Valentino Rossi may have sealed the 2009 FIM MotoGP World Championship at Sepang, but there are still scores to be settled involving Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa, and a host of other riders in the final round of the season to be held at Valencia in Spain this weekend.
Valentino Rossi may have sealed the 2009 FIM MotoGP World Championship at Sepang, but there are still scores to be settled involving Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa, and a host of other riders in the final round of the season.
A ninth world title was wrapped up by Rossi in Malaysia, leaving the remainder of the MotoGP class to decide the final standings beyond first place for the 2009 season at the Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana.
Rossi’s Fiat Yamaha team-mate Lorenzo pushed him the closest for the title this year, and now the 22 year-old looks primed to secure second spot in his second season in the premier class. With a 25-point margin between him and Stoner in third, it would take a non-point scoring finish from the Spaniard and a race win for the Ducati Marlboro man to dislodge Lorenzo from the runner-up position.
Far likelier for Stoner, who comes into round 17 in a rich vein of form having won his last two races at Sepang and Phillip Island, is third place to round off a season interrupted by illness. Speculation will linger as to how the final standings could have looked had the 2007 World Champion not missed Brno, Indianapolis and Misano due to fatigue, but the focus is now on preventing Pedrosa from regaining third place. With victory last year and second the season before, the 24 year-old Australian has a strong pedigree at Valencia.
Repsol Honda’s Pedrosa is 11 points adrift in fourth, and needs a strong showing at a track where he won in 2007 and finished second last time out.
The competition for fifth place is still very much alive, with just six points the difference between Andrea Dovizioso and Colin Edwards. The Italian’s crash at Sepang was not largely capitalised on by Edwards, whose 13th-placed classification means that the fight for fifth will now go down to the wire at Valencia.
Seventh place, meanwhile, is still to be decided upon between no less than six candidates. Marco Melandri (Hayate Racing), Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki), Alex de Angelis and Toni Elías (both San Carlo Honda Gresini), Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki) and Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) are all separated by just seven points from positions seven to 12.
All have top-ten finishes at Valencia within the past two seasons, with Melandri’s fourth in 2007 the most notable recent result from the pack. Nicky Hayden, at a further eight points adrift of De Puniet, has an outside chance of challenging for seventh if he manages his second podium of the year and other results go his way.
Also riding at Valencia will be American star Ben Spies, who will take to the track as a wildcard for Yamaha in preparation for his first full MotoGP season with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 in 2010. In the Pramac Racing team another rider who is coming into MotoGP full-time next season will be making an additional guest appearance this weekend, as Aleix Espargaró again substitutes the injured Niccolò Canepa.
After prevailing in his epic battle with Marco Simoncelli at Sepang, Hiroshi Aoyama is within touching distance of being named the 2009 250cc World Champion in the final race of the season – and indeed the final 250cc contest in the 60-year history of Grand Prix racing before the introduction of the new Moto2 class next year.
Simoncelli had narrowed the gap at the top of the standings to just 12 points prior to Malaysia, but an enthralling ‘head-to-head’ was won by Aoyama who now heads to Spain with a 21-point cushion.
Should Simoncelli win his seventh race of the campaign at Valencia – thus surpassing his total from 2008 when he won the title – Aoyama would need to finish no lower than eleventh to still take the crown.
The Scot Honda rider has a chequered history at the circuit however, with last year’s fifth place being his best-ever finish. Prior to that, Aoyama has placed sixth and tenth and registered two DNFs, whereas Simoncelli won last year’s race having already secured the title.
Héctor Barberá in third place could mathematically catch Simoncelli in second, but would need to finish second or higher at Valencia and hope for a poor result for the Metis Gilera man. Barberá has a strong record at the track, having finished inside the top five on five occasions in the 250cc and 125cc classes.
Álvaro Bautista’s title hopes ended with his second crash in three races at Sepang, and Valencia is the only one of the three Spanish circuits on the calendar at which he has not tasted a GP victory. Fourth in the championship is safe for the Mapfre Aspar man, who could take third with a good display if Barberá falters.
Mattia Pasini in fifth is 21 points ahead of Thomas Luthi, who leads a pack which also comprises Raffaele de Rosa, Mike di Meglio, Héctor Faubel and Álex Debón. Those five riders are separated by just six points in the battle for sixth spot.
Bancaja Aspar team-mates Julián Simón and Bradley Smith have already secured first and second places respectively in the 125cc World Championship, but the duo will still look to put on strong showings at Valencia in the final race of the season.
Clinching the title at Phillip Island did not stop Simón from producing another fine display at Sepang last time out, as he took his sixth race victory of the season, and the Spaniard will hope to improve on a best previous result of sixth at Valencia in the 250cc class in 2007.
A win at the final round would make Simón the first rider to take three successive victories in the 125cc class since Alvaro Bautista in 2006.
Smith finished fourth at Valencia last year and is currently on a run of five consecutive podiums. A sixth consecutive rostrum finish would be the perfect way to round off the season for the Oxfordshire youngster, who has already achieved the best performance by a British rider since Barry Sheene was second to Kenny Roberts in the 1978 500cc title chase.
Local rider Nico Terol will attempt to secure a top-three finish for the season ahead of his compatriot Pol Espargaró, who is 15 points behind in fourth. Terol finished second at Valencia last season, just one tenth of a second behind race-winner Simone Corsi, while Espargaró’s best placement at the track is sixth, in his debut season in 2006.