Last stop Valencia: 2019 set to go out with a bang
The final fireworks of the season are just around the corner, with some top honours still very much on the line
Monday, 11 November 2019
After 18 rounds, some of the greatest races in history and three new World Champions, it’s almost time to bring the curtain down on 2019. And that means it’s time for Valencia; a return to European turf and temperatures and the awesome atmosphere in the amphitheatre that is the Circuit Ricardo Tormo. From nearly every seat you can see nearly every square inch of track, making it quite the stage for a finale.
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) arrives already part-way through his sixth term as the king of MotoGP™, but there’s still more than personal glory on the line. The team standings have Repsol Honda and Ducati facing off in the final round, and Marquez has already played a huge part in getting them there. Can he secure the title and therefore the triple crown? Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and teammate Danilo Petrucci will be gunning to stop him, with one already secure in second overall and the other looking to bounce back. And what of Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team)? It’s been a tough run for the five-time World Champion as he continues his recovery to full fitness and adaptation to the Honda, but this is turf he knows better than most – and has utterly dominated in the past.
It must be Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) who arrives with the momentum, however. After outpacing Marquez in Australia but finding himself unable to outrace him, Malaysia saw the number 12 put in one of his best ever rides to cross the line in his own postcode out front. He’s got some good memories at Valencia too, most notably winning the 2013 Moto3™ Championship at the very last corner on the very last lap, so he’ll likely be top of the watch list for his rivals. And he has to be for one rival in particular: Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar).
Rins has had a tougher run of it since his incredible victory at Silverstone, and the Spaniard is now seven points behind Viñales in the fight for third overall. That means he’ll need to beat him and by a margin if he’s to end the season in the top three, so he’ll be pushing hard for that. But rookie teammate Joan Mir has been giving him something to think about of late too, and that battle seems set to only get closer…
The rookie on a roll was, is and likely will be someone else though: Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT). Race day at Sepang was tougher than Saturday, but he’d broken the lap record a handful of times by the time the lights went out – and outfoxed Marquez’ Q2 tactics. He’s got one more chance to win a race, and plenty more on the line: he’s just ahead of nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) as we arrive, and that would be something for the CV in a debut year. Valencia hasn’t always proven the best track for ‘The Doctor’ either, so could it swing the Frenchman’s way?
There’s a bigger prize Quartararo is up for though: top Independent Team rider. With a healthy 23-point advantage over Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) – his only remaining rival for the title – it seems a formality in some ways, but never say never, especially with Jack Miller. In terms of top Independent Team rider in the race the two will likely have company from Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) too, and a good few gazes will also be watching Johann Zarco (LCR Honda Idemitsu) in his third ride on the Honda. Sepang ended early through no fault of his own – how will the season end?
12 months ago, meanwhile, the season ended on a serious high for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing. Pol Espargaro put in one of the rides of his career in the wet to take third place; his first premier class podium and KTM’s first too. The hard work continues for the Austrian factory but the good memories at the track will be a nice reminder that it’s already been paying off, sometimes in a big way. There’s no Miguel Oliveira at Red Bull KTM Tech 3 this weekend either, with Iker Lecuona debuting one race early as an injury replacement – so that’s something to watch out for too.
Finally, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini will be hoping for more of their Australia glory. It’s been a tougher season for the Noale factory but Valencia is another chance to equal those best yet results. For Aleix Espargaro it’s home turf, for Andrea Iannone it’s very well known turf. Can they make another assault on the top six?
Next season the counter will be hitting 20 as the paddock rolls back in to Valencia, and that season starts on Tuesday in the pre-season test. For many it will be a new era, for some simply chance to reset and start afresh with their plans to take over the world. But before then, the last 25 points await whoever dares to claim them, be it for pride or pivotal places in the standings.
Watch the final fireworks of the 2019 MotoGP™ season this weekend, with the lights out for the premier class at 14:00 (GMT +1) on Sunday.
1 – Marc Marquez (SPA – Honda) – 375
2 – Andrea Dovizioso (ITA – Ducati) – 240
3 – Alex Rins (SPA – Suzuki) – 183
4 – Maverick Viñales (SPA – Yamaha) – 176
5 – Danilo Petrucci (ITA – Ducati) – 169
Binder vs Lüthi vs Navarro: the fight to follow Marquez home
The number 73 is now the World Champion. But who’s going to take second?
Despite a truly dominant mid-part of the season for Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), the pressure was starting to build for the points leader on the flyaways, and the two men coming in hot were Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP). But the number 73 kept cool in the searing heat of Sepang to take a tenth podium of the year and become a two-time World Champion, so now it’s about the fight for second – and the final win of the year.
Marquez is now free of the pressure that seemed to tame a few of his recent races, so he’s pencilled in as a favourite from the off – especially given it’s home turf. But then Binder is on a serious roll and looking for his third win in a row, and Lüthi only trails the South African by four points as they squabble over the position at present. And the pendulum could swing either way in that battle all too easily, but in reality it’s not quite a duel, because Jorge Navarro (MB Conveyors Speed Up) remains in with a long shot at second – and he’s racing on home turf.
The Valencian has had an impressive season in 2019, with seven podiums so far and one more chance to take another. He’s yet to take a win in the intermediate class though, and now would surely be the time to do it. Not only in front of his home fans, but also for the standings as he’s 24 points off Binder, meaning winning is all that will do.
Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40) similarly faces a long shot as well, but his is for fourth overall. After a tougher few races on the flyaways the Spaniard will be back racing on familiar turf, and that’s often seen him soar. He’ll also need to keep one eye on Luca Marini (Sky Racing team VR46) though, with the Italian 15 points behind him and still able to upset the home party. But then Marini has a target on his back too: Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) lurks 11 points behind. The fight for second seems unlikely to be fought alone between Binder, Lüthi and Navarro…
The fight for Rookie of the Year is another one going down to the wire. With the three men in contention all crashing in Sepang, the battle rolled on to the finale and it’s Fabio Di Giannantonio (MB Conveyors Speed Up) who arrives ahead. He’s six points clear of earlier season leader and compatriot Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team), with home hero Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) facing a steeper climb from third. It’s the final race, so one will come out on top once and for all – but which one?
The fight for second and the fight for Rookie of the Year keep the standings on high alert as we head into the season finale. Is it time to see Marquez unleashed? Binder winning three in a row? Lüthi fighting back? Or can Navarro take that final win of the year and his first in the class? There’s also a new face to keep an eye on – American Sean Dylan Kelly, who debuts with American Racing KTM. What can he do as he pits out on the world stage? Find out in the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana on Sunday, at 12:20 local time (GMT +1).
1 – Alex Marquez (SPA – Kalex) – 262
2 – Brad Binder (RSA – KTM) – 234
3 – Tom Lüthi (SWI – Kalex) – 230
4 – Jorge Navarro (SPA – Speed Up) – 210
5 – Augusto Fernandez (SPA – Kalex) – 197
Can Canet secure second on home turf?
The rider from Valencia can’t take the crown this season. But in the finale, he can wrap up second – and take one more Moto3™ win
Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) has had a tougher run of late. Since the last time he won – MotorLand Aragon – he’s lost out pretty big to then-title rival and now Champion Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing), but there’s one last chance for the Spaniard to go out from 2019 swinging. And where better for that to be than true home turf?
The Valencian arrives 15 points ahead of closest challenger Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers), but Arbolino has lost a little momentum of his own as Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) is now only a single point behind the Italian. Can Canet keep them both at bay? He’s qualified on pole at the venue before and shown some speed, despite the fact he’s not got a glittering record on race day. But then, home turf and a last tango in Moto3™ is more than a little motivation before he moves up.
John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing), meanwhile, isn’t quite out of the fight for third either – at least according to the maths. And the maths never lies. The worst the Brit can come out with this year now is his current position of fifth overall, so he can go very much weapons free as he aims for the long shot. But he’ll have some stiff competition: Albert Arenas (Gaviota Angel Nieto Team) is on a roll, Jaume Masia (Mugen Race) is from Valencia and on song, SIC58 Squadra Corse duo Niccolo Antonelli and Tatsuki Suzuki can’t be ruled out.
The fight for Rookie of the Year is still on too, and it’s frequently been a fight in the top ten, top five or even for the podium. Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) is on the verge of taking the title, however, with the Italian 24 points clear of nearest rival Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia). For Vietti to lose it then, Ogura would have to win – and the Italian would have to all-but fail to score. And if they’re equal? Then it would come down to the Japanese rider having taken a second place this season and Vietti “only” thirds, but that says one thing clearly at least: they’re both frontrunners and ones to watch.
One more tango awaits the lightweight class in Valencia, with the likes of Dalla Porta and Canet set to make the leap to Moto2™ after a final showdown. Can Canet bounce back to his best on home turf? Will Dalla Porta extend his run? Or will another name rise to the top as has so often happened of late in Moto3™? Find out this weekend as the lights go out for the lightweight class at 11:00 (GMT +1).
1 – Lorenzo Dalla Porta (ITA – Honda) – 279
2 – Aron Canet (SPA – KTM) – 190
3 – Tony Arbolino (ITA – Honda) – 175
4 – Marcos Ramirez (SPA – Honda) – 174
5 – John McPhee (GBR – Honda) – 156