MotoGP Mapcap Final Round_Valencia
MotoGP Mapcap Final Round
The 2018 MotoGP championship drew to a close in dramatic fashion this past weekend at the Gran Prix of Valencia, Spain with shocking crashes, red flags & restarts, and season champions crowned, all amid soaking wet conditions. Wet practices and qualifying runs saw champion Marc Marquez and legend Valentino Rossi each go down hard, both walking away nursing shoulder injuries, yet both back in the saddle for Sunday’s races.
And what race weekend it was. With wet conditions persisting, Andrea Dovizioso of Team Ducati claimed the final MotoGP victory of 2018, ahead of Alex Rins of Team Suzuki and Red Bull KTM’s Pol Espargaro in a dramatic two-part race. The red flags came out after 14 laps as heavy rains fell, with several riders crashing out of contention, including 2018 World Champion Marc Marquez of Repsol Honda and Maverick Viñales of Movistar Yamaha.
In “Race 1” from second on the grid, Rins got the holeshot and banged out a stunning opening lap – the Spaniard 1.7 seconds ahead as the field crossed the line for lap 2, with Viñales getting a strong start in P2, before Dovizioso used his Ducati’s raw horses to push by him on the straight. Within three laps, Rins on his screaming Suzuki was crushing the field, in the rain, by a whopping 3 seconds.
Yet the track conditions were deteriorating, leading to numerous crashes. Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro and Jack Miller of Pramac Racing both took dives at Turn 3, as did Miller’s teammate Danilo Petrucci and Suzuki Ecstar rider Andrea Iannone. Drama then happened at the front. Pol Espargaro crashed out of P4 at Turn 3 but was able to rejoin, with Marquez then crashing on the same lap, the Spaniard thankfully walking away without appearing in too much pain from his Friday shoulder injury. However, the now 7-time Champion was unable to continue.
After a chaotic couple of laps, Valentino Rossi was sitting in P3 behind race leader Rins (whose lead was now 2.2) and Dovizioso, with Rossi teammate Viñales in hot pursuit of ‘The Doctor’. Then on lap 13, Viñales suffered a huge crash at Turn 13 as the rain continued to pound, with Franco Morbidelli also crashing on the same lap at Turn 8 – the Italian sadly out of a career-best P5.
It was a race of attrition at this point as KTM’s Bradley Smith then crashed at Turn 13 while Dovi and Rossi caught Rins, having completely closed the gap. The duo then got the better of Rins after the Spaniard slid wide at Turn 11, only to find the race was red-flagged on lap 14. Rins was awarded the top points for the madcap “Race 1”.
With 3/4 race distance not completed, a 14-lap sprint was scheduled with only the riders in the points by lap 13 allowed to restart, their positions deciding the order of the grid- Rins on pole, Dovi in P2, Rossi P3 and Repsol Honda legend Dani Pedrosa P4 on his swansong ride, the other 12 qualifiers filling out the start.
The front row held positions as “Race 2” launched, and all 16 riders safely navigated the opening chicanes, with Rins once again leading. However, Dovizioso again “dropped the hammer” with his Desmo Ducati to power past Rins heading onto lap 2, Rossi in hot pursuit. The three leaders quickly pulled away from 4th place Espargaro by 2.9, with Pedrosa tucked in behind the KTM in P5.
The rain once again poured down and conditions were still incredibly treacherous as the leading trio were all lapping in the low 1:43s – two seconds quicker than anyone else, and it appeared to a three-horse race for the final win of 2018.
On lap 6, Dovizioso steadily gained a 1-second gap to catch Rins, with 1.5 now splitting the trio. Another fastest lap then followed for Dovi, as Rossi made his move past Rins at Turn 4 with eight laps to go. Three laps later, Dovi owned a full 3-second lead. Suddenly, ‘The Doctor’ went down at Turn 12, pulling Espargaro and KTM up to a final podium position.
By the final soaked lap, Dovizioso’s advantage was 4-seconds to Rins as both safely “paddled” their way to the checkered flag – Dovi taking his first win since Misano, Rins grabbing a fifth podium of the year to claim P5 in the Championship. Emotional scenes followed as Espargaro held off Michele Pirro (Ducati Team) to take his and KTM’s maiden MotoGP podium – phenomenal from rider and factory alike after number 44 had crashed in “Race 1”.
Replacement rider Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda Castrol) crossed the line in P9, with Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) rounding out the top ten – a great ride, but not enough to beat Morbidelli for ‘Rookie of the Year’ honors. In his final Grand Prix appearance, Scott Redding (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) claimed a season-best P11, with Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) bringing his Ducati career to an end with a hard-fought P12. Rossi remounted to finish 13th, 3rd place on the season for the 9-time World Champion, with Karel Abraham and Jordi Torres claiming the final point-scoring positions.
And so ended a rain-drenched, crazy race round in Valencia, Spain, concluding an exciting season of MotoGP road racing. This painful weekend aside, Marc Marquez has established himself as the dominant force to contend with in the 1000cc Premier class, claiming year-after-year championships, breaking records, and generally defying gravity with his aggressive riding style. 2019 promises to be interesting indeed.
For more on MotoGP- www.motogp.com
*Information and photos courtesy of MotoGP