Moto2: Zarco, Luthi and Morbidelli complete final podium in Valencia

Moto2: Zarco, Luthi and Morbidelli complete final podium in Valencia

Although Johann Zarco secured the 2016 Moto2 crown at the last round in Sepang, it came down to the final race to determine who would finish second in the championship. Zarco finished his last Moto2 race with a win and was joined on the podium by Luthi who took second in the championship, and Morbidelli who had to settle for third on the podium; they discuss the season finale in Valencia.

Danielle Overend

Several Moto2 riders set out ahead of the final race of the season at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit, in Valencia, Spain, where they met for the Gran Premio Motul de la Communitant Valenciana, with one clear goal, to win!

At the last round in Sepang, Malaysia, Johann Zarco won and secured the 2016 Moto2 title, and in doing so became the most successful French rider in history and the only Moto2 rider to win the class title consecutively over two years. The Ajo Motorsport rider wanted to win to not only end his double championship winning season on top, but to thank his team and experience success once more as it was his final Moto2 race.

Four riders bid farewell to the Moto2

Zarco is one of four riders who are moving up to the MotoGP class next season. The provisional entry lists were released recently, and throughout the 2016 season, severl new contract agreements have been gradually revealed. Zarco will be joining the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha Team.

Also with a similar motive, as they are also moving up to the MotoGP, was Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) who is joining the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini, Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) who is joining Team Suzuki Ecstar, and Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) who is joining Zarco at Monster Tech 3 Yamaha.

However, as well as wanting to finish their Moto2 season on the high, the battle for second in the championship was on. Garage Plus Interwetten rider Thomas Luthi, and Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli were up against Rins for the second spot; Morbidelli was also dying to win his first Moto2 race this year, and he more than deserved to with his form of late.

Zarci on record breaking pole

Zarco had pole, after beating his own record from the 2015 season, and was joined on the front row by Luthi and Morbidelli. Both Zarco and Morbidelli got a great start, and immediately commenced in an epic at the front of the pack. For several laps in the first half of the race they switched places on several corners each lap; which helped the season finale to go down as one of the best Moto2 races of 2016.

Eventually, Zarco was able to make it stick, and Morbidelli then found himself having to do what he could to hold on to second place. Luthi had initially gone backwards, but kept consistent and conserved tyres as the two battle ahead of him. He was under pressure from the likes of Rins, who managed to get up to second at one point. Having passed the Spaniard, Luthi was able to focus on catching the leaders whereas Rins had Lowes to worry about; the British rider passed him in the final laps.

Luthi steals second on the penultimate lap

Just when it looked like it was all over, on the penultimate lap, Luthi decided to make his move. He challenged Morbidelli for second, but Luthi went wide allowing Morbidelli to retaliate. Luthi tried again, this time proving successful in his attempts, but the Italian could not bite back as he did not seem to have enough tyres left.

Zarco won the final race of his Moto2 career in Valencia, ended his double Moto2 championship winning career on top; the 25 points from the finale meant he finished on 276 overall. Luthi claimed second on the podium, the 20 points he claimed left him on 234 points which was also enough to secure him second in the podium. Morbidelli was third at his last race of 2016, both he and Luthi will remain in the class next season. Although he claimed 16 points, that left him with 213 overall, Rins finishing fifth and collecting 11 points, was enough to leave him third in the championship beating Morbidelli by just one point (214).

Zarco enjoyed his final moments in Moto2

Double Moto2 champion Zarco, didn’t “have much to say” as he wanted to “enjoy the moment to the maximum”. He was “very happy”, because he felt the “race strategy worked out very well”. Although after Qualifying he was “happy to be starting from pole” he revealed that when he “analysed the session” he saw that he was “lacking a few tenths” and that he would most likely find it “difficult to follow Franco and Thomas”. He also felt “lucky to be first” as he noticed they “never put in a perfect lap”.

On race-day Zarco thought that he should “take the opportunity”, and tried to “not let them escape” and to also “fight from the beginning to feel better”. He found that “everything worked out great”; in fact, “exactly as [they] wanted”. He spoke of how first they were able “to take a big gap over second place” and then “at the end [they] got the victory”; he felt it was the “perfect way to sign off”. He said, “I want to thank the team because once again they have shown that they can give me a bike that gives me confidence and allows me to attack”.

Luthi happy with vice champion title after a race where he lacked grip

Talking about his experience at the final race meeting, Luthi spoke of how he and his team were “all really happy with this incredible and surprising end of season”. He said that personally he was “really able to take home the title of a vice world champion”, especially after the “difficult period in Brno” where he suffered from a ‘serious concussion sustained in a free practice accident’. Luthi felt that the grand prix that followed at Silverstone was “a turning point in this championship” and he thought that “from that moment onwards, with that victory, no one expected [they] have made progress”.  

Talking about the season finale in Valencia, Luthi admitted it was “difficult”, as he, along with many others, “had grip problems” and found that he was “on the limit literally everywhere”. Still, during the second half of the race he found he was “able to increase [his] pace even further” which is when he decided to “give it everything”, from himself and the bike to “get this second position”.

He was grateful to his team thanking them as he believed they gave him “the possibility to fight at this level this season”. He was especially grateful to Gilles Bigot, his chief technician who he said he gets “along better with every day”.

Morbidelli enjoyed his battle on track with Zarco

Morbidelli spoke of how he had a “i” but also felt he experienced some “i” as he confirmed that with just two laps remaining his “rear tyre was destroyed”; which is what he feels “cost [him] second place”. Still, he felt it was “a lot of fun racing Zarco” as he described how they “did so many overtakes that were on the limit but clean”. He noticed that “towards the end of the race” that he “could not keep Zarco’s pace” and so he decided to just make sure he “got the podium with third on the final lap”.  He too was extremely grateful for the team “for what has been a fantastic finish to the season”.