Blog: Down to the wire
MCN MotoGP reporter Matt Birt exclusively shares his views on the build-u to the final round at Velncia. Matt has spent years living out of a suitcase to follow the MotoGP circus around the world, to get the inside scoops for MCN...
So after 16 races, dozens of tests, countless hours on planes and nearly 150,000 words of copy bashed out, the destiny of the MotoGP world championship comes down to a 45-minute shootout on Sunday. I'm off to Valencia tomorrow for a race where some dreams will be realised and some will be shattered. Normally I wouldn't fly to a European race until Thursday, but something tells me this weekend is going to be quite big. I'm absolutely buzzing but I'm not too sure whether that is with all the anticipation or whether it's because I've been on a paracetamol diet for the last two days. Typical, on the eve of the biggest race for a quarter of a century I've been laid low by a bug that has swept through the MCN office. I certainly can't recall in my decade and a bit at MCN a weekend that has been so talked about in the office. Everybody's got an opinion and half the people I talk to want Nicky Hayden to win, while the other half want Valentino Rossi to win. As for me, it's hardly a bold prediction but I just can't see Rossi blowing it now. I've great admiration and respect for Hayden, which was only enhanced in Estoril when he conducted himself in such a dignified manner after Dani Pedrosa's lapse. But the odds are just stacked so heavily against him that I fear there..ll be more tears on Sunday. Nicky has won three races in his four-year career, and two of those were at Laguna Seca. His only European success was somewhat fortuitous in Assen, where he was in the gravel at the last corner but still won. This is a new experience for Nicky but now all he can do is go for broke, risk everything in trying to win and hope that Pedrosa can beat Rossi. And Dani kind of owes Nicky a favour doesn't he? Yesterday Repsol Honda put out a press release that was a big interview with Dani pledging his allegiance to Nicky this weekend. It is clear that Honda wanted to send out a message of unity in the team after the Estoril fiasco. Dani now has to do his talking on the track and do everything he can to beat Rossi, assuming that Nicky can keep his part of the bargain and win. I know Valentino is a multi-world champion but this is new territory for him too. He's normally got the pipe and slippers out at this point having won the title at a canter, so he is under extreme pressure as well, and it will be interesting to see how he handles it. We got one of our trusted American contacts last weekend to track Nicky down in Kentucky, and we've got some great stuff for tomorrow's paper. We also tracked down Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey and Kenny Roberts Senior. Even though these guys haven't raced for ages, they are household names in motorcycle racing, figures who still command so much respect that its fascinating to hear what they've got to say. This time was no exception. Grab a paper tomorrow and find out for yourself. I just hope after the hype and build-up we get the race we all want to see. I remember getting well fired-up to watch the title decider for British superbikes at Brands Hatch and I was glued to my seat. If I hadn..t been I..d have walked out of my mates living room well before the end it was such an anti-climax. The tension is going to be unbearable this weekend and it will kick-off before a wheel has been turned in anger. I've just opened an e-mail from Dorna about who is attending the pre-event press conference. Hayden, Rossi and Pedrosa will all be there. Now I wonder what they will be talking about? Sunday night will probably be one of the busiest I..ve ever had, as there..ll hardly be a lack of talking points or stuff to write about. The only other time I've worked on a title decider was way back in 1996 when Niall Mackenzie and Jamie Whitham had a last round decider in BSB. I can just recall the monstrous difference between the winner and the loser. But that day encapsulated everything that is great about motorcycle racing. It had drama, excitement, tension, tears and wild celebrations. And that was just among the MCN boys! I hope Sunday is the same. Other snippets include Alex Barros signing for D..Antin Ducati. Hardly a big surprise given Alex was turning down the best rides in World Superbikes like they were going out of fashion. It was obvious he had something else on the go to be doing that. Troy Bayliss will be back on a Ducati this weekend in place of Sete Gibernau. I spoke to Troy yesterday at his home in Monaco and he sounded well up for it. Enjoy this weekend. It's going to be emotional.