MotoGP: Final Three-Race Push Starts At Valencia

MotoGP: Final Three-Race Push Starts At Valencia

© 2020, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. From a press release issued By Dorna:

Three races, six contenders, one crown: the final countdown is on

75 points remain on the table, Mir has an advantage of 14, and MotorLand put yet more names in the hat

Monday, 02 November 2020

11 races ago, the MotoGP™ class of 2020 started with a clean slate. Several months, one double- and three triple-headers later and we’re heading into the final three-race stint with just a 14-point advantage for the Championship leader, eight different winners, 15 podium finishers and six riders in with a very real shot at the crown. And the man in the lead hasn’t even won yet!

As we arrive at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, the man seeking that first MotoGP™ win despite his seat at the head of the table is Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar). The Mayorcan has been the king of consistency in a chaotic year of changing fortunes, putting him 14 points clear – and he’s now focusing on the long game as well as bagging that very first premier class win. If he does it in the Gran Premio de Europa – and the track should suit Suzuki – he’ll make 2020 match the all-time record of different winners set in 2016. If he doesn’t he may well still increase his overall advantage, such is Mir’s metronomic ability to end up on the rostrum.

The first man wanting to make sure Mir’s time at the top comes to an end is Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT). His time as the season’s only repeat winner came to an end last time out, but the Frenchman has won three and arrives back at a track that should suit Yamaha to a T. Can he turn around some tougher races and stamp some authority back on Sundays? 14 points doesn’t yet need everyone behind Mir to go out guns blazing, but a trip back to the top step would reignite Quartararo’s momentum – as it would for Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). Viñales gained points back on Quartararo in both races at MotorLand and remains well in the hunt, he just didn’t gain any on Mir.

Speaking of momentum and gaining points, it’s time to talk about Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT). The Italian joined his teammate as a repeat winner this season in the Teruel GP, and he did it just as he did for his first win: with a masterclass in domination. That puts him fourth overall and within 25 points of the top, and he knows it. Full attack mode is engaged on Morbidelli’s side of the garage as he makes a late charge for the crown, not having needed to manage any real pressure… until now. Even then, it’s a little less than those who’ve been under the microscope for some time.

That’s also true of Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar). His is a longer shot than Morbidelli’s at 32 points off the top, but stranger things have happened. The Spaniard put in a stunner of a performance in the Aragon GP to become the eighth different winner of the season, and he followed it up with another podium. Crucially, he also had the measure of teammate Mir for the first time in some time, which he’ll need to keep if he’s to make an assault on the crown. Valencia should suit Suzuki which is good news for both, but will the number 36 turn the tables? Or is Rins’ ace card actually the fact that he has no choice but to attack?

Ahead of Rins, however, remains Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team). It hasn’t been an easy run of late but the Italian keeps taking points, gaining in a few races until a more difficult second outing at MotorLand. Never having had the best run at Valencia, Dovi likely needs a few stars to align to start clawing back ground from the top step now, added to the fact that most of the Ducatis suffered at Aragon and the turnaround doesn’t yet seem imminent. But that time Dovizioso did win in the premier class at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo was not that long ago, and it was a signature stunner in the rain. Now that really could make things interesting… and it is November, after all.

And then there are the – many – others who’ve made a habit of going fast lately. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) will be first in line for a redemptive ride after taking an awesome pole position in the Teruel GP and then crashing out early, ensuring no rider has no scored in all races. Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) also crashed out to bring his recent roll to an end and will want to bounce back, although Rookie of the Year remains tied on 67 points apiece between the Spaniard and Brno winner Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) after the South African also crashed out in Teruel. He took Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) with him, who’ll want some much improved luck too…

Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), meanwhile, put in another impressive weekend last time out and will want to replicate and more, and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) wasn’t far off. Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) split the two in Teruel and saved some serious face after a tougher weekend for other Borgo Panigale machines as well, so he could at the very least complicate life at the front and in the points.

Can Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) continue to fight through the pain barrier? What can Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) do and how will new teammate Lorenzo Savadori settle in? And will future, current and all-time legend Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) be back on track?

Three races, six contenders, one crown… and it all comes down to the final triple-header. Tune in for the Gran Premio de Europa at 14:00 (GMT +1) on Sunday to see who strikes next in the rollercoaster 2020 season!

MotoGP™ Championship Standings

1 Joan Mir – Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki – 137

2 Fabio Quartararo* – Petronas Yamaha SRT – Yamaha – 123

3 Maverick Viñales – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – 118

4 Franco Morbidelli* – Petronas Yamaha SRT – Yamaha – 112

5 Andrea Dovizioso – Ducati Team – Ducati – 109

*Independent Team riders

Catch 22: Lowes riding high on the road to Valencia

The Brit has a seven-point advantage in his pocket and a whole load of momentum. But there’s no time for complacency

When he injured himself without even a single lap raced in anger in 2020, Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) likely wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told him he’d be leading the Moto2™ Championship with three races to go. But he is, and he’s the most successful British rider in the class now – arriving into Valencia with a seven-point advantage and three wins on the bounce (the first Brit to do that in the intermediate class since 1971 no less).

So is it now Lowes’ to lose? In some ways, and the Brit has been on an incredible roll. But even more menacing for his rivals than his consistency is the calm, collected way he’s been winning – since bouncing back in style from a key error that gave him a pitlane start back in Misano. From then on, mistakes have been minor and committed when they didn’t put a dent in his Sunday…

For the man closest on the chase, Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team), it hasn’t been a bad run of late either though. The Italian made his big error of the season at the Red Bull Ring but since leaving Styria has taken a win, a few podiums and only suffered one bigger blip at Le Mans where he came home 11th. Crucially too, when he hasn’t had the pace to challenge Lowes and knew that, he took two podiums at Aragon to do some good damage limitation. That speaks to a rider unlikely to crumble when faced with a deficit of only seven points.

Behind the top two, it’s not over yet either. Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) is now third overall and must have felt like the season has been slipping through his fingers of late, but the Italian has already shown his class. His is a rebuild but the foundations he starts from are impressive, so 22 points is more than a molehill but far from a mountain. Can he come back stronger from the crash in Le Mans that seems to have upended the recent triple header for the number 10?

His teammate Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46), meanwhile, is also a man on a comeback mission. Quick at MotorLand but crashing out of contention, the Italian could find his chances at the title over at the Gran Premio de Europa. He’s 48 points off Lowes and needs to be within 50 at least heading into the final two rounds to keep his chances alive. Having said that, he’s now free of the big pressure nearer the top – and is pretty much guaranteed to be fast. Don’t count him out, at the very least as a serious complication for those ahead on points.

The tale of the final three races won’t boil down to a four-man fight though; it rarely does in motorcycle racing. Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in fifth will be itching to move up and take more podiums and wins, and whilst he’s the last man in mathematical contention as it stands, he also said he knows the title is gone – but he wants the top three. That makes him a man without any real pressure, as are some of the other key names who’ve been near the front.

Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) is back to full steam and has some speed, Fabio Di Giannantonio (HDR Heidrun Speed Up) is gaining momentum and rostrums, his teammate Jorge Navarro has shown flashes of serious pace. Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing) is a podium finisher in 2020… and Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing) very nearly. What can they do in the fight near the front? And who else can join them to make life even harder for those playing risk vs reward?

Find out in the Moto2™ race at the Gran Premio de Europa, with lights out set for 12:20 (GMT +1)!

Moto2™ Championship Standings

1 Sam Lowes – EG0,0 Marc VDS – Kalex – 178

2 Enea Bastianini – Italtrans Racing Team – Kalex – 171

3 Luca Marini – Sky Racing Team VR46 – Kalex – 155

4 Marco Bezzecchi – Sky Racing Team VR46 – Kalex – 130

5 Jorge Martin – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 105

19 points, 3 races: Arenas aims to extend his lead

Has the Moto3™ see-saw settled in the Spaniard’s favour or is there more to come? We’re about to find out

A few races ago, Albert Arenas (Valresa Aspar Team Moto3) had lost the mantle of Moto3™ Championship leader and it seemed like it was anyone’s game. But as we arrive into the final three races of 2020, the momentum is back with the early season superstar as the number 75 arrives 19 points clear. Can he keep that going as we home in on the season finale? The crown is almost in reach, but it won’t be easy.

At MotorLand, the Moto3™ races saw Arenas miss out on the podium, but he still increased his advantage. Was he playing it safe? Or are his competitors catching on to his tactics? The good news still continues for the number 75 either way because neither of his closest rivals beat him to the line. Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) took some solid points but his challenge for the crown needs an injection of podium form, and Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) lost ground too.

There’s a new challenger in town after Teruel though: Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing). The winner of both races and finishing well ahead of Arenas in each mean the number 5 is now fourth overall and just 24 points back. He’s on the attack and Valencia is his home turf too, creating a double incentive. Can Masia keep the pressure on and make a late charge for the top?

If he can, Arenas will need to respond and do so fairly quickly. But all the riders playing the points game also have the complication of those a little further back who have a lot less to lose. Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) is now fifth and 36 points off, John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) behind him, Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) continues making gains and Darryn Binder (CIP – Green Power) is a consistent threat. Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) is more often at the front than not too. And what about the likes of Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) and Kaito Toba (Red Bull KTM Ajo) as they arrive fresh from the injection of confidence provided by the podium? It was Sasaki’s first ever rostrum finish last time out to boot.

The number 75 leads the way into the fight for the final 75 points, but the lightweight always deliver some stunning battles. Who will come out on top in the first bout at Valencia? Find out on Sunday at 11:00 (GMT +1) as Moto3™ go racing in the Gran Premio de Europa.

Moto3™ Championship Standings

1 Albert Arenas – Valresa Aspar Team Moto3 – KTM – 157

2 Ai Ogura – Honda Team Asia – Honda – 138

3 Celestino Vietti – Sky Racing Team VR46 – KTM – 137

4 Jaume Masia – Leopard Racing – Honda – 133

5 Tony Arbolino – Rivacold Snipers Team – Honda – 121

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