.

Race report: Valencia GP

Photo: MotoGP

CIRCUIT RICARDO TORMO, Valencia, Spain, November 13 – The rider’s championships were already settled in all three classes, but with the Moto GP team and constructors’ titles still up for grabs – both very important to the factories – there wasn’t going to be any coasting at the last Moto GP of 2016 (not to mention that a lot of riders were looking to impress their new-for-2017 employers).

In the event, titanic struggles in Moto 3 and Moto 2 provided endless drama and races you’ll want to watch again, while Jorge Lorenzo celebrated his final race with Yamaha with a superb lights-to-flag victory after grabbing pole with a lap that was breathtaking in its speed and perfection.

The final Moto GP results – Lorenzo first and team-mate Valentino Rossi fourth – gave Yamaha the team title, while Marc Marquez’ strong second place delivered the constructor’s title to Honda in spite of team-mate Dani Pedrosa and top satellite Honda rider Cal Crutchlow crashing out.

After the race Lorenzo said, “These last nine years [with Yamaha] have been very successful and it was a perfect weekend with the 250th GP, pole position, fastest lap, and the victory. I’m very proud and very happy.”

He added that it wasn’t quite as easy as it looked, as toward the end his rear tire began to go off and a massive five-second-plus gap was whittled down to just over a second by Honda’s charging Marc Marquez. The new world champion’s race was ruined by a terrible start that left him with a lot of work to do – Valencia is a very tight track on which it’s hard to pass. By the time he got in front of Rossi, Ducati’s Andrea Iannone, and Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales, he didn’t quite have the time to chase down Lorenzo.

Marquez said, “It was my worst start of the season because I had a problem with the clutch and the rear was spinning, and then the bike comes with a big wheelie. I lost many positions and a lot of time in the beginning of the race … [toward the end] I could see that I was catching Jorge but I was starting to see the laps that remained and the time, and I said it will be difficult, but I will try.” He added, “But there are no excuses, the race is 30 laps and today Jorge rode an incredible race.”

Third went to Andrea Iannone in his last ride for Ducati, the Italian riding strongly and bravely despite still recovering from a cracked T3 vertebra. He was helped by the Ducati’s incredible straight-line speed, but all credit to him for his performance. He said, “I am very happy for this last race because I fight a lot from the beginning … I tried to follow Jorge but he had incredible pace.

“I put 100 per-cent for the race and had a great battle with Marc [Marquez] and also with Vale (Rossi). Everything is difficult but I put all of me into this race.”

Rossi was fourth at a track he doesn’t particularly enjoy, and as Iannone said, was in the midst of a hard scrap with his great friend Iannone and Marquez. The nine-time world champion said, “I’m not happy to lose the podium and it was a very tough race, but also a good race … When you fight with Iannone is not easy and you have to do like this [makes cross sign and puts hands together as if praying]! Sincerely speaking, was a hard fight but we never touch, is okay.”

Regarding Lorenzo’s win, he added, “Jorge in this race track rides better than me and is faster. I think at the end most of [the time difference] is that. I suffer a lot with the front tire. I want to try to race with the hard but unfortunately I didn’t have enough grip on the left. But today with a bit more temperature I suffer a bit with the soft. But especially I think that Lorenzo here is faster.”

Maverick Vinales grabbed fifth for Suzuki in his final ride with the team, and the top 10 was rounded out by Pol Espargaro (Tech 3 Yamaha), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati), Aleix Espargaro (Suzuki), Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Yamaha), and Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia).

The championship ended with Marquez, Rossi, and Lorenzo finishing in that order.

Moto 2

Probably the best Moto 2 race of the season finished with a vintage performance from Frenchman Johann Zarco, already crowned class champion for the second-year in a row. The race featured an incredible battle among Zarco, Italian Franco Morbidelli, Swiss Tom Luthi, and Spaniard Alex Rins, with Brit Sam Lowes closing up and catching Rins on the last lap.

Apparently nobody told Zarco and Morbidelli that passing is difficult at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, as during the middle third of the race the pair were trading places two, three, four times a lap – it was a remarkable performance, and both riders commented after the race how much fun they’d had and that (as it looked) the passes were all clean if sometimes aggressive.

Eventually, Zarco once again proved himself the master of tire management and during the last third of the race eked out a safe lead, finishing three seconds ahead of Morbidelli. The Italian youngster has yet to win a Grand Prix, but with eight podiums in the last 11 contests this year, surely he’ll be breaking that duck in 2017 – it won’t hurt that Zarco, Lowes, and Rins will all be heading off to Moto GP.

The championship standings finished with Zarco heading Luthi and Rins.

Moto 3

The junior class managed to avoid the horrifying crashfests of the last two races in Australia and Malaysia, instead providing the kind of dramatic close multi-bike drafting contest we’ve grown to expect from the class.

New champion Brad Binder was determined to polish his new trophy with another victory before heading off to Moto 2 in 2017, and was helped when teenage Spanish pole-sitter Aron Canet stalled on the starting grid and was pushed off to start from pit lane.

That left Binder, in the middle of the front row, a clear run but on the first lap he barely saved a massive high-side, which dropped him back down to 22nd. Never one to give up – he came from dead last to win a race earlier this year – the South African put his head down and banged, drafted, and thrashed his way back to the front, taking the win on the last lap by 0.05 sec from Spanish rookie Joan Mir, who in turn was only 0.03 sec ahead of VR46 Academy rider Andrea Migno of Italy.

Binder finishes the season with a massive 142 point lead over Italian Enea Bastiannini, with hard-luck Spaniard Jorge Navaro third. That championship points gap has only ever been exceeded by a couple of guys you might have heard of – Valentino Rossi and Mick Doohan.

2017

The 2017 season starts in two days when the Moto GP teams return to the Valencia circuit with many riders sampling their next-season’s teams for the first time. Lorenzo (Yamaha to Ducati), Andrea Iannonne (Ducati to Suzuki), Maverick Vinales (Suzuki to Yamaha), Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Yamaha to KTM), Aleix Espargaro (Suzuki to Aprilia) Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger (Moto 2 to Tech 3 Yamaha) and Sam Lowes (Moto 2 to Aprilia) are among the many riders who’ll be changing seats for 2017.

Final Moto GP Championship Standings after 18 of 18 races

  1. Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 298 points (World Champion)
  2. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Movistar Yamaha, 249
  3. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Movistar Yamaha, 233
  4. Maverick Vinales, Spain, Team Suzuki Ecstar, 202
  5. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 171
  6. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 155
  7. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., LCR Honda, 141
  8. Pol Espargaro, Spain, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 134
  9. Andrea Iannone, Italy, Ducati Team, 112
  10. Hector Barbera, Spain, Avintia Racing Ducati, 102

Next race March 26, 2017, Losail International Circuit, Qatar.

Join the conversation!