A challenging first season of 800cc Grand Prix racing comes to an end this weekend as the eighteenth and final round of the 2007 MotoGP World Championship takes place at Valencia in Spain. The traditional season curtain call at the Ricardo Tormo circuit marks the conclusion of a difficult campaign for the Fiat Yamaha Team, although Valentino Rossi does have the chance to salvage a great deal of pride by sealing the runner-up spot with a single point in Sunday's 30-lap race.
Fifteenth place or above would leave Rossi out of reach of Dani Pedrosa, who has to win the race to maintain any chance of usurping the Italian for that coveted second spot in the final standings. The Valencian Grand Prix is the 100th race since the new era of four-stroke MotoGP was introduced in 2002 and it marks a special landmark for Rossi, who is one of only three riders to have appeared in every single one - taking 49 victories along the way. Two of them came at the Ricardo Tormo circuit and a repeat performance in front of his adoring Spanish fans would see the Italian become the first rider to reach the milestone of 100 podium finishes in the 58-year history of premier-class Grand Prix racing.
It will also be a special weekend for Rossi's team-mate Colin Edwards, who is set to make his final appearance for the team before joining Herve Poncharal's Yamaha Tech3 outfit in 2008. Valencia has been something of a bogey track in the past for Edwards, who finished ninth last year after three successive eighth place finishes at a circuit that is renowned for its unique stadium-style surroundings. The track itself is characterised by a never-ending burst of tight corners, connected by short straights. The long penultimate looping left-hander and the fast entry to turn one contrast violently with the otherwise geometric flip-flop chicanes and slow speed corners of the infield.
Valentino Rossi, 'A long and hard season, A difficult campaign comes to an end for Valentino Rossi at Valencia with the sole target of sealing the runner-up spot in the championship. The five-time MotoGP World Champion has not finished outside the top two at any level of the championship since taking ninth in his rookie 125cc season of 1996 and he is keen to maintain that run with a single point on Sunday.
"The last race in Malaysia was a disappointment but also very encouraging because, on race day, everything worked very well, says Rossi. "Hopefully we can use this to start on a good note at Valencia because Sepang showed how important it is to start from the front. Valencia has usually been a good track for me, although I don't have such great memories from last year!
'It's been a long and hard season and now we've finally arrived at the last race and we are all hoping that we can have a good weekend. More than anything I want to win and give everyone in the team a happy end to the season; motivation is still very high and we will be doing the best we can in Valencia. Second place is not first but it is still important because I have not been outside the top two since 1996 and I want to keep that going.'
Colin Edwards, "The target is always to win, For Colin Edwards the Valencia race marks the end of a three-year spell with the factory Yamaha team that has wielded six podium positions - a tally the Texan admits could have been much higher but for the difficulties experienced this year. Amongst his highlights with the factory team were the teams' and constructors' titles and a new MotoGP record of 17 point-scoring finishes in 2005. Now the former World Superbike Champion remains typically determined to sign off with his first win for the team and hold off last year's World Champion Nicky Hayden in the fight for eighth place in the championship.
"This season hasn't really turned out exactly how we had planned, there have been some high points and some low points but all I'm thinking about now is making sure that Valencia is one of the high ones!" says Edwards. "The last two races have been especially difficult but we're starting with a clean slate on Friday morning and we'll go from there. Of course it is not easy to win races in this series but that's the target we start off with at every Grand Prix.
"My guys have worked so hard all season and I really want to give them something to be proud of at the last race. It's going to be a strange race - my last with the team - but I'm really happy that I'm staying within the Yamaha family. My wife and a few friends from home are coming over too so I hope we can make it a weekend to celebrate.'