomorrow. The only man who can stop him, Nicky Hayden, starts from the second row after getting put slightly off line on his last flying lap when he came across Alex Hofmann who was just starting his fast lap. That was enough to put Nicky back on the second row. Normally that wouldn’t be too bad a position, but here at Valencia passing places are very, very limited and if you aren’t where you want to be by the time you come out of turn tow then you are in deep trouble.
Neither is the situation a simple Rossi versus Hayden battle for the title. A horde of Bridgestone runners have got on the front two rows, with the Ducatis of wild card Bayliss and Capirossi prominent. Loris will be trying to ensure he is third in the championship, Troy will be settling a few scores and reminding a few people of how fast he can be. Shinya Nakano is starting his last race for Kawasaki from the second row with the objective of giving the team a leaving present. Remember how fast he was in Australia? These guys will have the impressive edge grip of the ‘Stones to help them at a place where power isn’t the issue.
Much will depend on the start but Valentino is looking his normal relaxed self, he was fastest in three of the four splits and has an eight-point lead. He readily admits that Nicky has been strong all weekend and has really good pace on race tyres, but since Brno Rossi has strung together five races that, with a little help from one D Pedrosa, have demolished a 51-point deficit. Nicky isn’t ducking any issues. The old ‘Kentucky Kid’ logo on the back of his leathers is gone, replaced by a hand of cards and a pile of poker chips. The final card hasn’t been turned over and has a question mark on its back; the slogan is ‘All In.’ On a happier note, Nicky picked up his BMW Z4M Coupe for overall best qualifying of the year (17 qualifying hours plus the IRTA test at Barcelona) from none other than Michael Jordan.
Earl Hayden immediately put a 2nd Chance Auto Sales plate on it.