CIRCUIT RICARDO TORMO, Valencia, Spain – The final race of the 2014 Moto GP season crowned a new world champion, and in all three classes provided superb action. In the top class in spite of treacherous wet-and-dry conditions Marc Marquez returned to form after a series of uncharacteristic mistakes, while his younger brother squeaked out a title in Moto 3 – the first time brothers have ever won world titles in the same season.
Those two races sandwiched a spread-out Moto 2 event that was still riveting because of the wheel-to-wheel clash for the win, with new champion Tito Rabat masterfully holding off Tom Luthi for the entire contest – until the last 100 metres of the race when he suddenly slowed, Luthi just getting past at the line.
The Valencia track is not one of Valentino Rossi’s favourites, and as it’s a tightish point-and-shoot sort of place ‘The Doctor’ said before the weekend that he expected the Hondas to be strong. However, the old man (he’s 14 years older than Marquez) put in a blistering final lap in qualifying to grab pole, his first in more than four years, then fought hard with Marquez through the race.
He eventually finished 3.5 seconds behind the new double world champion after a tough scrap made harder by intermittent showers, securing himself second in the championship. He was 10 seconds ahead of Marquez’ team-mate Dani Pedrosa who finished in a lonely third spot. Rossi said he had a bit of an issue with the front tire degrading on the right side, but added honestly, “Anyway, it would have been difficult to win.”
Then he joked, “My bad luck is called ‘Marc Marquez’, because without him I can win the championship and a lot of races! He did a fantastic job.”
For his part, Marquez was probably more excited about his brother’s title than his own win, a new record of 13 victories in a season. “Today is an incredible day for me, for my family and for the team because 20 minutes before the race I was celebrating the title of my brother! … now we must enjoy 2014 because it will be difficult and almost impossible to repeat.”
About his new victory record, he wasn’t overly impressed. “Before there were less races in a season, so Doohan won more than me [as a percentage]. He won 12 from 15 races. So 13 [of 18] is a new record, but not so important.”
Two other front-runners, Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Pramac Ducati’s Andrea Iannone, basically put themselves out of the race by guessing wrong on the weather. Light rain fell early on, shuffling the order, then returned with 13 laps to go. That second shower caused Lorenzo and Iannone to make pit stops to swap to wet-weather bikes, but the track dried up almost at once. Lorenzo pulled in and retired shortly after as his tires destroyed themselves, while Iannone soldiered on to finish dead last in 22nd spot.
Perhaps the tightest contest of the race was between Ducati riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow. Crutchlow seems to have finally figured out how to ride the difficult Desmosedici just as his time at Ducati is ending, and he clearly wanted to beat Dovi. The two swapped places several times, with the Italian finally getting the upper hand and beating the Brit (who’s off to LCR Honda) by only 7/100 of a second.
Behind them, brothers Pol and Aleix Espargaro also had a good contest, Pol taking his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha to a win over his older brother by a couple of 10ths.
The top 10 was completed by Stefan Bradl (who’ll be taking Espargaro’s NGM-Forward Yamaha seat for 2015), Ducati test rider Michele Pirro in a wild-card appearance, and Brit Scott Redding.
Suzuki, due back in the field in 2015 with Maverick Vinales and Aleix Espargaro, entered its first MotoGP event since 2011 with a wild-card entry for Randy de Puniet, basically as a reward for his development work over the last year. The French rider is off to World Superbikes with Suzuki in 2015. The bike retired with a technical problem; it’ll be interesting to see how Vinales and Espargaro get along with it in the three days of testing this week.
Another new bike also debuted, Honda’s much-revised customer RC213V, in the hands of Hiroshi Aoyama. He managed only 15th, but the bike was blazingly faster than this year’s customer bike in a straight line, addressing the big complaint about it this season. Aoyama looks to be moving to Honda as a test & development rider in 2015.
Tom Luthi’s win over new champion Rabat was an odd one, as the two traded fastest laps throughout the race, Luthi getting by on several occasions only to run wide and have Rabat pass him right back. So far so exciting, then out of the last corner, Rabat’s bike started to wheelie, then slowed enough for a surprised Luthi to get past before the flag.
Rabat said later that he suspected fuel starvation, as the engine hesitated; it looked to more than one observer as though he started a victory wheelie too early before realizing his mistake. Either way, it made no difference to the top four positions in the championship.
Two of the fast guys who might have joined the party were out early, as Maverick Vinales made a rare stupid mistake, simply plowing into the back of Mika Kallio on the opening lap and putting them both in the gravel. Kallio was not amused, the usually stoic Finn shaking his fist at his Spanish rival. Vinales knew it was his fault, and went to Kallio’s garage later to apologize.
Johan Zarco finished in a lonely third in the final race for the Caterham Moto2 team, crossing the line 10 seconds behind the leaders. He was followed two seconds later by Luis Salom in his best result recently, with Xavier Simeon and Dominique Aegerter close behind.
Either Jack Miller or Alex Marquez could have taken the title. Miller had to win and hope that Marquez finished fourth or worse; Marquez would win if he made it to the podium no matter what Miller did. The race featured the usual epic cut, parry, and slash riding that makes Moto 3 by far the most entertaining class to watch, but Miller had his head down and led most of the way.
He and Marquez got tangled up at one point and briefly dropped into the fog of battle behind them, but Miller managed to drag himself back to the front and collect the win from an impressive Isaac Vinales (Maverick’s cousin), while Marquez clawed his way back to third. He was nearly caught by Miller’s great friend Danny Kent on the last lap, but it appeared that Kent missed a gear leaving a corner and that was that.
The Aussie was bitterly disappointed, although he’d done all he could. He made a veiled reference to his one crash of the year, caused at the Aragon race when Marquez ran him wide, but since he’s off to Moto GP in 2015, skipping the usual Moto 2 apprenticeship, his disappointment likely won’t last too long.
There will be a lot of swapping around in the next three days as many riders get their first taste of their 2015 bikes and teams, while the established outfits will be already testing new parts. Next race, March 29, 2015 at the Losail Circuit in Qatar.
Moto GP final 2014 standings after 18 races
- Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 362 points
- Valentino Rossi, Italy, Yamaha Factory Racing, 295
- Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 263
- Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 246
- Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 187
- Pol Espargaro, Spain, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 136
- Aleix Espargaro, Spain, NGM-Forward Yamaha, 126
- Bradley Smith, U.K., Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 121
- Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda, 117
- Andrea Iannone, Italy, Pramac Ducati, 102
Moto 2 final 2014 standings after 18 races
- Esteve ‘Tito’ Rabat, Spain, Marc VDS Kalex, 346 points
- Mika Kallio, Finland, Marc VDS Kalex, 289
- Maverick Vinales, Spain, Paginas Amarillas HP 40 Kalex, 274
- Thomas Luthi, Switzerland, Interwetten Sitag Suter, 194
- Dominique Aegerter, Switzerland, Technomag carXpert Suter, 172
Moto 3 final 2014 standings after 18 races
- Alex Marquez, Spain, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda, 278 points
- Jack Miller, Australia, Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM, 276
- Alex Rins, Spain, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda, 237
- Efren Vazquez, Spain, SaxoPrint-RTG Honda, 222
- Romano Fenati, Italy, SKY Racing Team VR46 KTM, 176
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