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.

MotoGP Valencia Michelin
Valencia MotoGP – Michelin technician

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.

MotoGP Valencia Marquez GP AN Cover
Marc Marquez – AJRN Image

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.

MotoGP Valencia Lorenzo GP AN
Jorge Lorenzo – AJRN Image

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.

MotoGP Valencia Rossi GP AN
Valentino Rossi – AJRN Image

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.

MotoGP Valencia Vinales GP AN
Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales – AJRN Image

Racers are racers – and these are the best in the world – and they will race no matter what.

MotoGP Valencia Alvaro Bautista GP AN
Alvaro Bautista – AJRN Image

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.

MotoGP Valencia GPstart GP AN
Valencia MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image

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.

MotoGP Valencia GPstart GP AN
Valencia MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image

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.

MotoGP Valencia Rins GP AN
Alex Rins – Valencia MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image

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.

MotoGP Valencia Dovi GP AN
Valencia MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image

Iannone crashed.

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.

MotoGP Valencia Michelin Dovizioso Rossi Rins
Andrea Dovizioso, Valentino Rossi, Alex Rins

Smith crashed.

MotoGP Valencia Smith GP AN
Bradley Smith – AJRN Image

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.

MotoGP Valencia Michelin Dovizioso Rins Rossi
Valentino Rossi alongside Andrea Dovizioso and Alex Rins

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.

MotoGP Valencia Dovi GP AN
Valencia MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image

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.

MotoGP Valencia EspP GP AN
Pol Espargaro – Valencia MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image

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.

MotoGP Valencia Rins GP AN
Alex Rins – Valencia MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image

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.

spain
MotoGP Results
Circuit Ricardo Tormo, 27 laps, 108.1 km (1 lap: 4.005 km)
Pos Rider Team Time
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
MotoGP Valencia Michelin Podium Dovizioso Rins Espargaro
MotoGP Race Results
1 – Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) DUCATI 24’03.408
2 – Alex Rins (SPA) SUZUKI +2.750
3 – Pol Espargaro (SPA) KTM +7.406
2018 MotoGP CHampionship Standings
Pos. Rider Bike Nation Points
1 Marc MARQUEZ Honda SPA 321
2 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati ITA 245
3 Valentino ROSSI Yamaha ITA 198
4 Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha SPA 193
5 Alex RINS Suzuki SPA 169
6 Johann ZARCO Yamaha FRA 158
7 Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda GBR 148
8 Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati ITA 144
9 Jorge LORENZO Ducati SPA 134
10 Andrea IANNONE Suzuki ITA 133
11 Dani PEDROSA Honda SPA 117
12 Alvaro BAUTISTA Ducati SPA 105
13 Jack MILLER Ducati AUS 91
14 Pol ESPARGARO KTM SPA 51
15 Franco MORBIDELLI Honda ITA 50
16 Hafizh SYAHRIN Yamaha MAL 46
17 Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia SPA 44
18 Bradley SMITH KTM GBR 38
19 Tito RABAT Ducati SPA 35
20 Takaaki NAKAGAMI Honda JPN 33
21 Scott REDDING Aprilia GBR 20
22 Michele PIRRO Ducati ITA 14
23 Karel ABRAHAM Ducati CZE 12
24 Stefan BRADL Honda GER 10
25 Mika KALLIO KTM FIN 6
26 Katsuyuki NAKASUGA Yamaha JPN 2
27 Xavier SIMEON Ducati BEL 1
28 Jordi TORRES Ducati SPA 1
MotoGP Valencia Champions Marquez Bagnaia Martin Moto Moto
Valencia MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image
MotoGP Team Standings
Pos Team Points
1. Repsol Honda Team 438
2. Ducati Team 392
3. Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 391
4. Suzuki MotoGP 302
5. Alma Pramac Racing 235
6. Monster Yamaha Tech 3 204
7. LCR Honda 191
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
MotoGP Valencia season Champions Marquez Bagnaia Martin Moto Moto
Valencia MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image
Constructors Championship Standings
Pos. Team Points
1 Honda 375
2 Ducati 335
3 Yamaha 281
4 Suzuki 233
5 Ktm 72
6 Aprilia 59
MotoGP Valencia Zarco GP AN
Valencia MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image

 

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Boris Mihailovic
Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.