Sunday, November 11

ROSSI'S LAST RECORD GOES...

by MICHAEL ESDAILE

THE last remaining lap record held by Valentino Rossi in MotoGP has been broken.

In 2006, Rossi had set the pole position record at the tight and twisty four kilometre Spanish circuit on a Michelin-shod 990cc Yamaha YZF-M1 as he prepared for the final race of that season in defence of his 2005 World Championship.

That record, the last remaining from the 990cc  MotoGP era (pre-2007) was broken by Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) on November 10 in qualifying for this year's race.

In a well timed run, Pedrosa snatched pole position for the 2012 race with a stunning lap time of 1m 30.884s right at the end of the qualifying session.

That was a stunning half second faster than what his Repsol Honda team-mate Casey Stoner had recorded to grab provisional pole with just over two minutes remaining.

Newly crowned World MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo also eclipsed Stoner's effort, with a 1m 31.195s lap.

But it was Pedrosa's sub 1m 31s effort that bettered Rossi's 2006 mark of 1m 31.002s set on a Michelin-shod Yamaha YZF-M1.

That was the era when Michelin was supplying Rossi, and a few other top riders, with special qualifying tyres that were built almost overnight.  Those tyres were only good for one fast lap and Rossi proved the master of getting the absolute best from them.

In contrast, Pedrosa set the new pole record on Bridgestone race tyres, albeit soft compound ones.

"It was almost a perfect lap and I gave 100% because I knew I wouldn't be able to improve any more as the tyres were very good for the first lap and then the drop in grip was quite severe," Pedrosa admitted.  "I'm very happy with the pole position and the new record because Valentino's old record was done with special qualifying tyres.  We had only one dry session to test the new asphalt and we saw that the grip level is a little better but the tyres dropped down very quick.  We still have to decide on the tyres for tomorrow because we have used only the soft compound, but it depends on the weather - if it rains we will need to take what we learned yesterday.  I really would like to win here and finish the season with a good race.”

Pedrosa is the only rider to have won in three grand prix classes at Valencia, the 125GP in 2002; 250GP - 2004 and 2005 and MotoGP - 2007 and 2009 for a tally of five wins.

Stoner has won at Valencia twice: the 125GP in 2003 the MotoGP race in 2008, while Jorge Lorenzo has won at Valencia once, the MotoGP race in 2010.

Valentino Rossi, the man whose record Pedrosa bettered in qualifying, has two wins to his name at Valencia, all on four-strokes. His first was in 2003 on the all-conquering 990cc V5 Honda, the second in 2004 on the Yamaha YZF-M1.

Rossi had never managed to get to grips with the tight circuit on a 500cc two-stroke.

Also, after taking that blazingly fast pole position for the 2006 race, the pressure of the championship being decided there in the last race of the season got to him and he crashed on the fourth lap, gifting the world crown to Nicky Hayden (Honda).

That 2006 race was also memorable for Australian Troy Baylis, recently crowned Superbike World Champion for the second time, stepping into the Ducati MotoGP team to replace the injured Sete Gibernau.

Bayliss had only accepted the ride on the condition that he took his Superbike team mechanics with him and that they would have a free hand to set up the Italian V4.  The Aussie had been frustrated by the Ducati MotoGP team manager not listening to him when he rode for the team in 2003 and 2004.

After taking the lead on the first lap of the 2006 race, Bayliss led all the way to the chequered flag.

When he got off the bike, he famously gave a one finger salute to the Ducati MotoGP team-manager.