This Valencian venue has proved rewarding for a number of Honda men currently plying their trade in the premier class. Perhaps none more so than Spanish superstar Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) who has won here in all classes during his stellar career.
His team-mate Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC212V) is another man with happy memories of this traditional end-of-season circuit (since 2002). Nicky wrapped up the 2006 World Championship here with an inspired ride to third when the odds seemed stacked against this rugged campaigner who will race for Honda for the last time (at this stage of his career) at least.
Both factory men are in a rich vein of form. Each has scored two podium finishes from the last four races and with Dani boasting a pole position, lap record and race victory here from 2007, he’ll be eager to deny his team-mate a swansong win.
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) won here on a 250cc machine in 2003 before Dani piled up two wins in that class for Honda in 2004 and 2005. Alex de Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) finished fourth in the 125cc category in 2002 and won here on a 250 in 2006.
Aside from the enviable rider record the Honda factory enjoys here, it’s evident recent machinery in the shape of the 990cc RC 211V and current 800cc RC212V works well here. Alex Barros triumphed in 2002 on the RC211V, Valentino Rossi in 2003, Marco Melandri in 2005, and Dani on the RC212V last year.
Andrea Dovizioso (JiR Scot Honda RC212V) who rode to a fully deserved podium finish in Malaysia last weekend does not have a noteworthy record here – yet. But after his stirring ride at Sepang, he will set about business here with his typical resolve matched to added confidence.
‘Dovi’ joins the factory Repsol Honda team in 2009, while loyal factory servant Shinya Nakano (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) will take the grid for the last time for the Gresini team, as a full-time rider.
There is also the prestigious matter of the Rookie Of The Year title which is still up for grabs. Dovi is locked in a fight for this prize with his old sparring-partner from his 250cc days Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha).
Whichever rider takes the award, they will be the highest placed rookie since the start of the latest four-stroke era in 2002. That honour is currently held jointly by Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden.
The 4.005km Ricardo Tormo track was designed to fit in the ‘bowl’ of a natural amphitheatre, so the huge crowds (200,000 plus over the race weekend) can track the progress of riders almost all the way around a full lap. With 14 turns (five rights and nine lefts) packed into this tight space, and only a short 876m straight, it’s ideal for spectators – but hard work for riders.
There is no time to rest here. With many turns in quick succession and only the short chute on which to ‘relax’, the ‘Cheste’ track is punishing. Despite a slow average lap time at around a 150km/h average speed (the second slowest on the calendar next to Estoril) the bikes are on the edge of their tyres for long periods – precisely where riders need to apply maximum concentration.
The two fast turns at either end of the main straight are hard on rubber too, so set-up means making the most of available grip and having a machine that turns easily without too much physical effort from the pilot. Progressive acceleration out of those turns is vital too.
Dani said: “I’m really looking forward to Valencia. It’s a great track for the fans because they can see the whole lap. The place is laid out a bit like a stadium, so the atmosphere is fantastic, especially since it’s the last race of the year. I especially enjoy this race, it’s always great to ride in front of so many Spanish fans. You can really feel their support. There are a lot of corners in quite a short lap with quite a few changes of direction, so it is very important to have an agile bike. You need to vary your riding style around this track, adjusting your technique according to each corner. Rear grip plays a crucial role, especially edge grip.”
Nicky said: “One more try at ’em! I really love Valencia and I love the atmosphere, it’s always special to race in front of a Spanish crowd. I don’t want to sound soft but it will be an emotional weekend. This team has been family the last six years – I was 21 years old when I showed up in Europe from Kentucky! We’ve had a good run together. I’m really grateful for the opportunity Honda gave me. Not a lot of people can say they rode factory Hondas for nine years. From the RC51 on, I’ve ridden some of the baddest bikes ever and worked with some great engineers. We’ll be hoping we can go out strong. Valencia has got a special place in my heart for obvious reasons.”
Dovi said: “Valencia will be my last race with the team I made my debut with in the World Championships. These seven years have been important, we’ve collected many successes, including the world title in the 125 class. This season we wanted to be able to climb the podium. I would have preferred if it could have happened many other times, but we only got within touching distance before finally reaching it in Malaysia. Valencia is not a circuit I particularly like and a good result will not be easy. We’ll do our best, as always, as I would like to make another ‘gift’ of a good result before my change of team at the end of the season.”
De Puniet said: “My right wrist gave me a bit of trouble towards the end of the race at Sepang and I hope it will be strong enough for me to keep riding as hard as I can here in Valencia. The track makes physical demands and I want to be in the best shape I can to give the team something to be really happy about now that the season is about to end. I’ve had success here with a 250, so let’s hope we can repeat that on Sunday.”
De Angelis said: “At the start of my career I could never get to grips with Valencia, but over the last few years the situation has changed and I’ve been strong here, even winning the 250cc race in 2006. It is a circuit where a strong engine is not fundamental, because there are few places where you hit high speeds. It’s similar to tracks where we’ve done well this year, so I’m confident. I’d like to end the season in positive fashion and give my technical staff some nice memories to take with them because there will be some changes over the winter and I’ll be working with new people next year.”
Nakano said: “This season has gone by so fast and Sunday is the final race already! Valencia is a unique place and I like it a lot. Tyre choice will be crucial because of the temperatures, which probably won’t be too high. In any case after two good races in Australia and Malaysia my confidence is high and I’m convinced I can end the season with another good result. I also have the chance to move up a few positions in the World Championship table so I’ll give maximum effort until the end.”
The following is from Yamaha…
A record-breaking season for Fiat Yamaha reaches its finale this weekend as the Grand Prix of Valencia brings the curtain down on the 2008 MotoGP World Championship. The traditional season-ending Spanish fiesta sees Valentino Rossi arrive with the title already in his pocket and the all-time points record for a season within his sights, whilst Jorge Lorenzo will become the highest-placed rookie in four-stroke MotoGP history by scoring just four points.
In a season that has seen Rossi become MotoGP World Champion for the sixth time, breaking the record number of wins in the class and scoring his 150th Grand Prix podium on the way, he now needs just eleven points to break the record for the highest tally in a season. He currently stands on 357 points, meaning fifth place or above would take him above the benchmark he set in 2005, which was equalled by Casey Stoner last year.
Lorenzo currently lies fourth in the championship and whilst third is now a mathematically impossibility, Andrea Dovizioso would have to win the race and hope the Spaniard finishes no higher than twelfth to dislodge him. Dovizioso is also the only rider with any chance of denying Lorenzo the title of Rookie of the Year. It is a familiar scenario for the old rivals, who entered the final round of the 2006 season at Valencia battling for the 250cc title, which Lorenzo won with fourth place as the Italian finished seventh.
The 21-year-old from Mallorca has never won at the Ricardo Tormo circuit although he will be looking to set that record straight this weekend in front of the 130,000 race-day fans that will pack into the unique stadium-style surroundings of the track. The layout is characterised by a never-ending burst of tight corners, connected by short straights. The long penultimate looping left-hander and the fast entry to turn one contrast violently with the otherwise geometric flip-flop chicanes and slow speed corners of the infield. Valentino Rossi – “An account to settle”
“I have had two bad years at Valencia and I have some memories I would like to forget with a good result there this year – I have an account to settle! In 2006 I crashed and lost the championship and then last year I broke my hand and lost second place in the championship! It’s not the best track for us but I won there with Yamaha in my first year with them and I would like to do the same again this weekend. It’s been a fantastic season and the win on Sunday in Malaysia was great, but I am not finished yet and I want to reward my team, Yamaha and Bridgestone for a fantastic season with the best possible result on Sunday. Then we can all celebrate with a big party!”
Jorge Lorenzo – “Aiming to finish on a high”
“Sunday was really disappointing but I am not hurt and now we are looking forward to Valencia. It’s the third ‘home’ race for me and since at the last one, in Barcelona, I couldn’t race, I especially want to get a good result for all my fans. It will be a special race because it’s the 10th anniversary of the Valencia circuit. Of course it is a little sad that I am no longer fighting for third in the Championship, but I can still be Rookie of the Year and this is what I am aiming for. It is really important for me and for all my team. I don’t have the best record at Valencia, I’ve never won the race there, although I was second in 2005, but I do have great memories from winning the 250cc world championship there in 2006. It will be our last race with Michelin, who I won my first premier class race with, and more than anything I want to get a good result for them, for my tyre technician Pierre, for Jean-Phillipe Weber and of course for my team.”
Davide Brivio – “We want to win and party”
“Valencia is the last race of the season so we go there with a twin objective – to win the race and to party! It is nice to go to another race without any pressure and I think all the Spanish fans will enjoy watching Valentino in the incredible form he has shown recently. Of course it has been a tough few weeks on the road for the team, with a lot of travelling involved but honestly when you are winning you don’t feel the stress! Even so, it will be nice to be back in Europe and we will be focusing on ending the season on a high. Whatever the result, we’ll be partying on Sunday night!”
Daniele Romagnoli – “Motivation is high”
“We still have one race to go and it’s another Spanish one so it’s really important for Jorge. Despite the bad result in Sepang we have high motivation and we really want to finish the season well. We will all do our very best to be back on the podium there and to finish the season in the way that Jorge and the whole team deserves. Despite not getting the best results we’ve been in good shape for the last three race weekends and qualified on the front row for five races in a row now, so we know we can do it. This will be the last race with Michelin and so this is another reason to push. We want to give them a good final result to thank them for the hard work they have done all season.”
The following is from Suzuki…
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP is back in Europe for the final round of the 2008 MotoGP World Championship – hoping to join in the end of season celebrations.
The traditional final MotoGP race of the year at Valencia in Spain always has a festival atmosphere, with huge crowds and the impressive firework display that greets the end of the event just adding to the carnival feeling.
The Ricardo Tormo circuit is celebrating its 10th Grand Prix this coming weekend. The Spanish track is unique in that it is the only stadium event on the calendar, and gives the massed banks of fans in the vast grandstands the opportunity to view all the action on track no matter where they are seated. Last season the huge crowd was able to cheer home a Rizla Suzuki to a podium place.
Loris Capirossi has competed at every Valencian GP and has enjoyed success there with three podiums from his nine visits. He will certainly be aiming for a strong finish to the season to push himself into a higher position in the championship and sign off his first season with Suzuki in style before the team embarks on a comprehensive winter test schedule.
Chris Vermeulen finished sixth at Valencia in 2007 – directly behind Capirossi – and will be looking to improve on that position as the curtain falls on his third full season in MotoGP. Vermeulen is in a confident mood and eager to give his crew and all at Suzuki a boost as he too looks forward to the challenge of preparing for 2009.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP will take to the track on Friday 24th October for two free practice sessions, followed by another free hour on the following morning. Saturday afternoon will see Capirossi and Vermeulen battling for the best grid positions for Sunday’s 30-lap race that will start at 14.00hrs local time (13.00hrs GMT), when the team will be looking to get enough points to consolidate fourth place in the Team’s Championship.
“I think Valencia will be good for us because it is not really a quick track and our bike is good for handling and braking – so we hope to go really well! We understand that the weather can sometimes be very difficult there because it can be quite cold, but I believe we can go really fast in Valencia. It is the last race and is a good opportunity to start working on how we want to continue next year.”
“Valencia is a great circuit and it suits our bike well with it not having very long straights. The Suzuki works well on the tight and twisty type of circuit and last year we were very quick there and I am really looking forward to going back. Hopefully we can stand on the podium one more time this year, because that is the plan and I really think it is possible!”