2020 MotoGP Round 13 – Valencia
By Trevor Hedge
The first of the final three battles in the interesting war that has been MotoGP season 2020 will see shots fired this weekend at Valencia. It is forecast to be an often changing battleground with rain tipped for Friday and Saturday, but race day could go either way…
Piero Taramasso – Michelin
“This has been an unusual season and one that has been complicated with some very strange weather, but now as we reach the tail-end of the year we are heading to a circuit that we know what can be expected, as we visit Valencia at this time of the year in a normal calendar. We anticipate very cold mornings and the specific layout of the track with its tight turns and short straights, means it is one of the few tracks that we have a full asymmetric range of slicks for the front and rear, in fact it is the only one this season after the cancellation of Sachsenring and Phillip Island. The tyre spends a lot of time on the left, so never really cools down, but conversely the right is not used much so needs to heat up quickly when it is needed, so we have to blend the perfect combination of compounds to give the best pairing to satisfy all riders, as well as coping with the challenge of the weather and the characteristics of the track. These will be two very demanding weekends, but with past experience we know what to expect, come rain, shine or cold.”
After the two rounds at Valencia the championship finale will then be staged at Portimao, a circuit that is new to MotoGP, and one that will likely throw even more surprise twists in what has been a season that has been impossible to predict. I can’t wait to see the MotoGP bikes take on the challenge of Portimao, a circuit I have had the pleasure of riding many times and rate right up there with, and perhaps even rate better than our own spectacular wonder that is Phillip Island
I wouldn’t quite say that Joan Mir has one hand on the championship trophy, but I would say he has a finger on it at least… The Suzuki rider has been the most consistent rider this year and that has seen him build a 14-point advantage heading into this final three rounds.
14 riders are still (mathematically) in contention for the MotoGP title, which is this highest number with three premier class races to go since the current scoring system was introduced in 1993. From 1993 to 2019, the highest number of riders still in contention with three premier class races to go was in 2006 with five: Nicky Hayden, Valentino Rossi, Marco Melandri, Dani Pedrosa and Loris Capirossi
“Last time out I was actually slightly disappointed with third place, only because I felt I had the potential for more. However, my goal was the podium and I managed to achieve that. In general I’m feeling good at the moment and I’m ready to fight at Valencia, which is a nice track that I’m familiar with. It will be good to get back on track on Friday morning for a new race weekend.”
His Suzuki team-mate Alex Rins promoted himself into the title challenge with victory last time out in Aragon but at 32-points behind he is somewhat of a long-shot.
“Coming into the last three races I don’t feel a lot of pressure, for sure my results have been really good and I’m hoping to continue that trend, but I want to just keep working the way I always do and simply see what happens. I’ve had some nice results in Valencia in the past so I’m happy to get back on track and see what we’re capable of this weekend.”
At Valencia last year Fabio Quartararo started from pole position and finished second, the Frenchman will be hoping for another good result to increase the pressure on the current world championship leader.
“Although we had two difficult races last time out in Aragón, I want to take advantage of the good feeling I have always had on a MotoGP bike at Valencia in these two races coming up. It’s a small track, but is one that I like. I had a great feeling there last year, when I took a podium and the pole position, and also in the post-season test. Of course I hope to be able to repeat that this weekend. There are three races left this year and a 14-point gap with the leader. We know how fast we can be, so I think we have some good opportunities coming into these final events in Valencia and Portimão, and I’m looking forward to the first of them this weekend.”
Fresh from taking his second MotoGP victory last time out, Morbidelli will be keen to continue this good form at Valencia this weekend, and reduce the 25-point deficit in the riders’ championship. Franco goes into this race, the first of two at the Spanish circuit, fourth in the World Championship standings, but many well credentialed pundits now tip the 25-year-old as the favourite to take out the title on current form.
“It feels good going into the final three races of the year after the second win of the season at Aragón. Valencia can be a tricky circuit when riding a MotoGP bike, as it’s narrow and the MotoGP bikes have so much power on a track that’s quite small, compared to other categories. But it is a place that I love, because it’s where I made my first step into big-wheeled motorsport, in a Spanish championship. I’m feeling great on the bike, we will work to keep the same feeling at this circuit and be fighting again for the top places. We go there just 25 points from being at the top of the championship standings, so I want to be aggressive in these final races at Valencia and Portimão to see what we can achieve.”
Over in the Monster Energy Yamaha factory garage the line-up for the weekend is not yet completely clear. Valentino Rossi is hopeful of making his eagerly awaited return to MotoGP, however, should he be unable to meet the requirement of two negative PCR test results needed for him to be allowed to take part in the European GP, the Italian will be replaced by Garrett Gerloff.
“I‘m so honoured that Yamaha has considered me for this opportunity. This year has already been quite the adventure, and this would be the cherry on top. It‘s been a dream of mine to ride the Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP bike since I started racing so many years ago, and to potentially have it happen is really exciting. But I am just sorry to get this opportunity under these unfortunate circumstances for Valentino. I feel really bad for him and I hope that he recovers soon, we all miss the number 46 on track! All the best to him. If I do end up riding this weekend, it will be an uphill battle not knowing the bike, tyres, brakes, etc. Also, I have never been to the Valencia track before. But I‘m confident in myself and ready for the challenge! Thanks to all at Yamaha. Bring it on!”
Rossi had taken a PCR test on Tuesday 3rd November, which came back positive, he will undergo a new test and should the Italian test negative, he will still have enough time to complete the required second PCR test and fly to Valencia. In order to be allowed to compete in this weekend‘s Gran Premio de Europa round, he needs negative test results from two PCR tests conducted 48 hours apart, as per FIM rules.
“This virus is very complicated and serious. I felt bad for two days, then in a few days I came back to being fully fit, at my 100 per cent. I self-isolated at home all the time and I followed the medical advice closely. It‘s a very sad and difficult situation, but that‘s the way it is. Unfortunately, yesterday (Tuesday 3rd November), I had another test and it came back positive again, like all previous ones. Luckily I still have two more chances to be back on track on Friday or Saturday. I am very sad because I am feeling well, and I can‘t wait to be back aboard my M1 and be reunited with my team. I really hope the next PCR test result will be negative, because missing two races was already two too many.”
Maverick Viñales has stood on the podium twice before at Valencia. He secured a victory in his first Valencian 125cc race in 2011, and he graced the top step once more in 2013 when he claimed the Moto3 World Championship Title. His best MotoGP finish at Valencia though was a fifth place in 2016. Currently he is 19-points from the top of the overall standings and just five-points from second.
“It‘s true that the last race wasn‘t the most positive, but it‘s important that we don‘t let that affect us in these final three rounds. We need to work hard, focus, and keep a positive mindset and get the best results possible in every single session. Valencia is usually a bit tricky for us, but I personally really like this track. For sure, it‘s not going to be an easy weekend but, as always, we will give our maximum.”
While Rossi’s participation is still up in the air, that of Marc Marquez is not. Earlier in the week Repsol Honda confirmed that Stefan Bradl will once again join Alex Marquez in the factory Honda garage.
“I am very pleased that the Repsol Honda Team have continued to put their faith in me and return to ride the RC213V again. We have done some testing at Valencia in the past and in Aragon we made a good step with the bike, I think we can have a good weekend here and again battle with riders further ahead as we did in Aragon and Le Mans as well. Always at around this time of the year in Valencia the temperature, especially in the morning, can be critical so we will have to pay attention to this.”
Despite suffering his first DNF of the year last time out in Aragon, Alex Marquez returns to the circuit with the same ambitions as always. The MotoGP rookie has been a standout in recent rounds and enters the closing stages of the year on equal points with Brad Binder as they contest the Rookie of the Year title. Alex got his first taste of the Honda RC213V at the post-season Valencia test in 2019 with the rest of the field and is eager to see his progress since.
“It has been good to have one final week to train and prepare for what will be an intense and demanding end to the season. We approach it in the same way as all the previous races; looking to improve and show our potential. I rode there already in the test but since then I have changed a lot so I am looking forward to seeing my growth as a MotoGP rider. Let’s finish the season well and keep improving.“
Despite a disappointing recent run of results Andrea Dovizioso firmly remains in the championship hunt if he can turn that form around. The Italian would certainly love to leave Ducati at the end of the season with that coveted #1 plate in his bag. Ducati have had three premier class wins in Valencia with three different riders: Troy Bayliss (2006), Casey Stoner (2008) and Andrea Dovizioso (2018).
“The two races at MotorLand Aragón were tough for us; we struggled a lot, and of course we didn’t get the results we were expecting. After a week off, we return to the track with more motivation; there are only three races left in the Championship, and we know that everything can still happen. This year, each Grand Prix has its own story. I still have three races with Ducati and, as always, I will try all my best till the end”.
Recent reports suggest that Dovizioso could end up as a Yamaha MotoGP test rider next year, which of course could lead to some wildcard appearances at certain rounds. Or if one of the regular Yamaha incumbents was to get injured, or retire early…
Danilo Petrucci started the season strongly but like his team-mate, that form has deserted him as the season wore on.
“We left Aragón behind, and now we are focused on the next two races in Valencia. The Circuit Ricardo Tormo is not one of our ideal race tracks, but this year it is complicated to make any predictions before taking to the track. Michele Pirro was here for a test a few days ago, and the feedback was quite positive, so we arrive in Spain with interesting data at our disposal. These next three Grands Prix for sure will be demanding, but I am determined to let that these three last races with Ducati will leave us positive memories”.
Of all the Ducati riders the most consistently fast has been Jack Miller. Unfortunately though the Aussie has three DNFs not of his own doing that have nobbled his tilt at the title. An engine failure, an engine problem after a tear-off from Quartararo blocked his air intakes, and then at Aragon he was taken out by Brad Binder. If not for those misfortunes it is clear that Miller would be very much in the title hunt.
The South African was penalised by the Stewards and will have a long lap penalty to be served during the race this weekend at Valencia.
Another rider that saw his potential cruelled last time out was Takaaki Nakagami, but in that case it was all his own doing. The Japanese rider dominated practice and qualifying and looked a safe bet for the win at Aragon II, but he threw it away only a few corners into the race while leading. He will be looking to bounce back and further his advantage as the leading Honda rider of season 2020.
His LCR Honda team-mate Cal Crutchlow will certainly be looking to finish the season strongly and advertise himself in the best way possible to try and earn a seat on the grid for season 2021.
Honda have not won any of the first 11 MotoGP races this season. This is the first time there is no Honda win in at least one of the first ten (or more) races in the premier class since Honda returned to the class in 1982.
Another rider that could surprise this weekend, and is looking in decent form, is Johann Zarco. In recent rounds he has significantly out-performed the factory Ducati riders and will likely be in the mix up front.
Pol Espargaro can’t be overlooked and Franceso Bagnaia has shown glimpses of briliance at certain points this season.
Like all the rounds this season though, it will likely be unpredictable and throw up plenty of surprises. It is going to be a late one for us here in Australia though as the race is not scheduled to get underway until midnight on Sunday.
Valencia Lap Records
- Valencia All Time Lap Record – Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1m29.401 (2016)
- Valencia Race Lap Record – Marc Marquez (Honda) 1m31.116 (2019)
- Valencia Qualifying Record – Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1m29.401 (2016)
- Valencia Top Speed Record – Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 335.9 km/h (2015)
MotoGP World Championship Standings
2020 MotoGP Calendar
|13||08 November||Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo|
|14||15 November||Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo|
|15||22 November||Autodromo Internacional do Algarve|
Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo Schedule (AEST)