Repsol Honda's Max Biaggi completed his first and last season as a factory Honda MotoGP rider with a sore sixth placed finish in Sunday's Valencia Grand Prix - a race that may also have marked his final ride on an RCV.

Biaggi's raceday didn't start well when the 34-year-old fell in the morning warm-up session as he was getting up to pace. The Roman knocked his thumb and leg in the fall, while his machine was more seriously damaged. His team worked feverishly over the lunch break and he lined up at 14.00hrs on his rebuilt number one machine.

The 13-times 500cc/MotoGP winner then started well from fifth on the grid, but just couldn't match his lap times from Saturday as front end chatter - the story of his season - again intervened.

Biaggi headed the fight for fifth for most of the race - in front of a hard-charging Alex Barros and Loris Capirossi. Barros eventually slipped past, crossing the line just 0.5secs ahead of the Italian who managed to retain his fifth place in the final championship table.

"I'm very sad at ending the season in this way," admitted Max. "It looked like we were in a better shape (on Saturday) when we ran with the race tyres but it did not go well in warm-up.

"The crash caused some pain in my finger and in my right leg but the bike was badly damaged and definitely didn't feel the same this afternoon even though the team did a great job in rebuilding it in a very short time.

"In the race we are so slow into the corners. The front goes - jump - jump - jump. I go as always at 100% and last year I finish second, just 0.4secs behind the winner. Today I am 21secs down on the winner. This is hard for me to accept," he sighed.

"Max didn't manage to make the lap time he did in the session (on Saturday) which is disappointing because if he had, he would have been able to fight for a podium finish," stated Repsol Honda team manager Makoto Tanaka.

"Maybe there was a slight problem with his machine from the crash. We will have to see but he rode as hard as he could and held his place in the final standings,"

Meanwhile, Biaggi's prospects of landing any Honda ride in 2006 continue to look bleak.

The Roman has been replaced at Repsol by 250cc World Champion Dani Pedrosa, but had seemed assured of a return to Camel Honda due to his close links with the brand.

But Biaggi's past Honda criticisms have hurt HRC, who appear reluctant to hand him any of their machines next year - even though Camel are continuing to fight his corner.

In such situations money usually wins, but it seems that Honda is sticking to its guns and - with Camel seemingly unwilling to drop Biaggi from their 2006 plans - Sito Pons could lose his title sponsor, since there is no way he will end his long term Honda relationship.

But, while Camel would be welcomed by the many other teams without a major title sponsor in the paddock - including the factory Suzuki and Kawasaki teams - both such teams have their 2006 seats full.

If Camel are so keen to run Biaggi that they are willing to leave Honda (and Pons) to do so, then it's follows that whichever team they might now move to will have to run the Roman as part of the deal - and field an extra bike if necessary.

That was the paddock verdict as of late Sunday in Valencia, but Camel's rumoured talks with other teams may simply be to prove to Honda how serious they are about keeping Biaggi... and will Honda really rob Pons of vital sponsorship?

Meanwhile, Casey Stoner and outgoing Ducati rider Carlos Checa are waiting to form any non-Biaggi Honda Pons line-up, with one of the two likely to join Biaggi should he, Camel and Honda eventually reach an agreement.

 

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