Originally published by Julian Ryder on Friday, October 27, 2006
If you discount the Bridgestone runners who put in qualifying tires at the end of the afternoon session, the fastest man on the Valencia track today was Nicky Hayden. He did a 1:33.019 sec lap against Valentino Rossi’s 1:33.274. The really good new from Nicky’s point of view is that there were two Hondas—Pedrosa and Stoner—between the title contenders.
The gaps at this place are always small but they are worth more than usual—half-a-second here is equivalent to a whole second at most other tracks. It is also difficult to overtake on, so a good grid position is vital. As none of the Michelin runners, including Rossi, used a qualifier today it is difficult to gauge what will happen in twenty-four hours’ time.
Most people were more interested in was the body language at the pre-event press conference at which Nicky and Dani Pedrosa sat side-by-side. There wasn’t any eye contact. Dani assured us that he would do his job to help the team, Valentino said he hadn’t seen the incident (honest), Dani said he thought it was time to stop talking about ancient history, the Italian press tried to stir things up but failed to get an inflammatory quote out of Nicky, who appeared to be enjoying the proceedings a lot more than Dani.
Expect things to get even more tense. This track is unlikely to produce the kind of thrills we got from Estoril, but it will certainly be tense. Most people expect things to come down to one pivotal move on Sunday afternoon and the tension will ratchet up to that crescendo.
If you wanted relaxation you had to go to the Ducati camp where A grinning Loris Capirossi announced that he and wife Ingrid are expecting a baby in April and a thoroughly laid-back Troy Bayliss was enjoying his ride on the injured Sete Gibernau’s bike. Troy rode the 990 Desmosedici on its public debut here at the end of the 2002 season and is deriving a certain sense of satisfaction in riding it in its last race, thus topping and tailing the project.
That, however, is a sideshow to the main event, and the first round of that contest has been won by Nicky Hayden.