Blog: Rossi getting closer

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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?

The champagne had barely dried at Motegi today when everybodys thoughts turned to the final GP at Valencia next month.

Thats where we will see a dramatic final round shootout between Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden and the buzz of anticipation was already building in Japan. Valentino and Nicky both mentioned it after their contrasting fortunes in todays race. The hype and expectation is only going to build now, and it will be fantastic to be there to witness it first hand.

As much as I like Nicky and would love to see him be crowned world champion, Id bet my life savings right now on Rossi winning the title.

When youre having a bad day, youve got to jump on youre adversary and at the moment Rossi is stamping all over Hayden. Even I doubted a few weeks ago in Laguna Seca when Rossi fell 51-points behind Hayden whether he could turn it around. I know you should never rule out Rossi, and its been no surprise that hes turned his fortunes around so dramatically. But at the same time I never expected Nicky to experience such an alarming collapse. At the moment he resembles a paper house in a tornado and today at Motegi was another another bad day at the office.

While Rossi hasnt finished off the podium in the four races since his disaster at Laguna, Haydens fortunes have gone in completely the opposite direction. Hed missed the podium just once in 15 races including his win in America. Now he cant buy a rostrum when he needs one the most.

Speaking to Nicky tonight after hed finished fifth, you could sense he was beginning to feel the pressure, though he was doing his best to disguise it. But at the same time you can see just what winning the world championship means to him. He wants it more than anything and is so close he can almost touch it, but you can sense his patience is wearing thin with Hondas on-going clutch problems. The clutch hurt him badly again today, and trust me, Nicky was not happy. I happened to be waiting to speak to him in his little office when a re-run of the race started on a TV monitor. He just sat watching his diabolical start shaking his head in disbelief as he relived the nightmare all over again.

As ever though he spoke openly and freely with the press, and did his best to display a calm and collected public appearance. Privately though through sources Ive heard he is bouncing off the walls.

Honda bosses werent exactly shouting from the rooftops today either. Losing so comprehensively in their own backyard would have gone down like a lead balloon.

I saw HRC managing director Satoru Horiike in the paddock after the race and stopped to ask him for some reaction. He just looked ashen-faced and said no comment. Thats not like Horiike at all but it gave an indication as to how badly Honda was smarting.

I later found out that HRC president Suguru Kanazawa, who was supposed to be attending Hayden and Dani Pedrosas 800cc debut tomorrow, had instead returned to Tokyo to nurse his battered pride.

I spoke to some other HRC people tonight while a post mortem was being conducted behind closed doors, and the message was apparently loud and clear from Kanazawa as he departed. Heads will roll apparently if Hayden loses the title and the clutch is a major contributing factor. It was a case of sort it or sayonara.

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MCN Staff

By MCN Staff