In the end of season battle where both Hayden and Rossi had to perform at their best to determine the championship, Nicky Hayden did what he had to do and Rossi made an unforced error. After a bad start dropped Rossi from the pole to 7th position, he was stuck in traffic and having a hard time trying to move up. Hayden, ran up to second spot and then was passed by Capirossi and relegated to third. Rossi simply tried too hard to make up lost ground and lost the front in a left hander, sliding into the gravel. He remounted and rejoined the race in 19th position eventually finishing in 13th, an excellent effort but not enough and the Kentucky Kid finished third in the race, but most importantly, first in the 2006 MotoGP Championship. Job well done.
In many way, this was the race between Rossi and Hayden many wanted to see. Where the outcome of one race determines the championship, everything from qualifying to the race itself counts and in the end, Hayden stood on top. Congratulation, Nicky!
On a side note, if it were not for this race being the last and championship determining race, the excellent performance by Troy Bayliss would be the story, filling in for one race on a Ducati and winning. Unfortunately, that story may get lost in the coverage of the Hayden and Rossi battle but it should not be. Bayliss rode a great race.
When we next see all of the racers they'll be riding 800cc machines. That should mix things up a bit as factory development influences the finishes as much as rider skill, at least in the beginning. It will be interesting and I'm looking forward to it.
Congratulations again to Nicky Hayden, 2006 MotoGP World Champion.
Photo: Honda Motor Sports