The 2016 MotoGP™ season finale already has its place in history secure. The curtain call for a new era as half the grid move teams, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing make their debut, and the history-making 2016 season draws to a close, the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana is primed for another incredible end-of-season party. And after a history-making Malaysian GP, there’s that chance of a tenth winner.
No one could have imagined an honour roll with nine names on it when the season began. But that’s the incredible outcome of a truly historic season in the premier class of Grand Prix racing, after Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) became the ninth different winner of the year in Malaysia.
With the Championship wrapped up, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) will be one of the first attempting to assure victory in Valencia for one of the nine who have already won this year. An error in Phillip Island when the pressure was off followed by an easy mistake to make in Malaysia mean the newly-crowned 5-time World Champion will be fired up as the paddock gets back on home turf – but so will the only other men to have won at the venue in over a decade: Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team).
Lorenzo especially will be out for glory. Trying to secure third in the Championship and looking to end the season on a high, the race also sees the end of an era for the Mallorcan before he moves to the Ducati Team. After 3 MotoGP™ World Championships, 43 race wins and 106 podiums before the Spaniard’s final race in Yamaha colours approaches, the relationship is one that has played a key role in defining an era of MotoGP™. With wins at the track in 2010, 2013 and 2015, Lorenzo’s last dance in blue could be one to remember.
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) has a more difficult record at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo but, having secured P2 in the Championship in Sepang and finished the tough race on the podium, the Italian’s focus is solely forward and he has a point to prove behind enemy lines once again – having already spoiled the hometown party in Jerez and Catalunya, and staged a stunning fight through the field in Valencia in 2015.
As Lorenzo leaves the other side of the Yamaha garage, Rossi’s 2017 teammate will be another out for glory at home. Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) is already a winner in 2016 at Silverstone, and will want to close out his incredible run with Suzuki as far towards the front as possible. With weather less likely to make life harder for the Hamamatsu factory machines, Viñales and teammate Aleix Espargaro will have their sights set squarely on the podium once again – at least – as they prepare to say goodbye to Suzuki.
Dani Pedrosa is the other man, along with Lorenzo, who has an incredible record at the track – but isn’t yet sure whether he will be fit to return after his highside in Motegi and collarbone break. Hoping to be able to contest the round on home turf, the venue will be a kind one for Pedrosa if he makes the grid – another of those circuits that sees his name penciled on a trophy before arrival, like Sepang: a race Pedrosa sat out.
Sepang winner Andrea Dovizioso will be one to watch after his incredible ride in Malaysia on a roll of good form, as well as teammate Andrea Iannone – who is another of the many on the grid whose future lies down a different path. His last race for the factory Ducati Team, after taking their first win since 2010 in Austria, will mean the ‘Maniac’ is sure to put on a good show once again. A frontrunner in Malaysia despite his ongoing recovery from cracked vertebrae, Iannone was back with a bang in Sepang.
After Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) crashed out in Malaysia, Valencia gives the Brit his final shot at securing the title of Top Independent team rider in 2016 – with Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro the only one in mathematical distance of the Brno and Phillip Island winner, and counting on home support. Espargaro is another of those who will be moving teams in the end of season shuffle – this time to KTM – and is set to remain alongside current teammate Bradley Smith in 2017.
The eyes of the world will be on Red Bull KTM Factory Racing in the season finale. Their first appearance, with test rider and GP winner Mika Kallio on board, will be the first benchmark for the Austrian factory as they prepare to line up on the grid full time next season – with a reputation for winning built on their incredible success in Moto3™.
Whatever hand Valencia deals for the season finale, one thing is sure: 2016 has been one for the record books – or more accurately, it’s rewritten them.
The final call for 2016 goes out at 9:00 local time on Friday (GMT +1), with lights out for the race on Sunday at 14:00.
Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) reigned the rain in Sepang, and in doing so took his second Moto2™ World Championship. The first Frenchman to win two titles in Grand Prix Racing and the first man to defend the Moto2™ crown since its introduction in 2010, Zarco heads into Valencia with the pressure he admitted to feeling now gone – and that pressure is now sitting on the shoulders of the men who sit behind him in the standings.
On the paddock’s arrival to Sepang, Tom Lüthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) was the man on the move. Taking over in second in the title and holding onto that after another top six in Malaysia, the Swiss rider’s comeback since his crash in Brno sees him head into the final round in the best position to secure second. With his form since missing the Czech GP matched by no other rider on the grid, and pressure not having seen him crack, Lüthi will be the odds-on favourite for P2.
Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP40) had a tough triple-header and after cutting the gap to Zarco to one point, comes into the final round now on the defensive against a charging Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS). Rins is now six points ahead of the Italian in the standings as they sit in third and fourth respectively, but is returning to both home turf and home support in Valencia. Rins and Morbidelli also have a shot at taking second in the title in the final showdown – but will need Lüthi’s recent form to desert him. With Morbidelli ever present in the fight for the win, the Italian also has an added incentive: win his first Moto2™ race.
His teammate at Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS, Alex Marquez, will be on the hunt for another podium at home after his stunning ride at MotorLand Aragon – and the man in front of him on that day, Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), will be looming large in everyone’s mirrors as he attempts one last leap up the table before his move to MotoGP™. Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) will also be looking to say goodbye to his intermediate class career with another win – with MotoGP™ just around the corner.
One final race, and one more shot at 25 points – the Circuit de Ricardo Tormo is ready for the last battle of another spectacular Moto2™ season.
As the Moto3™ paddock prepare for their final battle of the year, 2016 World Champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) returns to Spanish soil after last racing in the country at the Aragon GP and securing the crown. Crashing last time out in Sepang, the South African will be focused on winning one final Moto3™ race ahead of his move up to the intermediate class. One of the key men in his way is sure to be fellow 2017 Moto2™ rider Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) – the local.
Navarro is from Valencia, and will have big home support from both his Fan Club and the crowd as he also prepares to bid adieu to Moto3™ with another victory. In addition, Navarro is facing down Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) – the man set to replace him at EG0,0 in 2017 – and Francesco Bagnaia (Pull&Bear Aspar Mahindra) for second in the Championship, and nothing will be left on the table.
Bagnaia was the man to make big gains in Sepang. Taking a stunning second career win with Navarro crashing out, the Italian moved up into third in the standings – but is only two points clear of the Spaniard. 19 points behind Bastianini in second, Bagnaia’s crosshairs are sure to be on Navarro at the Valencian’s home round.
Bastianini is hoping to be back on track after a crash at Phillip Island – where he was caught in the crossfire of a crash for John McPhee (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) and then collided with Navarro. The Italian has a points margin over compatriot Bagnaia of 19 points, and over Navarro of 21. If he is able to compete in Valencia, the goal will be taking P2 in the title – and that may only require a handful of points.
The exciting fight just behind the three-way battle for P2 sees another three riders locked in competition, this time for the coveted prize of Rookie of the Year. 2015 FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship winner Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) leads that charge on 129 points, with Austrian GP winner Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) on 124 and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing Moto3) on 123. With all three of the riders knowing the track, the final rookie showdown – where every point counts – is sure to be an amazing show once again.
Last year, Navarro was on the podium, Binder just off it – and Bulega in the points as a wildcard. Now, just 24 laps of the Circuit Ricardo Tormo remain to bid adieu to the spectacular 2016 Moto3™ season – with so much still to play for.
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