Round 19 – Valencia
MotoGP is on the way to Valencia in Spain for the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana as the curtain comes down on another MotoGP season with the 19th and final round of the year taking place at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo.
The Valencia circuit is named after Spanish racer Ricardo Tormo, who won the 50cc world title riding for Bultaco in 1978 and 1981. In addition to his 15 Grand Prix victories in the 50cc class he also had four wins in the 125cc class. His career ended in 1984 due to leg injuries suffered in a crash whilst test riding. Tormo sadly died from leukemia in 1998.
Now firmly established as the final race of the season, Valencia is the only stadium circuit on the calendar and this unique fact means that the track takes on an enclosed feel, with many tight and slow corners going in both directions, with the crowd overlooking the asphalt from grandstands that surround the venue.
Valencia’s 4,005m circuit, with its nine left- and five right-hand turns, has a configuration set out in an anti-clockwise direction. This unusual layout makes the need for asymmetric Michelins an absolute must and one of the reasons that this is one of three tracks (Sachsenring and Phillip Island the others), on the calendar that features this range of rubber on both the front and rear. This time the harder rubber will appear on the left-hand side, to counter the extra stresses placed on that part of the tyre and to contend with the higher number of corners that travel in that direction.
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) arrives already part-way through his sixth term as the king of MotoGP, but there’s still more than personal glory on the line. The team standings have Repsol Honda and Ducati facing off in the final round, and Marquez has already played a huge part in getting them there. Can he secure the title and therefore the triple crown?
“First I want to say thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate in Cervera, it’s always very special to do this party and to have my brother alongside me as World Champion again was really magical. Now we return to work. We have the objective of winning the Team Championship in Valencia, but also we are looking to 2020 already and continuing to try some options while we have this time before we go into test mode after the race. We will try to put on one more really nice show for the fans before winter!”
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and team-mate Danilo Petrucci will be gunning to stop him, with one already secure in second overall and the other looking to bounce back.
“The Cheste circuit has never been really easy for us, even though it’s true that last year we scored a great win in rainy conditions, which proved that anything can happen. Personally speaking, I really want to finish the season with a good result and safe in the knowledge that we gave our all right until the very end. The level of the championship is getting higher all the time, and we’ve seen this in the last three races outside of Europe, but I have confidence in the good job we’re doing to finish the championship on a high”.
“For me this race is very important, because after a rather complicated second half of the season I want to finish the year with a good result. I don’t think we are that far away, but we still have to resolve a few details to be more competitive in the race. Valencia is a circuit that I like, and in the last few days I’ve managed to recover well from the consequences of the crash in Australia, so I think we can do a good race”.
And what of Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team)? It’s been a tough run for the five-time World Champion as he continues his recovery to full fitness and adaptation to the Honda, but this is turf he knows better than most – and has utterly dominated in the past.
“Valencia is a circuit that is quite different to the ones we have been racing at. It is very tight compared to the likes of Phillip Island and Sepang and it can sometimes be quite cool, especially in the morning and this is something we must pay attention to. After a more positive race in Malaysia, I am striving to continue making these gains and do everything I can to help the Repsol Honda Team win the Team Championship.”
Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) arrives with the most momentum. After out-pacing Marquez in Australia but finding himself unable to outrace him, Malaysia saw the number 12 put in one of his best ever rides to cross the line in his own postcode out front. He’s got some good memories at Valencia too, most notably winning the 2013 Moto3 Championship at the very last corner on the very last lap, so he’ll likely be top of the watch list for his rivals.
“I‘m very happy to head back to Valencia, feeling in such good physical shape and with a positive mentality after the victory in Malaysia. We are working very well with the team, and all the hard work done throughout the season is now paying off. We have found the formula to continue developing the bike for 2020 and that is what we are doing. My goal for this weekend is finishing the season with another victory or at least with another podium, in order to be the first Yamaha in the championship standings and to achieve the third position in the general classification. I can’t wait to start working on next year. I think that this GP we will be a strong contender, and we‘ll fight for the victory from the beginning of the weekend. I really want to be able to show that we are ready to fight for the victory.”
Alex Rins has had a tougher run of it since his incredible victory at Silverstone, and the Spaniard is now seven points behind Viñales in the fight for third overall. That means he’ll need to beat him and by a margin if he’s to end the season in the top three, so he’ll be pushing hard for that.
“It’s the last race of the year so I want to do a good job, and it’s also a place that I really enjoy riding – there’s always a lot of fans and a great vibe! I’m looking forward to it and hope to end this positive season in a good way.”
Rins’ rookie team-mate Joan Mir has been giving him something to think about of late too, and that battle between the Suzuki men only seems set to get closer…
“I suffered in Sepang because of the humidity, and that’s something I don’t need to worry about in Valencia. During the Malaysia weekend we made some steps and improvements and I was feeling really good with the bike but I wasn’t able to show it due to the conditions. I hope in Spain I can do really well.”
The rookie on a roll was, is and likely will be someone else though: Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT). Race day at Sepang was tougher than Saturday, but he’d broken the lap record a handful of times by the time the lights went out – and out-foxed Marquez’ Q2 tactics.
He’s got one more chance to win a race, and plenty more on the line: he’s just ahead of nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), and that would be something for the CV in a debut year. Valencia hasn’t always proven the best track for ‘The Doctor’ either, so could it swing the Frenchman’s way?
“The final GP of 2019 has arrived. It hasn’t been an easy season but in the last races we improved. In Malaysia we had a good race and we will try to do the same in Valencia, we want to try to go on the podium. After the last Grand Prix there will be two tests, one in Valencia and one in Jerez. These will be very important weeks. We will do our best!”
There’s another prize Quartararo is up for though: top Independent Team rider. With a healthy 23-point advantage over Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) – his only remaining rival for the title – it seems a formality in some ways, but never say never, especially with Jack Miller.
“The target is to finish out the year strongly at Valencia with a good final race. We’re really close to achieving the Independent Riders’ championship, with the gap to Jack [Miller] now over twenty points, so another goal will be to manage that effectively. The set-up of our bike is completely different now from how it was when I last rode Valencia twelve months ago. I’ve got more experience as a rider and the team has more experience too, so we should be able to go a lot faster this time round – but it’ll still be useful to compare data from a year ago to see where we still need to improve. I’ve won four races at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in the Spanish championship and it’s the first place I ever got to ride a MotoGP bike, so there’s plenty of good memories in Valencia.”
In terms of top Independent Team rider in the race the two will likely have company from Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) too.
“I like Valencia a lot and I have great memories from it, from my first front-row start in 2014 to two podium finishes. Last year I crashed out of fifth place, so even though it wasn’t the result I wanted it showed I can be strong. Hopefully the weather will be good, because we want to arrive with a lot of positive energy after a few tricky rounds. I want to do an excellent job to finish off the season, and if I can transmit some of my good energy to the crew then I’m confident that we can work very well this weekend. The Yamaha YZR-M1 was a very easy bike to ride at Valencia for the first time twelve months ago, and I’m looking forward to experiencing that again.”
Many will be watching Johann Zarco (LCR Honda Idemitsu) in his third ride on the Honda. Sepang ended early through no fault of his own – how will the season end for the Frenchman?
12 months ago the season ended on a serious high for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing. Pol Espargaro put in one of the rides of his career in the wet to take third place; his first premier class podium and KTM’s first too.
The hard work continues for the Austrian factory but the good memories at the track will be a nice reminder that it’s already been paying off, sometimes in a big way.
There’s no Miguel Oliveira at Red Bull KTM Tech 3 this weekend either, with Iker Lecuona debuting one race early as an injury replacement.
Aged 19 years and 315 days old on race day at Valencia, Iker Lecuona will become the youngest rider to start a MotoGP race since Michel Fabrizio, who was 19 years and 214 days old when he lined up on the grid at Welkom back in 2004.
“I’m very, very happy to have the chance to make my MotoGP debut in Valencia this weekend, which is my home track. I want to thank the entire Red Bull KTM Tech3 team for giving me this opportunity, but at the same time my American Racing team for releasing me to start this exciting adventure previously. It’s a great possibility for me to test the KTM RC16 for the first time during the last weekend of the 2019 season, before I enter the category full time next year. My goal is to enjoy the Valencia GP and learn as much as possible.”
Hervé Poncharal – Red Bull KTM Tech 3 Team Manager
“With the Valencia GP coming, we obviously approach the end of the year and like many people probably say, it seems like it was just yesterday when we started our first test with the KTM. It’s been a short, but interesting journey and clearly, we feel very sad and sorry, to not have Miguel with us, because we started this adventure together and went through many things during this year. It’s not a good feeling, but hopefully he will be physically present, although we would prefer to have him on the bike. Having said that, this weekend is going to be an exciting one, especially for Red Bull KTM Tech3, because it will be the very last race in the MotoGP category for Hafizh with us, after we spent two years together, had some very good moments and spent some real great time, plus having a lot of fun together. Plus, it’s going to be very interesting, because we will have a rookie with us. With just 19 years of age Iker is going to jump on the bike for the very first time during the official Free Practice 1. It’s a little bit unusual, but once we learned that Miguel will be out of action and knowing, that Iker will be with us next year, we’ve been thinking to provide him an extra test, so there’s absolutely zero pressure on Ikers shoulder and hopefully, we can start working well and have more experience, when we properly start the 2020 season with the test in Valencia on Tuesday. So, there are plenty of things to do, it will be quite emotional, as people are leaving, which is sad, but at the same time people are joining, which is exciting. This is the final round, let’s hope the weather will be on our side this year. It’s the end of a chapter, but the next one will start very soon after we finish the current season.”
Finally, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini will be hoping for more of their Australia glory. It’s been a tougher season for the Noale factory but Valencia is another chance to equal those best yet results.
The RS-GP machines ridden by Espargaró and Iannone racing in a total red (RED) livery to support the organisation founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver in 2006.
In the last three years, the Piaggio Group’s collaboration with (RED) has ensured more than one million days of treatment for the prevention of hidden transmission of the HIV virus from mothers to children.
In thirteen years, (RED) has contributed more than $600 million to the Global Fund in the battle against AIDS. Help has had an impact on 140 million people thanks to operations of prevention, care, consulting and assistance services, with particular attention to countries with a high percentage of the HIV virus transmitted from mother to child. It is a civil battle to which the entire World Championship GP Motorcycle Racing community and motorcycle enthusiasts all over the world can contribute to keeping attention high, with the extraordinary goal of giving our children the dream of an AIDS Free Generation.
“Going out on the track with the (RED) colours will be an important initiative and I am honoured to provide my contribution.” From the competition point of view, we need to try to finish this season in the best possible way. It has not been a simple season, but now it is time to tackle the final race in Valencia well and to begin working on the new season from the day after.”
Next season the counter will be hitting 20 as the paddock rolls back in to Valencia, and that season starts on Tuesday in the pre-season test. For many it will be a new era, for some simply chance to reset and start afresh with their plans to take over the world. But before then, the last 25 points await whoever dares to claim them, be it for pride or pivotal places in the standings.
MotoGP Championship Points
MotoGP Stats Update
At the Malaysian GP, Maverick Viñales won for the second time this year along with the Dutch TT, the seventh time in the MotoGP class and the 23rd in his Grand Prix career, equalling Andrea Dovizioso and Barry Sheene.
In addition, this was Maverick Viñales’ sixth win with Yamaha, equalling Giacomo Agostini and Luca Cadalora but two less than Max Biaggi, who is in sixth place on the list of Yamaha riders with most premier class wins.
At the Valencia GP, Maverick Viñales will be aiming to reach the milestone of 2000 points scored in Grand Prix racing, the 16th rider to do so. With his win at Sepang, he scored his 1975th point since the beginning of his career.
With his second-place finish at Sepang, Marc Marquez has been on the podium 17 times so far this year, setting a new record for the most podium finishes in a single premier class season. The previous record was 16 with Valentino Rossi (2003, 2005 and 2008), Jorge Lorenzo (2010 and 2012), Casey Stoner (2011) and Marquez (2013).
Marc Marquez made it 15 successive races on the podium for the first time since he stepped up to MotoGP in 2013. Only four riders have done better in the premier class: Valentino Rossi (23 from Portugal/2002 to South Africa/2004 and 16 from Japan/2014 to Great Britain/2015), Giacomo Agostini (22 from Nations/1967 to Ulster/1969), Casey Stoner (19 from Portugal/2011 to France/2012) and Mick Doohan (17 from Australia/1994 to Japan/1995).
With Maverick Viñales and Marc Marquez, this is the third Spanish 1-2 of the season and the fourth with both riders along with Austin (2018), Assen and Germany this year. It’s the 50th Spanish 1-2 in the premier class of Grand Prix racing.
The Ducati Team heads to Valencia with a two-point lead over the Repsol Honda Team in the MotoGP Teams’ World Championship and could clinch the title for the second time since the introduction of the MotoGP class in 2002, along with 2007.
This is Ducati’s 16th podium finish of the season so far, two more than last year. The only time Ducati have had more podium finishes in the premier class was in 2007 with 19 thanks to Casey Stoner, Loris Capirossi and Alex Barros.
Valentino Rossi, who crossed the line fourth at Sepang–his best result since Misano – and set the fastest lap of the race for the first time since Le Mans 2016, has not won since Assen back in 2017, 45 successive races, which is now his largest winless streak in his Grand Prix career.
Valentino Rossi is the only rider to have competed at all 20 previous Grand Prix events that have taken place at the Ricardo Tormo circuit.
Alex Rins finished in fifth place at the Malaysian GP, equalling his best result across the line since he won at the British GP. Rins and Viñales are now the only riders still in contention for the third place in the Championship.
Fabio Quartararo, who finished seventh at Sepang, his worst result across the line since he was also seventh at Brno, is leading the Independent Team rider classification with 172 points, 23 points ahead of Jack Miller who is now the only other rider in contention.
With Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo, Petronas Yamaha SRT scored 19 more points in the Independent Team classification at Sepang, taking the title in their first year competing in the premier class of Grand Prix racing.
In Valencia, Fabio Quartararo will be aiming to become the first French rider to win in the premier class since Régis Laconi won the Valencia GP in 500cc back in 1999, more than 20 years ago.
The only one of the four rookies in the MotoGP class this year to have previously won the Ricardo Tormo circuit in any of the smaller classes is Miguel Oliveira, who won the Moto2 race in both 2017 and 2018 as well as the Moto3 race back in 2015.
However, Miguel Oliveira won’t race at Valencia due to a shoulder injury sustained at Phillip Island and he will be replaced by Iker Lecuona who finished in second place in Moto2 last year at the Spanish track, the best result of his Grand Prix career to date.
Along with Miguel Oliveira and Iker Lecuona, Joan Mir is the only other rookie who has finished on the podium in Valencia, twice in the Moto3 class: second in 2016 and 2017.
Aged 19 years and 315 days old on race day at Valencia, Iker Lecuona will become the youngest rider to start a MotoGP race since Michel Fabrizio, who was 19 years and 214 days old when he lined up on the grid at Welkom back in 2004.
In addition, Lecuona will be aiming to become only the fourth rider to start a MotoGP race as a teenager since the introduction of the class in 2002, along with Fabio Quartararo, Michel Fabrizio and John Hopkins.
Despite a truly dominant mid-part of the season for Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), the pressure was starting to build for the points leader on the flyaways, and the two men coming in hot were Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP).
But the number 73 kept cool in the searing heat of Sepang to take a tenth podium of the year and become a two-time World Champion, so now it’s about the fight for second – and the final win of the year.
Marquez is now free of the pressure that seemed to tame a few of his recent races, so he’s pencilled in as a favourite from the off – especially given it’s home turf. But then Binder is on a serious roll and looking for his third win in a row, and Lüthi only trails the South African by four points as they squabble over the position at present. And the pendulum could swing either way in that battle all too easily, but in reality it’s not quite a duel, because Jorge Navarro (MB Conveyors Speed Up) remains in with a long shot at second – and he’s racing on home turf.
The Valencian has had an impressive season in 2019, with seven podiums so far and one more chance to take another. He’s yet to take a win in the intermediate class though, and now would surely be the time to do it. Not only in front of his home fans, but also for the standings as he’s 24 points off Binder, meaning winning is all that will do.
Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40) similarly faces a long shot as well, but his is for fourth overall. After a tougher few races on the flyaways the Spaniard will be back racing on familiar turf, and that’s often seen him soar.
He’ll also need to keep one eye on Luca Marini (Sky Racing team VR46) though, with the Italian 15 points behind him and still able to upset the home party. But then Marini has a target on his back too: Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) lurks 11 points behind. The fight for second seems unlikely to be fought alone between Binder, Lüthi and Navarro…
The fight for Rookie of the Year is another one going down to the wire. With the three men in contention all crashing in Sepang, the battle rolled on to the finale and it’s Fabio Di Giannantonio (MB Conveyors Speed Up) who arrives ahead. He’s six points clear of earlier season leader and compatriot Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team), with home hero Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) facing a steeper climb from third. It’s the final race, so one will come out on top once and for all – but which one?
Remy Gardner will also looking to end the season on a high before he looks towards season 2020 with the same team that he has enjoyed some level of success with this season.
There’s also a new face to keep an eye on – American Sean Dylan Kelly, who debuts with American Racing KTM. What can he do as he pits out on the world stage?
Moto2 Championship Points
|4||Jorge NAVARRO||Speed Up||210|
|9||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO||Speed Up||101|
|20||Stefano MANZI||MV Agusta||26|
|23||Dominique AEGERTER||MV Agusta||15|
|30||Khairul Idham PAWI||Kalex||3|
Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) has had a tougher run of late. Since the last time he won – MotorLand Aragon – he’s lost out pretty big to then-title rival and now Champion Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing), but there’s one last chance for the Spaniard to go out from 2019 swinging. And where better for that to be than true home turf?
The Valencian arrives 15 points ahead of closest challenger Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers), but Arbolino has lost a little momentum of his own as Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) is now only a single point behind the Italian. Can Canet keep them both at bay? He’s qualified on pole at the venue before and shown some speed, despite the fact he’s not got a glittering record on race day. But then, home turf and a last tango in Moto3™ is more than a little motivation before he moves up.
John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing), meanwhile, isn’t quite out of the fight for third either – at least according to the maths. And the maths never lies. The worst the Brit can come out with this year now is his current position of fifth overall, so he can go very much weapons free as he aims for the long shot.
McPhee will have some stiff competition: Albert Arenas (Gaviota Angel Nieto Team) is on a roll, Jaume Masia (Mugen Race) is from Valencia and on song, SIC58 Squadra Corse duo Niccolo Antonelli and Tatsuki Suzuki can’t be ruled out.
The fight for Rookie of the Year is still on too, and it’s frequently been a fight in the top ten, top five or even for the podium. Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) is on the verge of taking the title, however, with the Italian 24 points clear of nearest rival Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia). For Vietti to lose it then, Ogura would have to win – and the Italian would have to all-but fail to score. And if they’re equal? Then it would come down to the Japanese rider having taken a second place this season and Vietti “only” thirds, but that says one thing clearly at least: they’re both front-runners and ones to watch.
Moto3 Championship Points
|1||Lorenzo DALLA PORTA||Honda||279|
After a good few weeks of waiting, the FIM Enel MotoE World Cup is finally back in action in Valencia and raring to race. The final Round of the season is sure to be another spectacular show, and it will be more pivotal than ever as the inaugural MotoE Cup winner is decided. Who will it be? With 50 points still on the table, the list of contenders is long.
The top of that list and the top of the standings is occupied by one man, however: Matteo Ferrari (Trentino Gresini MotoE). The Italian sits on 72 points and has a comfortable margin over those on the chase, with consistency having put him in the running and the double at Misano then propelling him clear. But the season so far has shown you can never predict the next race in MotoE…
Hector Garzo (Tech 3 E-Racing) will be hoping that remains true at Valencia. The Spaniard had some top speed at the venue in preseason testing and it’s his home track – somewhere he knows better than most. 19 points would start to seem insurmountable if we only had one race, but there are two more to go and double the opportunity for the number 4 to eat into that advantage.
The same holds true for Bradley Smith (One Energy Racing), Mike Di Meglio (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) and Xavier Simeon (Avintia Esponsorama Racing), who are the next three men in the standings. A combination of bad luck and trouble have dented their points hauls in many ways, but all three have shown they have the pace to be serious challengers. Two more races with so much on the line mean they remain firmly in contention, although Simeon is coming back from injury sustained elsewhere.
“We arrive in Valencia third in the standings, 24 points behind the leader. We have a chance at the title, although the possibility is small. The first two rounds were very positive, but at San Marino we had two tough races, where bad luck and starting far down on the grid played an important role. Looking ahead to this final weekend in Valencia, we have no choice but to attack from the beginning and to try to win both races. We will try to be as fast as possible from the first Free Practice onwards, qualify on the front row in the E-Pole session and go for the win in both contests. In pre-season I managed to be the fastest in the tests held in Valencia, and it is a track that I like and at which I have always had good results, so hopefully that also helps us in this last round.”
In terms of the maths, there are actually 11 riders still in contention – with a 50 point gap covering everyone down to Nico Terol (Openbank Angel Nieto Team) in 12th. From Niccolo Canepa (LCR E-Team), Jesko Raffin (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Mattia Casadei (SIC58 Squadra Corse) to Sete Gibernau (Join Contract Pons 40), Alex De Angelis (Octo Pramac MotoE) and Terol, the list of those who could potentially take the Cup makes the possibilities endless.
The reason it’s 11 and not 12, however, is one rider remaining sidelined through injury: Niki Tuuli, the early season pacesetter. He’ll be replaced at Ajo MotoE by 2017 WorldSSP Champion Lucas Mahias, so that will be an interesting adaptation to watch. The Frenchman dives straight it with limited track time, but adaptation has been different up and down the grid.
There are also the likes of Eric Granado (Avintia Esponsorama Racing), winner of the “test” race at Valencia, and Maria Herrera (Openbank Angel Nieto Team), who’s taken big steps forward as the season has gone on, to contend with. The standings tell us who remains in with a shot at the crown, but they don’t tell us who’s going to be fighting at the front. That’s something that’s changed race by race and session by session in MotoE, and Valencia will probably serve up more variance in the results.
MotoE Championship Points
|1||Matteo FERRARI Energica||Energica||72|
|2||Hector GARZO Energica||Energica||53|
|3||Bradley SMITH Energica||Energica||48|
|4||Mike DI MEGLIO Energica||Energica||47|
|5||Xavier SIMEON Energica||Energica||45|
|6||Niccolo CANEPA Energica||Energica||36|
|7||Jesko RAFFIN Energica||Energica||32|
|8||Niki TUULI Energica||Energica||26|
|9||Mattia CASADEI Energica||Energica||24|
|10||Sete GIBERNAU Energica||Energica||24|
|11||Alex DE ANGELIS Energica||Energica||23|
|12||Nicolas TEROL Energica||Energica||23|
|13||Maria HERRERA Energica||Energica||21|
|14||Eric GRANADO Energica||Energica||21|
|15||Lorenzo SAVADORI Energica||Energica||20|
|16||Joshua HOOK Energica||Energica||20|
|17||Randy DE PUNIET Energica||Energica||12|
|18||Kenny FORAY Energica||Energica||9|
Valencia MotoGP Schedule (AEDT)