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Page last updated at 18:40 GMT, Friday, 6 November 2009

Matt Roberts' MotoGP column

By Matt Roberts
BBC Sport in Valencia

James Toseland
James Toseland will be looking to bow out in style in Valencia

With the title already decided in favour of Valentino Rossi, there are still plenty of battles going on right the way through the field to keep us more than entertained in Valencia this weekend.

Notably, James Toseland lines up for his final MotoGP appearance against his replacement in the Tech 3 Yamaha team, Ben Spies, who is a wildcard entry.

The pair were separated by two tenths of a second in today's free practice, in 13th and 15th place respectively.

Spies, of course, has just won the World Superbike title but contested two MotoGP races for Suzuki last year and is well aware of the size of his task.

"People don't realise how big a step up this is," the American told us in an interview for Sunday's show.

"The first time Casey Stoner passed me last year, he scared the cr*p out of me! To even race with these guys is a huge honour and to be honest a top 10 finish in this class will be like a race win in Superbikes."

Whilst the top four positions in the championship are virtually decided, there is a close battle for fifth between Andrea Dovizioso and Colin Edwards and plenty of pride at stake in the battle for seventh (stay with me here), with no fewer than six riders separated by just seven points.

For three of them in particular - Alex de Angelis, Toni Elias and Chris Vermeulen - the difference between finishing seventh in the championship and finishing 13th will be hugely significant, as they look to leave MotoGP with their heads held high having all been discarded by their respective teams.

The other three to watch out for are Randy de Puniet, Loris Capirossi and Marco Melandri.

The last-ever 250cc World Championship is going to the wire, although the numbers are heavily stacked in favour of Hiroshi Aoyama, who needs just five points to wrap up the title on Sunday.

The only rider who can stop him is Marco Simoncelli, who must win and hope Aoyama finishes no higher than eleventh.

Aoyama was fourth fastest on Friday with Simoncelli sixth, Hector Barberá setting the pace. In the 125cc class British rider Bradley Smith struggled with the windy conditions today, lapping 13th fastest.

Simoncelli, incidentally, will be one of a number of riders taking part in a special motocross event organized by Valentino Rossi next Sunday.

The Italian pair will be joined in Cavallara, a 40km drive from Pésaro, by compatriots Andrea Dovizioso, Loris Capirossi, Mattia Pasini and American former 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz at the event to raise money for a children's hospital that treats leukaemia sufferers in the Italian city.

The final race of 2009 will be Livio Suppo's last in his capacity as Ducati's MotoGP project manager, with the Italian breaking the surprise news that he will be taking up a new role as marketing director for HRC.

Casey Stoner
Casey Stoner set the pace in free practice in Valencia

The announcement is significant if only because it has sent the fickle Italian media into gossip overdrive, with conspiracy theorists reckoning it is a 'come and join us' message from Ducati to Valentino Rossi, who is believed to not get on with Suppo.

Having previously claimed that Stoner's mystery illness was a cover-up for his fractured relationship with Suppo, the Italian hacks are now taking the opposite stance and speculating that the move to Honda is part of the Japanese factory's great plan to poach the Australian.

Either way, Stoner signalled his intention to give Suppo the ideal send-off by setting the pace in free practice, almost four-tenths clear of closest rival Jorge Lorenzo.

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see also
Stoner focused on 2010 title bid
06 Nov 09 |  MotoGP
Steve Parrish's MotoGP column
04 Nov 09 |  MotoGP
Smith claims second in title race
26 Oct 09 |  MotoGP
Cool Rossi crowned world champion
25 Oct 09 |  MotoGP

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