Valencia to close out 2018 season
2018’s MotoGP championship titles may have been settled, in a season where records were broken and boundaries reset, however there’s still one final showdown to go.
The 4005m Valencian circuit is one of the shortest on the calendar – only Sachsenring is shorter – but it is still a track that needs special preparation due to its technical layout and tight configuration. The anti-clockwise design with its nine left- and five right-hand turns, all set within a stadium complex environment, makes this a very unusual circuit and one that requires Michelin’s asymmetric tyre solutions.
Marc Marquez arrives as a favourite, with the reigning Champion taking an impressive win at Sepang to bounce back in style, and he arrives as the home hero in form. Marquez also has a good record at Valencia – wrapping up two MotoGP crowns there since 2013, and winning from the back in Moto2 – and he’ll want to win again on home turf to cement his stellar season.
“It was great to celebrate the title a few days ago in my hometown with my family, people and fan club, and now I’m looking forward to celebrating it with all the fans in Valencia. Of course we won’t have the pressure we had last year, when the title was still at stake, but our mentality will be exactly the same because we want to finish the year in a good way. Now we’re very, very close to achieving the Team Championship, and we’ll try our best to get it so as to complete the Triple Crown, which is important for us and for Honda, and which would be the perfect end to this season. I don’t want to lose the momentum or the way I’m riding at the moment, so I’ll try and focus like always for the entire weekend, and to fight for the win on Sunday.”
This year, however, there may well be more eyes on the other side of the Repsol Honda box at the season finale, with teammate Dani Pedrosa, having a great record here and being back on song at Sepang. More importantly the three-time World Champion will be hanging up his leathers at the end of the season – in terms of competition at least, so will no doubt aim to end on a high note. On Thursday he will also become a MotoGP Legend as he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“Clearly, the next race in Valencia will be a bit special, as it will be my final race, so the feeling will be different than usual. It’s also going to be busy, because many of my people, friends and family will come there wishing to spend time together. Anyway, when I climb on my bike, my entire focus will be on riding. I like the track as it’s one of my favourites on the calendar, and of course I’ll try and get the best result possible on Sunday.”
Maverick Viñales is another home hero aiming high. After winning in Australia, Sepang was a tougher qualifying in difficult conditions that hampered the Spaniard slightly on race day, but Yamaha seem to be back in the fight at the front.
“I arrive in Valencia in a very positive mood. After the last three rounds in Asia and Oceania I’ve spent some time at home, relaxing and resting a little bit, because the overseas races were very demanding. We’ve worked hard during the lasts months and the bike is competitive. The Ricardo Tormo Circuit is a track that I really like, it has a lay-out that suits my riding style very well. Last year it wasn’t a good race, but this year I will try to push and give my 100% to finish the season with another victory. I’m feeling very confident. My goal now is to get the third position in the World Championship and we are very close. Ending the season in the third position after such a difficult season as this one would be a small success for us.”
Vinales want another win to end the season and his teammate Valentino Rossi, who came so close at Sepang, will want to win his first race of the year. Rossi’s incredible laptimes in Malaysia only came undone a handful of laps from the end, and although Valencia is traditionally a more difficult track for the ‘Doctor’, he was on fire at Sepang.
“We have already arrived in Valencia. For us it will be an interesting weekend because it’s a circuit on which we usually aren’t very fast, but in the last races we have seen some improvements. In Malaysia we were very fast during the whole weekend and also in the race. Unfortunately the race didn’t end well, but there remain positive aspects. In Valencia we will try to do our best. We would like to finish the season with a positive result. Then there will be tests in Valencia and those in Jerez. It will be very intense weeks.”
For the Ducati Team Valencia has also been a more difficult track at times. Last season didn’t quite put paid to that either as both men crashed out, but Jorge Lorenzo especially has an incredible record at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo. He is determined to make it through the whole weekend this time and make his return from injury, and although he may well not be able to hammer home the kind of pace he’s previously shown at the venue, he can’t be counted out altogether.
“We have arrived at the last race of the season and even though I still won’t be 100% fit, I would really like to finish my adventure in Ducati with a good result. It’s difficult to know what condition my left wrist will be in, but luckily I feel much better than in Sepang and on Friday morning I’ll go out on track with the hope that I won’t have too much pain and that I can be competitive. My two years in Ducati have been very intense and I’d really like to say goodbye to my team with a good race. For sure our fans, who always come out in force at Cheste, will also help to make this weekend special.”
For teammate Andrea Dovizioso it’s sometimes been a more difficult venue but some incredible battles in the past mean ‘DesmoDovi’ can’t be counted out. On the podium at Phillip Island to underline the incredible progress made by the Borgo Panigale factory at every different type of track, Dovizioso has second in the Championship wrapped up and will have a few points to prove in the last race of the year.
“Sixth place at Sepang meant that I finished second in the championship and we wanted to bring home this very important result at all costs. Now at Valencia we come up against a track where in the past we have struggled quite a bit: this year however I expect us to be fast and the race will also be an important test to understand in which areas we have to improve to be more competitive next year.”
Team Suzuki Ecstar, meanwhile, are on form. Alex Rins showed once again last time out quite how competitive Suzuki now are as he took that stunning second place and equaled his best result in the premier class. Rins is on home turf and on a roll and can’t be counted out.
“For sure we arrive in Valencia with a lot of enthusiasm, due to the improved performance and the podiums. Our target now is pretty clear and also obvious: we want to go for the top step of the podium! We’ve proved that we are ready for it, the bike has improved and so has my riding, we have to work well and try our best. The circuit is a good one, almost all the riders like Valencia, and our GSX-RR can be a good machine for this layout.”
Andrea Iannone has been on it despite a twitchy crash behind Marquez in Malaysia, and it’s his last race for the Hamamatsu factory.
“Valencia is a nice track and it could be good for us. Last year we qualified on the front row and both Alex and I had a good race. If we consider how much we improved since 2017, we can definitely expect a positive weekend. We are in a really good moment now; I’m feeling positive and also in Malaysia I felt I could fight for the podium. Let’s try to give all we have, be consistent and always stay close to the top, that way we can aim for a good result. It would be a nice way to part.”
The man Rins beat to second at Sepang was Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) as the Frenchman got back on the podium – and from pole after Marquez was penalised. After Zarco and Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) were both given the opportunity to make big gains on the injured Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) in Australia in the fight for top Independent Team rider and neither could, Malaysia was Zarco staking a serious claim on that title.
“With the podium I got in Malaysia I arrive in Valencia with a bright smile on my face and happiness in my head to get another great result. My main target is to be the first independent rider and maybe a little bit more. If I can conclude the season in Valencia on the podium in front of Alex Rins and Danilo Petrucci, would mean I can also be inside the top 5 of the final Championship standings, which could be a very nice target. But first of all, I hope for nice weather and a decent temperature in order to gain confidence on this circuit and I think the Yamaha can work well there. With my guys, we found some good things during these overseas races, so we need to make the bike work well again with all we understood and in case we succeed, I’m sure we can have a great weekend. My fingers are crossed to finish this 2018 season as well as possible.”
The 16 points for third put him one point above Crutchlow and five clear of Petrucci – with his form last season at Valencia marking him as the favourite to outrace the rest. Crutchlow will remain on the sideliness nursing his ankle injury from Phillip Island and will again be replaced by Stefan Bradl.
“First of all, I would like to say thank you for all the well wishes I have received since the Friday of the Philip Island GP. To all the medical staff at the circuit, my LCR Honda CASTROL Team, HRC and everyone who came to visit me while I was in hospital in Melbourne, especially my wife Lucy who travelled to be with me for the 12 days I had to stay. Also, Jake Harrison and Andy Roche for sorting everything out and, of course, our Team Manager Lucio (Cecchinello) who stayed with me every day until he went to Malaysia.
“I had excellent surgeons in Matthias Russ and Dr Evans who initially put an external fixator on my leg until the swelling went down and they could operate, which was 6 days later. The crash resulted in a Pilon fracture of my tibia, fibia and talus bone. The surgery was completed in three and half hours and, along with reconstruction with artificial bone, two metal plates and eight screws were inserted.
“The injury I have can take a recovery time of up to 12 months and, although as a typical motorcycle racer I thought I would be back in time for the Valencia GP, unfortunately this is not the case. I can’t put any weight on my ankle for six weeks, but am continuing to recover and having physiotherapy. This week I will start to try and cycle again and look forward to preparing for Sepang in February 2019.
“I have had a fantastic season again with the LCR Honda CASTROL Team and HRC and I look forward to making more great memories in 2019-2020. Good luck this weekend in Valencia to my team and to all the people on the MotoGP grid. I look forward to watching the best motorsport championship there is as a fan this weekend.”
Rookie of the Year is on the line, with Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) looking the favourite to wrap that up.
At Aprilia Racing Team Gresini, Aleix Espargaro races at home and they bid goodbye to Scott Redding after the race weekend, with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing aiming to stay ahead of the Noale factory. KTM are two points clear as a constructor and a handful more as a team so there’s everything to race for – before they also begin a new era.
The Aprilia RS-GP machines ridden by Aleix Espargaró and Scott Redding will once again be all red for the final GP of the season. For the third year in a row, the (RED) livery will distinguish the Italian bikes on the day of the Valencia race to raise awareness with the large audience of MotoGP fans on the issue of AIDS, often overlooked or even forgotten.
“In recent races we have shown encouraging signs and I want to finish out the championship in the best possible way. It was certainly not an easy season, but we never stopped working and the final race is always a special opportunity because from Sunday on, we will officially begin our 2019 season with the first tests. We will also be racing in the (RED) livery. This is an important initiative and I am honoured to be able to provide my contribution to it.”
The Ángel Nieto Team will also hope end the year with eighth place in the Teams’ World Championship and with a strong finish to the season for Álvaro Bautista and Karel Abraham. Bautista, who has been a full-time Grand Prix rider since 2003, has scored 16 wins and 49 podiums across sixteen seasons and he is aiming to check out with another top ten finish, which would be his eleventh from twelve races.
“It is always special to race at home, for me and the team, in Valencia. It is the last race of the season, my last race in MotoGP for now and it will be at a small track for the MotoGP bikes, where you hardly get chance to breath from one corner to the next and you can’t get the most out of the power. You need a bike that handles and turns well. It is another challenge for us but we will try and maintain the same positive curve we have been on. I would like to finish the season with an enjoyable weekend with the fans and the team, and let’s see if we can score a good result. With the material we have available we can fight for the top ten and that will be the main objective. After that, we’ll see.”
Alongside Bautista, Karel Abraham is hoping to return to the points for the first time since the Australian grand prix in his final race with the Ángel Nieto Team.
“It is time for the final round of the season at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit. It will be a difficult race but I have good memories of this track because it is where I scored my first World Championship win back in 2010. I am going to Valencia with mixed emotions because I am looking forward to racing again but at the same time I don’t want the season to end because it will be my last race with the Ángel Nieto Team after two seasons and the last time with my crew.”
The 2018 chapter of the incredible story of the MotoGP World Championship draws to a close at Valencia, but the final race weekend of the season is far from an epilogue. The unique atmosphere of the amphitheater setting always makes it a race weekend to remember – and this time, that’s even more true than ever. Goodbyes and new beginnings start here – from the 16th to 18th November.
|2018 MotoGP Standings|
|1.||Marquez Marc||Repsol Honda Team||321|
|2.||Dovizioso Andrea||Ducati Team||220|
|3.||Rossi Valentino||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||195|
|4.||Vinales Maverick||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||193|
|5.||Rins Alex||Team Suzuki Ecstar||149|
|6.||Zarco Johann||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||149|
|7.||Crutchlow Cal||LCR Honda||148|
|8.||Petrucci Danilo||Alma Pramac Racing||144|
|9.||Iannone Andrea||Team Suzuki Ecstar||133|
|10.||Lorenzo Jorge||Ducati Team||130|
|11.||Pedrosa Dani||Repsol Honda Team||106|
|12.||Bautista Alvaro||Angel Nieto Team||105|
|13.||Miller Jack||Alma Pramac Racing||91|
|14.||Morbidelli Franco||Marc VDS Racing Team||50|
|15.||Espargaro Aleix||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||44|
|16.||Syahrin Hafizh||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||40|
|17.||Rabat Tito||Reale Avintia Racing||35|
|18.||Espargaro Pol||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||35|
|19.||Smith Bradley||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||30|
|20.||Nakagami Takaaki||LCR Honda||23|
|21.||Redding Scott||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||15|
|22.||Abraham Karel||Angel Nieto Team||10|
|23.||Kallio Mika||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||6|
|24.||Bradl Stefan||Honda Racing Corporation||3|
|25.||Nakasuga Katsuyuki||Yamaha Factory Team||2|
|26.||Simeon Xavier||Reale Avintia Racing||1|
|27.||Pirro Michele||Ducati Team||1|
|28.||Luthi Thomas||Marc VDS Racing Team||0|
|29.||Torres Jordi||MV Agusta Reparto Corse||0|
|30.||Jones Mike||Reale Avintia Racing||0|
|31.||Guintoli Sylvain||Pata Yamaha Official WSBK Team||0|
|32.||Ponsson Christophe||Ponsson C.||0|
|MotoGP Team Standings|
|1.||Repsol Honda Team||427|
|2.||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||388|
|5.||Alma Pramac Racing||235|
|6.||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||189|
|8.||Angel Nieto Team||102|
|9.||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||65|
|10.||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||59|
|11.||Estrella Galicia 0,0||50|
|12.||Reale Avintia Racing||36|
Francesco Bagnaia was back on the podium in Sepang, and although key rival Miguel Oliveira finished just ahead of him, the 16 points for second were more than enough for the Italian to wrap up the crown. Teammate Luca Marini also won the race – his maiden Grand Prix victory – making it an incredible day to remember not just for ‘Pecco’ but for the team. It caps off an incredible season, and sets up the perfect swansong in Valencia.
Bagnaia has been a serious force to be reckoned with this year, taking control of the standings pretty early and hammering home that advantage in the latter half of the season. So will his final race in see him back on the top step? Or can Oliveira – last year’s winner – or Fabio Quartararo take another Moto2 win to also leave for the premier class on a high and another addition to their CVs?
Bagnaia will surely feel the most confident heading into Valencia, but the spring in Marini’s step will likely mirror that of his compatriot; fresh as he is from a maiden win. Meanwhile Brad Binder is looking for more of a bounce back after a tough Malaysian GP, but the South African did wrap up P3 overall in the standings at Sepang. The likes of Marcel Schrötter want to move back towards the front, too – with the German still looking for that maiden win and maiden pole.
Alex Marquez was another who, like Binder and Schrötter, didn’t get the results he’d wanted on race day last time out. The 2014 Moto3 World Champion dominated practice and qualifying – half a second clear on pole – but it didn’t become his first win of the year. He has chance to take that in Valencia, however, at a track that holds good memories for him and where he’s racing in front of a home crowd.
His teammate will also be doing that and is one who will graduate to the premier class next season. With just two points between them as is stands, can the Rookie of the Year strike for his first – and only – Moto2 win before he moves up? Or will experience play in Marquez’ favour?
There’s one last race for this era of Moto2, with more than simply the names changing next year: 2019 sees the debut of Triumph power for the intermediate class. Someone will take the honour of the last win of the year before the next era begins – for man or machine. Find out who from the 16th to 18th November at Valencia.
Moto2 Championship Standings
- Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) KALEX 304 points
- Miguel Oliveira (POR) KTM 272
- Brad Binder (RSA) KTM 201
- Lorenzo Baldassarri (ITA) KALEX 162
- Alex Marquez (SPA) KALEX 157
As we head back to shores closer to home for those who fought for the Moto3 World Championship this season, there’s one final set of bragging rights on the table for the riders graduating to Moto2.
Can Jorge Martin seal another win before he moves up as reigning Champion? Or can Marco Bezzecchi or Fabio Di Giannantonio bounce back from losing the crown to take to the top step one final time?
Valencia is a very different track to Sepang; likewise the conditions and temperatures. Add to that a little more experience of the venue for many and it’s sure to be another corker. Martin took his first win there in 2017 and will surely arrive as the favourite, but the motivation of those on the losing end in Malaysia can’t be underestimated.
The cast of those with everything to gain doesn’t stop there, either. Enea Bastianini is moving up too, as is Philipp Oettl. Then there are home heroes like Aron Canet, Albert Arenas, Marcos Ramirez… and the likes of his teammate Jaume Masia, who’s fighting for Rookie of the Year and will be hoping to be fit to race on home turf.
The time has come! The final stand and the last fiesta of the season rolls in to Valencia on the 16th – 18th November, make sure to tune in to see if more records can be broken and who’ll close out 2018 on top.
Moto3 Championship Standings
- Jorge Martin (SPA) HONDA 240 points
- Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) KTM 214
- Fabio Di Giannantonio (ITA) HONDA 205
- Enea Bastianini (ITA) HONDA 166
- Lorenzo Dalla Porta (ITA) HONDA 151