Your MotoGP™ viewing for the next few days has been sorted thanks to motogp.com. We’ve made sure that ten of the greatest Grand Prix battles are totally free for you to watch, in full, for this week. We’re also diving into more detail for a select few and today we’ll look at the story surrounding the 2006 Portuguese Grand Prix, the penultimate round of the 2006 season.
Just 50 points remained in the fight to become 2006 MotoGP™ World Champion when we descended upon Estoril. At the time, Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden, chasing his first World title, was 12 points clear of Valentino Rossi, who chasing his eighth and a sixth consecutive crown.
In qualifying, Rossi took pole position thanks to a new fastest-ever lap around the Estoril circuit with teammate Colin Edwards and title rival Nicky Hayden joining him on the front row; the American just a fraction quicker than rookie teammate Dani Pedrosa.
One of the defining moments of the race came early on when Pedrosa tried to push ahead of Hayden. Unbelievably, Pedrosa tucked the front and cleaned out his teammate, leaving both Repsol Honda machines in the gravel trap and, at the time, it felt like Pedrosa had robbed Hayden of a first World Championship. The image of the much-missed Hayden trudging through the gravel trap with raw emotion across his face one that will live with many of us forever.
It was a chance for Rossi to capitalise. He came across the line with ‘HAYDEN OUT’ on his pit board. 25 points would give him a 13-point advantage going into the final round but it wasn’t to be as straight forward as that. The two Camel Yamahas of Rossi and Edwards would come up against the KR Proton of Kenny Roberts Jr, searching for a first premier class win in six years, and a determined 23-year-old Spaniard by the name of Toni Elias, who had his eyes on a debut MotoGP™ victory.
What followed was nothing short of a classic as three different men hit the front of the final lap of the race, with Hayden even admitting afterwards he was “rooting for Roberts and Elias more than their own parents” as he prayed they would do him a favour in the fight for the title.