Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) and Nicky Hayden (Honda) opened their final battle for the championship during today’s qualifying session. Hayden topped the charts with twenty minutes left in the session, but Rossi took back the pole position with a record-breaking lap just moments from the close of qualifying.
Meanwhile, Hayden was demoted from the front row by several Bridgestone-shod machines, moving back to fifth on the grid behind Rossi, Troy Bayliss (stepping in to ride the factory Ducati belonging to the injured Sete Gibernau), Loris Capirossi (Ducati), and Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki). Next to Hayden on the second row (three riders are gridded in each row) is his teammate Dani Pedrosa in sixth.
Although starting position can certainly have a dramatic effect on the outcome of a race, the performance of the respective tire manufacturers is not certain to repeat itself in the race – the riders make their qualifying runs on special, super-sticky qualifying tires, and will be on much different rubber as they clear the gate tomorrow at the start of the race.
Check back tomorrow to find out what happens when the flag drops, and who crosses the line a World Champion (in Rossi’s case we would add “yet again”).