MCN MotoGP reporter Matt Birt is at the Japanese Grand Prix, and broke the news Nicky Hayden had signed for Honda for a further two years. Want to know more and read Matt's insight into the news?
THERES a famous old adage in racing that goes best of friends off the track, deadly rivals on it.
That phrase could have been coined for Valentino Rossi and Loris Capirossi.
After their classic duel earlier this month in Sepang, the best Italy has to offer seem to be set for another titanic showdown tomorrow here in Japan. First and second on the grid, super-consistent pace on race tyres, the stage is certainly set for the Yamaha and Ducati rivals to serve up another action-packed 45 minutes. Speaking to Valentino tonight he was in no doubt that Loris posed the biggest threat to him winning his first ever four-stroke race in Japan. While Capirossi looked quietly confident in the post-qualifying press conference that unlike in Sepang, this time hed be getting his hands on the winners trophy.
Cast the mind back to Sepang and youll remember there were hugs, smiles and backslaps all round between the two who have forged a close relationship in recent years.
Yet it hasnt always been like that. Back in 1999 when they were factory Aprilia team-mates in the world 250 championship, they were sworn enemies and there was nothing to suggest that theyd form the close bond they now enjoy.
Rossi, who has enjoyed fierce and bitter rivalries with the likes of Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau in his career, reckons there was never ever any real bad blood between the two, though he does admit there was some issue in 1999. That year the rivalry was as intense between their mechanics off then track than it was between the two on it.
Speaking to Valentino tonight he said he hoped it would be another battle between the two, though he said he expects less of the fireworks that we saw in Malaysia a couple of weeks back. Thats largely down to the nature of the Motegi track, Valentino said. Sepang is full of high-speed corners that encourage overtaking, whereas Motegi is dominated by fiercely hard braking points, where pinpoint precision, guile and unerring trust in the front tyre are needed to make passes.
Any hopes that Nicky Hayden signing a new contract with Honda yesterday would bring an end to the constant discussion about the issue were quickly disappeared this morning. And any hopes that having signed Nickys mind would be to concentrate solely on closing out the championship over the last few races also seemed off the mark. He was seventh today for the record with plenty of work to do to keep Rossi and Capirossi in his sight.
While the dust settles on the long-running saga, attention today turned to the losers in the battle for his signature. Yamaha were still reeling from Haydens decision, and everybody was asking me if Id got any reaction to them having Nicky knock them back again. As yet no, but tomorrow morning I have an appointment with Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis to get the full reaction on what has turned into a nightmare scenario for Yamaha.
I have to mention our own Bradley Smith, who qualified in a brilliant ninth place for tomorrows 125 race.
When he broke his left arm and hand last month at Brno it would have been easy to let it jolt his confidence. If anything though he has comeback stronger.
Bradley is unbelievably mature for his tender years and he definitely has an old head on young shoulders. All being well Ill be writing about his first world championship top ten finish by this time tomorrow, hopefully even better.
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