The Final Curtain
Heaven itself was crying at the final round of the 2018 MotoGP season. Valencia was awash with water – much of it falling from the skies but there was certainly some sobbing emanating from the teams.
But I’ll get to that.
So rain everywhere – Practice, Qualifying, and during the race. It didn’t stop Petrucci’s bike from catching fire, but it might have helped with the dousing.
Marquez managed to once again dislocate his shoulder in Q2, and was in visible pain as he staggered towards the tyre wall. He was rushed into his motorhome, injected with cobra venom, and on his first flying lap a few minutes later was in third place. He was ultimately nudged back into fifth, but this kind of carry-on only reinforces my view he is somewhat other than human. I dislocated my shoulder once. I cried on the couch for a fortnight. Try it for yourself. See how you go.
I understand he’s going to have surgery for this issue in the off-season, and this may have some kind of negative impact on his testing. Or it would in a normal racer. Marquez might just not test anything, recover from surgery, and come back even faster next year.
Lorenzo must have been slamming award-winning pain-killers the whole weekend. Clearly unable to ride fast due to his still sore arm – and he is no fan of the rain, anyway – the Mallorcan understood he had a very important test two days after the race, so he was very much in cruise-mode.
It was Rossi’s 383rd race, and after he gutted me and the rest of his fans when he binned it in Sepang after leading for almost the entire race, we were all hoping the Doctor would find redemption.
Lots of people crashed during Practice and Qualifying, and even more found the gravel during Sunday’s two-race rain-a-paloooza. Miller ate dirt five times – a feat only Crutchlow might have bettered, but Cal’s last effort has him sidelined until next season. Simeon brained himself so hard he looked like one of the Walking Dead for a few seconds, lurching around the gravel trap, and subsequently choosing not to play any more.
Of course, the championship is over, and interest has waned a little out here in the real world. Third place was still up for grabs between Rossi and his team-mate Vinales, so there would be some action there.
Racers are racers – and these are the best in the world – and they will race no matter what.
They may dye their hair funny colours (I’m looking at you, Alvaro), decide to change their numbers (Maverick will be Number 12 next year instead of 25), have a shave (as if anyone noticed, Danilo), or even maybe let KTM have its first ever podium (a bravura performance from the good-looking Asparagus) – but the nature of the beast dictates they will race.
And so they did.
But they did it in two parts. The first part was 13 laps. Then the race was red-flagged because it was deemed by Race Direction to be too wet – and Dovizioso, who was leading, but had just been passed by Rossi and was forced to pass him back, had his hand in the air so fast it looked like the French surrendering in WW2.
Rins, who had found himself in second on the grid, bracketed by Vinales on pole and Dovi in third, speared off from the start and left the field drinking his spray. It was a marvellous performance. Rossi, who had found himself starting in 16th, was in eighth place by the end of the first lap and coming hard. Marquez had ridden into Petrucci at the start, but since Race Direction was blinded by the spray, no action was taken.
Pol very soon found himself in third, drifted back to the rear of the field after being tortured by Marquez and benefited greatly from the re-start. His brother, Aleix crashed.
Vinales spent the first part of the race travelling backwards, while Rins increased his lead to more than three-and-a-half seconds.
Jack Miller crashed shortly after Rossi rounded up his reversing Yamaha team-mate, and Lap Five saw Rins leading four seconds ahead of Dovisoso.
Petrucci and Pirro crashed. Luthi crashed. Pol Espargaro crashed (but remounted) and then Marquez crashed.
Rossi was now in third, Rins was become damper than a flooded house (he was now riding three seconds slower than the blokes chasing him) and Dovizioso had closed right up on him, with Rossi on his back wheel in turn.
It was raining carbon-fibre and water with a vengeance at Valencia.
A remounted Pol Espergaro was now closing in on Lorenzo, who had not crashed, but was doubtlessly counting the minutes until this season was over.
Vinales crashed, handing Rossi third place in the championship. Morbidelli crashed, just as Rossi and Dovi caught and passed Rins.
Then, just as Rossi and Dovizioso started to see who was the mightiest fish in the ocean, the race was red-flagged, and re-started according to where everyone was the lap before.
Let’s go again
So Rins on pole, Dovi in second and Rossi in third. The retiring Pedrosa found himself in fourth, followed by Zarco, Nakagami, and Bautista.
The field was down to 15 riders, but while the rain had slowed, it had not stopped. And the smart money knew 15 riders would not be finishing.
With fresh tyres, Rins pounded off again, but Dovizioso soon reeled him in down the straights with his Ducati. Rossi pursued relentlessly, and my heart was full of hope. Maybe the old bloke could produce a win at the death of the season.
But it was not to be. Bautista crashed and then Rossi went down and I was tempted to turn off the TV and go to bed. It was late, but then I would have missed out on an ecstatic third-place Pol Espargaro including the F-word several times in his post-race interview with Simon Crafar. That was worth staying up for. It was KTM’s first-ever MotoGP podium and no-one could blame Pol for being salty after the race.
Rins had held on for second and Pirro, Ducati test-rider and the bloke you call an hour before the race if your rider cannot race, came a creditable fourth. Dani was fifth – the hope that he might have found a podium in his last MotoGP race dashed forever.
Lorenzo ended the day in 12th, having been bested by Scott Redding, and barely ahead of a remounted Rossi.
And so the curtain came down on another stunning MotoGP season. It truly deserves the moniker of “circus” because it is certainly that, as well as having the elements of a soap opera, and a Greek tragedy, and is fuelled by bravery and commitment beyond the imaginings of normal humans.
Long may it continue.
|Circuit Ricardo Tormo, 27 laps, 108.1 km (1 lap: 4.005 km)|
|1.||Dovizioso A.||Ducati Team||Win|
|2.||Rins A.||Team Suzuki Ecstar||+2.750|
|3.||Espargaro P.||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||+7.406|
|4.||Pirro M.||Ducati Team||+8.647|
|5.||Pedrosa D.||Repsol Honda||+13.351|
|6.||Nakagami T.||LCR Honda||+32.288|
|7.||Zarco J.||Monster Tech 3||+32.806|
|8.||Smith B.||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||+33.111|
|9.||Bradl S.||LCR Honda||+36.376|
|10.||Syahrin H.||Monster Tech 3||+37.198|
|11.||Redding S.||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||+44.326|
|12.||Lorenzo J.||Ducati Team||+46.146|
|13.||Rossi V.||Movistar Yamaha||+52.809|
|14.||Abraham K.||Angel Nieto Team||+1:10.628|
|15.||Torres J.||Reale Avintia Racing||+1:16.739|
|DNF||Bautista A.||Angel Nieto Team||Accident|
|DNF||Vinales M.||Movistar Yamaha||Accident|
|DNF||Morbidelli F.||Marc VDS Racing Team||Accident|
|DNF||Iannone A.||Team Suzuki Ecstar||Accident|
|DNF||Marquez M.||Repsol Honda||Accident|
|DNF||Petrucci D.||Alma Pramac Racing||Accident|
|DNF||Luthi T.||Marc VDS Racing Team||Accident|
|DNF||Miller J.||Alma Pramac Racing||Accident|
|DNF||Espargaro A.||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Accident|
|2018 MotoGP CHampionship Standings|
|MotoGP Team Standings|
|1.||Repsol Honda Team||438|
|3.||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||391|
|5.||Alma Pramac Racing||235|
|6.||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||204|
|8.||Angel Nieto Team||104|
|9.||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||89|
|10.||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||64|
|11.||Estrella Galicia 0,0||50|
|12.||Reale Avintia Racing||37|
|Constructors Championship Standings|