Zarco ends his Moto2 career with a win at the final round in Valencia

Having gained the final pole position of the Moto2 season in Valencia, and after leading into the first corner of the race, Zarco won the season finale at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit where they met for the Gran Premio Motul de la Communitat Valenciana, but it was not made easy for him. Several battles took place on track as the competition for second in the championship heated up.

Zarco ends his Moto2 career with a win at the final round in Valencia
Image credit: Getty Images

The Moto2 championship winner, Ajo Motorsport rider Johann Zarco, was only confirmed in the penultimate round of the 2016 in Sepang; where the Frenchman rider became the most successful ever French rider winning the championship for the second consecutive year. But that didn’t take anything away from the season finale in Valencia Spain, where the 600cc class met for the Gran Premio de la Communitat Valenciana; round 18 of 18.

Perfect weather for a race meeting

The weather was perfect throughout the weekend of the final meeting of the season. Although conditions were sometimes cool, the riders ot all the track they needed and as was planned in the uild up to the race. An important Qualifying session saw Zarco claim the final pole of the season, and broke his own lap record in the process; he was joined by Thomas Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) and Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) on the front row.

Championship standings still to be confirmed

Although the championship title winner was decided, the various results over the last few rounds meant that there were four riders contending for second in the championship. Heading into the final round, Luthi was provisionally holiding second ahead of Morbidelli and Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40). British rider Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) knew he could do no better than fifth, but it was still at risk from Takaaki Nakagami (Idemistu Honda Team Asia).

The final round of the 2016 Moto2 season was also the final race for several riders who have been promoted to the MotoGP class. Zarco, Rins, Lowes, Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) are moving to various teams in the elite class. The provisional entry sheets for 2017 were recently released and there will be several more changes in the Moto2 class ahead of next season.

The Moto2 class remember Luis Salom

On race-day, the air temperature was 20 degrees Celsius, and the ground temperature was up to 25 degrees Celsius. It was ideal for a race and they were all psyched up and ready to get things underway. The final standings from an amazing 2016 season, were about to be decided with a 27 lap race in the Spanish Circuit. In particular, on everyone’s minds, everyone was remembering SAG Team rider Luis Salom, who lost is life this season following an incident during practice and Qualifying. The riders, teams, and fans all made their own special tributes to remember the Spanish rider.

Luthi gets a fantastic start but Zarco leads into turn  one

The lights went out and the final race of the season got underway. Luthi got a fantastic start and led away from the grid, but it was Zarco who led into turn one. Luthi was then overtaken by Morbidelli at turn one, who passed him ot take second. British rider Danny Kent (Leopard Racing), who qualified eighth on the grid also got a fantastic start, however he began to lose place, first to Julian Simon (QMMF Racing Team) on the team’s last Moto2 race, and then Lowes and Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Team) were also able to pass him.

As they crossed the line to start the second lap of 27, Rins was able to pass Luthi to take third. Ahead of them Morbidelli was challenging Zarco for the lead. The Italian was looking for any way around him. As they ended the lap and began lap three, Morbidelli used the slipstream of Zarco to catch him and he was able to pass him heading into turn two of the track. But Zarco wasn’t going to give it up that easy, and his shoved his way passed Morbidelli on the first right-hander spoiling Morbidelli’s momentum which meant that Rins was also able to get through too.

Rins hoping to make up for poor results of late

Rins, hungry for a win and wanting to do what he could to recover second in the championship, waited until the start of the next lap to stick his Kalex up the inside of Zarco on turn two in a similar move to what Morbidelli did when he took the lead. However, this did not last long, as Morbidelli was able to pass the two of them and take the lead. Zarco soon stole the position back, and a few corners later Rins passed Morbidelli. Behind them, Kent dropped down to 10th as he lost positions to Marcel Schrotter (AGR Team) and Folger. Lowes was also able to make his way past Pasini.

Several riders crash out of the race

The first crash of the race came early on, a few laps in, when wildcard rider Hugo Clere (Promoto Sport) came off. Also, Sandro Cortese came off his Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex at turn one when he was in 11th position. He was straight up to his feet after sliding out and was able to recover his bike but soon had to retire from the race. Not long after, Axel Pons (AGR Team) crashed out at turn eight, and wildcard rider Federico Fuligni (Team Clattl) crashed out at turn 14 of the same lap. Axel Pons also came off at turn eight. Fortunately, none of the riders appeared to be hurt from any of the incidents.

The leaders looking to fight for positions

At the front, Morbidelli began his challenge on Rins for second, as he looked to take the inside line on a left-handed corner. This left Rins under pressure from Luthi. The three leaders all were taking three different lines as they attacked whilst trying to defend their positions. Lowes and Schrotter had passed Pasini, and further down Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) overtook Xavier Simeon (QMMF Racing) to take 14th.

Luthi distracting Rins meant that Morbidelli was able to focus on his attack on Zarco for the lead again. he two were able to pull away slightly and extend a lead; Morbidelli was desperate to claim his first Moto2 win before the season was over. Simon was following behind the leading pairs, and was able to maintain the pace of the leaders.

Battle commenced between Morbidelli and Zarco

Every time Zarco was seen heading into turn one of the lap, he was smoking his boot. On the 10th lap Morbidelli overtook him at the same turn, this is when the intense battle began. Zarco retaliated, and reclaimed the lead, as did Morbidelli to claim it back. When they got to turn three, Morbidelli replicated Zarco’s move that had ben used on him earlier on in the race, and then Zarco was able to retaliate and make it stick. Luthi was able to catch up to the dup who lost time as they battled.

On the next lap, the same happened, Morbidelli led again into turn one, Zarco overtook on turn two and it was so close the duo almost touched.Luthi and Rins were right on their tail now, and further around the lap Morbidelli passed Zarco again and blocked him from retaliating.

Almost coming into contact again at turn 14, Zarco again passed Zarco and was able to make it stick. But using the slip stream as they crossed the finish line to start the 12th lap, Morbidelli was able to overtake Zarco again heading in to turn one but then went wide, allowing Zarco to pass. Again as they came into the fist right hander further round, Zarco went wide allowing Morbidelli through, but he managed to make the apex and stayed in the race. On the 16th lap, Zarco used an inside line to again take the lead from Morbidelli.

Further changes down the field

Behind them Lowes had made his way passed Simon to take fifth from him. He continued at his pace, and managed to close in on those ahead of him, bringing Simeon with him. Nakagami was able to overtake Folger heading into turn one placing him in ninth, and Pasini passed Schrotter for seventh. Unfortunately for Isaac Vinales (Tech 3 Racing), he had to retire from the last race of the season ending it early for him. Soon after, Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) had to retire from the race as he was said to be struggling with ‘arm pump’.

Nakagami then went on to try and overtake Schrotter for eighth but he retaliated at turn one of lap 19. They continued to switch places until Nakagami was able to make it stick. Then, Schrotter lost another place to Folger. As this occurred, Nakagami was able to make his attack on Pasini and claimed seventh from the Italian. Folger was also able to pass Pasini to take eighth, but the Italian snapped straight back. Kent was also able to pass Schrotter to move the Brit up into the top 10; Schrotter had been thrown up and out of his seat but recovered and continued with the race.

Further down the field, Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) was able to overtake Simeon who had dropped down to 15th. He tried to retaliate however could not make it stick, and ended up being overtaken by  Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) who had missed the first day of Free Practice due to stomach flu. Jesko Raffin (Sports-Millions-EWME-SAG) also was able to take 8th from Australian rider Remy Gardner (Tasca Racing Scuderia Racing Moto2). Five laps later, Simon crashed out of his final GP, as it has not been confirmed what he will do next season; he came off at turn eight of the circuit end his season early.

Luthi begins his attack

On the penultimate lap, Luthi had responded to the pressure he was put under from Rins who was on his tail for several laps, by pulling away. The attack from the Spaniard, caused the German rider to push and he was able to catch Morbidelli. Luthi passed him, but then ran wide allowing Morbidelli to slide back through. Luthi then passed him again and was able to make it stick; Morbidelli seemed to be struggling with tyres.

Behind them, Lowes, on his last Moto2 race before he progresses to the MotoGP next season, was able to hunt down Rins. He had closed the gap that was between them and was on their tail and an attack was imminent. On the final turn (14) of lap 26 out of 27, he overtook the Spaniard who was unable to retaliate; instead Lowes pulled away along the start-finish straight and they began the final lap.

Zarco ends his final race in the Moto2 class with a win in Valencia

Nothing more could be done, no one had enough time to catch and pass anyone else. Zarco continued pushing up until the end and he went on to win his final race in the Moto2 class, the final round of the season, and confirmed why he was the well-deserved 2016 Moto2 championship winner, and the double champion in the 600cc class making him the most successful Frenchman in the sport. On lap 20, Zarco set the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:35.521.

Luthi takes second in the 2016 Moto2 championship

Luthi finished the race in second, in doing so, the 20 points he claimed helped to confirm second position in the championship for him. Morbidelli was third collecting the final step on the podium; unfortunately he will have to wait until next season to hopefully collect his first Moto2 win. Sam Lowes finished fourth in the race, but although he was able to steal some points and a position from Rins in the closing stages, Rins had enough points to finish second in the championship, meaning Morbidelli finished the 2016 I fourth.

Nakagami finished the race and the championship in sixth, Pasini ended up seventh in the final race in Valencia ahead of Folger, who was eighth on his last Moto2 race, Kent who in ninth who will be switching to a Suter next year, and Schrotter finished 10th in the season finale. Behind him, Corsi was 11th, Vierge was 12th, and on his return from injury Miguel Oliveira (Leopard Racing) finished his last race with his current team in 13th. Baldassarri was 4th, and Syahrin claimed the last Moto2 championship of 2016 available in 15th.

Just outside the points, Simeon was 16th ahead of Raskin, Gardner, Edgar Pons (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) and Ratthapark Wilairot (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) who completed the top 20. Robin Mulhauser (CarXpert Interwetten), Luca Marini (Forward Team), Simon, and youngster Iker Lecuona (CarXpert Interwetten) completed the field at the last race of the season in Valencia, in 24th.