Originally published by Julian Ryder on Sunday, October 15, 2006
The worst thing you can do in motorcycle racing is knock your team-mate off.
Or you could knock him off and see his twelve point lead in the World Championship transformed into an eight-point deficit. That’s the measure of Dani Pedrosa’s calamitous attempt to overtake Nicky Hayden on the fifth lap of the race. It happened at Turn 6, the lefthander at the end of the back straight where Nicky had put a tough pass on Dani the previous lap. Pedrosa says he wasn’t trying to overtake and just got in too hot.
Nicky had his helmet off before he’d stopped bouncing and unleashed a few gestures and a stream of invective in the direction of his team-mate. No-one in this paddock has ever seen Nicky out of control and it was not a pretty sight. Behind closed doors he informed Dani that the only way he could ever make the situation right would be by following him home for a one-two at Valencia in two weeks’ time. That would, of course, make Nicky world champion: by one point. If Toni Elias hadn’t suddenly produced the ride of his life Nicky would be lagging Rossi by 13 points—an almost impossible situation to rescue. Before this weekend Toni Elias was gong to be unemployed next year—his market value has just increased exponentially.
Valentino Rossi’s opinion was that Toni rode ‘like a devil’ and if the Devil rides a bike sideways on the brakes while shedding about 140mph for Turn 1 and gets into Turn 6 about 40mph too fast then rides a high line a dirt-tracker would be proud of then Toni does indeed ride like the Devil. Rossi got a hell of shock the first time he followed Elias into that corner. At the start of the race Rossi was leading and looking comfortable with Colin Edwards riding shotgun. However, the track temperature was well down on Friday and Saturday and Rossi could not run the pace he had in practice so the Yamahas were closed down by Elias and Kenny Roberts. Neither of them had shown any form in qualifying but came good as the race went on. When he was running fourth Roberts looked the most comfortable of them all. His concentration suffered as he led over the line to start the last lap thinking he was about to see the checkered flag. He doesn’t look at his pit board on the last three or four laps and miscalculated. ‘I might have taken a better defensive line in Turn 1 if I’d realized,’ said Kenny although I’m not sure how you defend against a red Honda coming at you sideways.
Kenny was happy that he had more than achieved the ambition he started the season with – being able to see Rossi at the flag. At Barcelona, where he also finished third, Kenny was over nine seconds behind Rossi, today he was just over a tenth of a second back. The man having luck almost as bad as Nicky’s was Sete Gibernau – who else? He ran over Casey Stoner’s fallen Honda, broke a bone in his hand and it seems he may also have damaged the oft-re-plated collarbone again. If so, he’s likely to need a bone graft. The Ilmor got to the flag despite a faulty wheel-speed sensor sending it into the pits, first for diagnosis and then to disable the faulty component. A point first time out is impressive but there is much more to come from this very impressive, innovative motorcycle. Who’d have thought the first 800 to score a point in MotoGP would be an Ilmor?