Motorcycling: Rossi's road to recovery increases pressure on Hayden

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The Independent Online

Valentino Rossi will start tomorrow's 15th round of the MotoGP championship in Japan in his best position in the points table since the third round of the series in Turkey back in April.

It has taken that long for the Italian to haul his way back into contention after handling problems, crashes and machine breakdowns derailed his start to the season. Now, with three races remaining in the series, the reigning MotoGP champion is in second place in the table on his Yamaha, only 21 points behind Honda's Nicky Hayden.

Yamaha can count on two factors in their battle to retain the title. Rossi is the ultimate opportunist, who reacts instantly to changing circumstances. This may be an advantage if the threatened showers disrupt the race. Secondly, Rossi's sheer competitiveness unnerves opponents into committing errors.

Despite the clutch problems that plagued Hayden's bike in Australia last week, the American is remaining calm under Rossi's withering pressure. He also knows that even if Rossi were to win the final three races, he would only have to finish twice on two occasions and third once to claim the title.

Hayden would love the glory of winning on the Motegi circuit tomorrow but ultimately it is consistency that wins championships.