MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, ITALY, JAN 14 - Ducati Marlboro's Nicky Hayden came within one position of defending his title in the ice races that concluded Wrooom 2011 under the lights in Madonna di Campiglio, high in the Italian Dolomites, but instead came away with a double podium and some very famous names behind him.Atypically warm winter weather earlier in the day wreaked havoc on the ice surface, with several large holes forming on the goggle-shaped track. The biggest was in the chicane on the back straight and the second was coming out of the final turn. The holes were rougher on the mostly rigid go-karts, rather than the Fiat Cinquecentos, with all the drivers getting four wheels off the ground. Following practice, a grooming machine came out and the back straight was widened, taking some of the angle out of the chicane, but it was still very dramatic watching the karts get air lap after lap.

The drama at the event which concludes the combined Ducati and Ferrari team intros began during the rider introductions. After the five Formula One drivers were introduced, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, and test drivers Marc Gene, Jules Bianchi, and Giancarlo Fisichella, Nicky Hayden was called to the stage. Then came the unexpected introduction of Valentino Rossi, which brought the loudest cheers of the night. Rossi wasn't expected to compete out of fear of re-injuring his surgically repaired right shoulder, but he was there from the start of practice to the end, despite a very rough track.The first order of the night was the go-kart race, 20 laps run in two segments, with a convertible Ferrari California pace car bunching up the field at the halfway mark. The field lined for the rolling start with fast qualifier with Alonso on the pole and second fastest Rossi. Massa was on the second row in front of Hayden.Alonso got the jump and led all the way. He and Massa put on a show while Hayden battled with Rossi. Rossi was a secure fourth until he nearly spun at the end of the race and fell to fifth, while Hayden sped to yet another podium.Hayden came into the car race, run in race-prepped, personalized Fiat Cinquecentos, as the defending champion, having beaten Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, and teammate Casey Stoner, last year. But this year Alonso got the jump on the seven-driver field and led start to finish in the first ten-lap segment. The field then bunched up behind the pace car for the final ten laps, with two-time Formula One champion Alonso again leading flag to flag. The popular Spaniard celebrated his second victory of the night by standing on the roof of Fiat, then pounding the roof with his fist when he climbed down.Hayden was third in the first segment, then slipped in front of Massa early in the re-start. At one point he thought Alonso might be coming back at him, but he couldn't close the gap. Still Hayden was second, with teammate Valentino Rossi taking third from Massa on the final lap."It was a lot of fun," Hayden said. This is an awesome event they put on. It's all for fun, but of course we're racers and like to win."I got a second and a third, so I guess I can't be too mad with that; they tell me Alonso has driven a few cars in his day," Hayden said. "The course was pretty rough for the kart race because of the warm weather today, and there was one hole on the back straight where we were getting all the way off the ground. It was fun though-clean and safe. In the car race, it took me until about halfway point to pass Massa. Once I got by, I tried to bring [Alonso] in, but he just had too much of a gap."

"This week has been a spectacular event, and the races at the end were a lot of fun," Rossi said. "In the end, I decided to take part because the atmosphere here at Wrooom was so fantastic, and because the fans deserved it. I got a few jolts from the holes, but nothing too bad. It was worth it."Said Hayden, "This was my third Wrooom, and I think it was the best one yet-it seems like they just make it better every year," he said. "They really treat us good, and we make a lot of friends, and it's great to see them each year. This is a great way to kick things off, but there's been enough talking about everything now. It's time to get out there and do the real thing."Hayden flies back to his winter training base in Orange, California on Saturday to get ready for the first test of the season in Sepang, Malaysia on Feb. 1-3. Meanwhile, his brothers start testing on Monday. Rockstar Makita Suzuki's Tommy Hayden and National Guard Jordan Suzuki's Roger Lee Hayden will be together on Superbikes on the same track for the first time since 2008 when the Dunlop tire test begins at Daytona International Speedway.

 


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Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.

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