The final round of this year’s MotoGP World Championship today in Valencia played out in a way that defied all predictions. Pole-sitter Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) got a poor start and was in seventh place early in the race, while his championship rival Nicky Hayden (Honda) was running third, behind teammate Dani Pedrosa and race leader Troy Bayliss (taking the place of the injured Sete Gibernau on the factory Ducati). The early running order gave Hayden an excellent chance of winning the title regardless, but on Lap 4 Rossi apparently lost the front end and lowsided his Yamaha, sliding into the gravel trap before remounting to rejoin in last place.
The shock of Rossi’s crash and the drama of the points battle nearly overshadowed an amazing ride by Troy Bayliss, who has not ridden a MotoGP bike for almost a year (he spent 2006 winning the World Superbike Championship). Bayliss took an amazing holeshot and led the race from flag to flag for his first-ever MotoGP victory.
Behind Bayliss was the other factory Ducati of Loris Capirossi, who passed Hayden for the position just before the halfway point. Hayden rounded off the podium, and just behind was teammate Pedrosa.
Nicky Hayden’s MotoGP World Championship is the first of the four-stroke era not to be won by Valentino Rossi, and also the first won by an American. The last American World Champion was Kenny Roberts, in 2000, on a 500cc two-stroke.
For more info, results and points, check out the official MotoGP website.