Ryder Notes 2006: The Battle of Wounded Knee

Originally published by Julian Ryder on Sunday, September 10, 2006

Valentino Rossi and Loris Capirossi today put on a race as good as anything you could hope to see. It went down to the last lap and after at least a dozen changes of lead it was Valentino Rossi who pulled off what the Ducati team manager Livio Suppo called ‘a miracle.’ The miracle was passing the Ducati in a series of fast sweepers in the third sector where Loris thought it wasn’t possible. Then they came to the penultimate corner, a tight right onto the back straight where Capirossi had been spinning the rear for a few laps. Rossi’s Yamaha didn’t spin, it drove and the gap that opened up was enough to put The Doc out of range of Capirossi’s desperate lunge at the final corner.

As usual the two old friends hammed it up on the rostrum and told the world how much they respect each other. Loris opined that this is how sport should be and that a great sportsman should act the same when he wins and when he loses. Only when you got close to him was it possible to detect a distinct difference between his demeanor here and at Brno.

It was a thrilling finale to a fabulous race which closed up the points situation at the top of the table, mainly because Nicky Hayden suffered and came home fourth. A sober analysis of the times from practice would show that this race was always going to be between Loris and Valentino, no matter what Nicky did with the new parts he had from the Brno test. His Honda had better edge grip and traction but the improvements at the back came at the expense of front-end performance.

Nicky looked really depressed after the race, mainly I suspect because he had been beaten by his team-mate, who according to his crew chief would never even finish the race. Dani Pedrosa did not know whether the stitches in his right knee and the broken toes on his left foot would allow him to race. HRC and Honda personnel thought it very possible that he wouldn’t be able to race. But the ever astounding Pedrosa got the hole shot, led for a while, had enough to retake Capirossi when he made a mistake at mid-distance, hang on to third place, then go to the Clinica Mobile to sort out the stitches he’d pulled out of the gouge in his knee.

Nicky refused to make excuses– ‘I just didn’t have the speed today,’ and his only problem seemed to be having to be ultra gentle to his clutch getting off the line to avoid a repeat of Brno. He was still fourth into the first corner though. Nicky still has a 22-point lead in the championship so the damage to his title aspirations was certainly not terminal, in fact if you accept that you weren’t going to beat the top two then Nicky only dropped three extra points.

Dad Earl has a remedy for the problems: ‘Just gotta go out and win Phillip Island.’ Rossi and Capirossi like that place too; should be worth watching.

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