The Circuit Ricardo Tormo's impressive 150,000-seater grandstands are guaranteed to be full for the final round of the MotoGP season this weekend, as motorcycle racing returns to bike mad Valencia.

The race in Spain's third largest city has become one of the world's biggest motorcycle events, with the nearby town of Chiva taking on a festival-like atmosphere as over 200,000 fans make the annual pilgrimage to the region which produced champions such as Jorge Martinez, Manuel Herreros and Ricardo Tormo, whom the Valencia circuit is now named after.

The circuit was opened in 1999 in response to the growing popularity of motorcycle racing in Spain, hosting both world and domestic championships from its inauguration. The anti-clockwise circuit, unusual for Europe, is mostly flat and comparatively wide with the complex series of five right and nine left turns contrasted with the 876m main straight. Safety was paramount in the design of the circuit with long run-off areas and effective service roads earning great respect from visiting teams, while the modern facilities also boast a pit complex with 48 garages.

The venue is also considered to be the last stand for the ageing two-stroke machines in MotoGP, with its twisting infield section more than making up for the long straight that would normally give the new four-stroke machines an edge. At the last round, in Australia, however, the two-stroke machines dominated in qualifying, only to be blown away come race day, so the outcome remains in doubt.

"It's a short, slow, track - although not the slowest in the MotoGP calendar, which is Estoril," confirms Antonio Cobas, technical director at the West Honda Pons team which will run one two- and one four-stroke bike this weekend, "The long straight at Valencia lifts the lap time and, without that, it would easily be the slowest because the remainder of the circuit is very tight and twisty.

"Maybe the circuit will give the two-strokes a chance against the four-strokes but, as we saw at Phillip Island, you are never sure until you get there. The track is difficult for the riders, although it's not so hard on setting-up the machines. It has good grip for the tyres and suspension, but it's very tight for a 500cc two-stroke, let alone a four-stroke MotoGP machine, with certain corners a real challenge to the riders.

"The left hand corner coming into the long straight is particularly difficult for the riders. It makes them very uncomfortable because it's long and they are constantly braking on the angle. It's a corner where the race can be won by a special rider and Valencia, because of its layout, can often produce unexpected results. We have never had particularly good results there, but we are looking forward to a change this weekend. The track could suit the NSR Honda of Loris, while Alex is riding so well on the four-stroke RCV. I think both can finish the season with good results."



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