After a thrilling final race of what has been an amazing season, Nicky Hayden was crowned 2006 World Champion.
The tension was palpable as this all-or-nothing 30-lap contest got underway in front of a capacity 130,000 crowd.
Starting from fifth on the grid, the Repsol Honda rider started aggressively pulling sharply to the right and nearly touching Rossi, who led him by eight points ahead of the final race.
Bayliss led into turn one from the lights with his team-mate Capirossi tucked close behind him and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC211V) third. But further back was Hayden, in front of Rossi who made a sluggish start from pole. Hayden lay sixth at turn one on lap one.
On lap five, the lap that decided the direction of the 2006 World MotoGP Championship, Hayden lay 0.3 seconds behind the inspired Troy Bayliss. And as Rossi hit the mid-point of the left-hand turn one, his machine slid from under him. The Italian and his Yamaha ended in the dirt, his title chances effectively over. He remounted in 20th place with a mountain to climb.
As the laps ran down to the flag Hayden hung close to Capirossi ready to steal a place on the Italian if he needed to, but then as it became clear Rossi had too much to do, Nicky merely reeled off the laps he needed to clinch the biggest prize on two wheels.
With all the focus on the overall classification, the fantastic achievement of Troy Bayliss could easily be overlooked. The Australian rider was standing in for the injured Sete Gibernau to finish the journey of the Ducati Desmosedici 990cc bike which he started back in 2003, and did so in style by leading from the first corner on his 50th Grand Prix appearance.
Finishing with 252 points to Rossi’s 247, Nicky said, “I’m so blessed. When you dedicate your life to something and it comes true it means so much. I have to thank the people around me who never stopped believing: Honda, my team, Michelin, my friends and family. It just goes to show when you keep fighting to the end and never give up then good things happen to you. I can’t really say just how much this means to me right now.”
Valencia MotoGP - Final Results:
- Troy Bayliss (Aus) Ducati 46:55.415
- Loris Capirossi (Ita) Ducati 46:56.734
- Nicky Hayden (US) Honda 47:04.645
- Dani Pedrosa (Spa) Honda 47:07.480
- Marco Melandri (Ita) Honda 47:11.721
- Toni Elias (Spa) Honda 47:12.805
- Shinya Nakano (Jpn) Kawasaki 47:14.744
- Kenny Roberts Jr (US) KR211V 47:18.589
- Colin Edwards (US) Yamaha 47:21.487
- 10. Carlos Checa (Spa) Yamaha 47:23.609
- John Hopkins (US) Suzuki 47:24.779
- Makoto Tamada (Jpn) Honda 47:25.122
- Valentino Rossi (Ita) Yamaha 47:33.961
- James Ellison (GB) Yamaha 48:15.428
- Garry McCoy (Aus) Ilmor X3 +7 Laps
MotoGP - Rider Standings:
- Nicky Hayden (US) Honda 252pts
- Valentino Rossi (Ita) Yamaha 247
- Loris Capirossi (Ita) Ducati 229
- Marco Melandri (Ita) Honda 228
- Dani Pedrosa (Spa) Honda 215
- Kenny Roberts Jr (US) KR211V 134
- Colin Edwards (US) Yamaha 124
- Casey Stoner (Aus) Honda 119
- Toni Elias (ESP) Honda 116
- John Hopkins (US) Suzuki 116
- Honda 360pts
- Yamaha 289
- Ducati 248