This weekend is the final MotoGP showdown of the year; Marc Marquez has already been confirmed as repeat champion for 2014, but there is still a very interesting battle shaping up for second place.
Marquez is sitting on 337 going into this weekend, while second-place Valentino Rossi has 275 points and third-place Jorge Lorenzo has 263. Lorenzo needs a fantastic race this weekend to pass Rossi and earn second overall, but it’s possible, and should make for amazing action on-track.
Whatever their final results, both Rossi and Lorenzo have made incredible comebacks this season. Rossi’s career was generally assumed to be in the toilet after his time at Ducati, and he’s proved exactly the opposite this year, while Lorenzo had a terrible start to the 2014 season, with many onlookers questioning his future after the first few races. Since then, he’s earned consistent podiums, and a third is nothing to be ashamed about.
While the battle for second is the biggest news, there are a couple other interesting subplots at Valencia. The Spanish race will mark Suzuki’s return to MotoGP; they’ve signed up a machine as a wild card entry. Randy De Puniet will pilot the bike, a job he has earned by putting in long hours in as Suzuki’s test rider.
“I’m ready for it, because I miss racing,” De Puniet said. “I am excited about the idea, keen to get going, but we are not setting any targets in terms of results. I know it’s hard to pick up the pace at the end of a season. I’m not under pressure. Whatever happens, it won’t change my future. For me this race is a reward …
“We don’t know if it will be a good track for Suzuki, but in any case it’s a circuit that I like and that’s a positive.”
De Puniet admitted he would have liked a seat on the factory team next season, but says Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales are great choices.
“If they had hired someone else, or someone not as good as me or if it was not a logical choice, I would have been disappointed. But I was never promised anything. They think that this team will be the best for 2015-2016 and I respect their choice.”
Another subplot to follow will be Race Direction’s crackdown on trickery during qualifying.
In order to get a better time during qualifying, several riders have been noticeably slowing down on-track to get behind a faster rider and draft them. This is particularly noticeable in Moto3. At first, the practice wasn’t an issue, as Race Director Mike Webb simply told contestants to stay off the racing line and out of the way if they wanted to ride more slowly.
However, Webb says too many riders are pulling this stunt now, and there isn’t enough space left on the track for riders who still want to put down fast laps, increasing the danger of a collision. So, this weekend he has put riders on notice.
“I will tell the riders that going slow, looking behind and waiting for a slipstream may be considered as irresponsible or dangerous riding regardless of whether the rider is on or off the racing line and regardless of whether they think they are not disturbing anyone,” Webb said. “We will penalize this behaviour at our discretion, regardless of where they are on the track.”