After what has earnt its own right as a truly memorable season, although it has in a way been overshadowed by the forthcoming 2017 season, it was drawn to a conclusion at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit, in Valancia, Spain, today as the MotoGP class met for the Grand Premio Motul de la Communitant Valenciana.
Marquez already crowned 2016 MotoGP champion
Already, 17 rounds have come and gone in what feels like a blink of an eye. The championship title has been claimed by Repsol Honda rider Marc Marquez. He wanted to conclude the season he won his third MotoGP title in with a win, however, there were a lot more riders who also wanted that win for their own personal reasons.
Last chance to bid farewell and show gratitude
This season, the final race in Valencia, was the final chance to see riders donning their current team colours and decals as there is set to be a lot of change ahead. Jorge Lorenzo was completing his last race in blue as a Movistar Yamaha rider as he is set to move to Ducati next season (from Tuesday in fact when he first tests the Desmosedici). To make room for him in Ducati, Andrea Iannone had to make way and so he moved to Team Suzuki Ecstar replacing Maverick Vinales who is replacing Lorenzo at Yamaha.
The MotoGP class will be welcoming a new team, as Red Bull Factory Racing will be joining the elite class; Mika Kallio debuted the KTM at the season finale in Valencia. Next year, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith will be riding it and so they were completing their last race with their team.
As was Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) as he is moving to Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati. Eugene Laverty who currently rides for them, and Stefan Bradl who is teammate to Bautista, are both returning to World Superbikes, and Laverty’s teammate Yonny Hernandez is moving down to the Moto2. On top of all of that, four rookies will be welcomed into the class. So, the motivation was definitely there.
Lorenzo breaking records in build up to race
A lot of the media attention was surrounding Lorenzo though, mostly because he started all the movement in the paddock in the first place; the provisional lists were recently released ahead of the 2017 season. Lorenzo seemed to be the one who set out with the most determination. He dominated since day one of the final meeting, during FP1 he was quickest, and was also quickest during FP2 and overall on the first day.
During FP3, Marquez was the man to beat, and his reign continued into Free Practice 4. However, when it came down to Qualifying, there was no stopping Lorenzo. He went out and smashed his own lap record within minutes of the 15 minute session beginning, returned to the pits and changed the tyre before returning to the track and smashing it again. He repeated this one more time and secured pole position ahead of the season finale as no one was able to get close. He was joined on the front row by Marquez in second sandwiched between Lorenzo and his current Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi.
Many championship results still to be confirmed in Valencia
First and second in the championship had been confirmed in the championship as Marquez claimed the win, and Rossi secured second. Lorenzo was set to take third but it was still at risk should things not work out for him. Cal Cruchtlow (LCR Honda) was also leading the independent team championship, but should things work out well for Pol Espargaro, it could all be stolen from the Brit.
Having missed the birth of his little daughter as he completed the final Free Practice and his first Qualifying session on a MotoGP KTM, Kallio had qualified in 20th on the grid, ahead of rookie Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) and Hernandez. The season finale at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit was the first time to see the Red Bull Factory Racing KTM in a competitive manner. The Aprilia Racing Team Gresini were also sporting a (RED) livery, and the riders wore leathers to match to raise awareness for the charity (RED) at the high profile event.
The 2016 MotoGP finale in Valencia got underway
The 30 lap race at the Spanish circuit got underway and Lorenzo, Vinales and Iannone got a great start away from the grid. Lorenzo led into turn one, Vinales was able to pass Marquez and Rossi, and Iannone then bypassed the lot on the Ducati and then braked late into the first turn. Immediately Lorenzo and Iannone looked like they were able to break away, as the rest of the field settled in behind them. The duo led, ahead of Vinales, Rossi, Marquez, Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) returning from injury, and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in sixth.
The riders had all got away clearly as it was confirmed by Race control later on in the race. It was then revealed that all of the riders had opted for the soft rear Michelin Power Slick tyre. There were variations on the front tyre choices, as Marquez, Crutchlow and Miller had opted for the hard front, while everyone else opted for the medium option.
The Ducati power stood out throughout the race
As they crossed the line to start the second lap, Dovizioso was able to use the power of the Ducati Desmosedici GP 16 to his advantage, and shot passed Pedrosa as they made their way down the start-finish straight. Further down the field, Aleix Espargaro was able to pass Crutchlow to take ninth from the Brit. Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati), who is battling his teammate for the Desmosedici GP 17 next year, was able to pass Laverty to take 14th, and Hernandez passed Kallio in 20th.
Lorenzo sets new Circuit Lap Record
Within laps, Lorenzo had already continued to break records as the Circuit Record Lap became the latest one that he beat; he held the record from the 2015 race. Vinales was closing in on Iannone for second, and behind him Rossi was all over the back of him. This meant that Marquez was able to close right up to Rossi who appeared to be held up by his future teammate, Vinales as they completed different race lines on track.
On the fourth lap, Rossi forced his way passed Vinales at turn 14 which allowed the Italian to use the Spaniard as a buffer between he and Marquez. Within corners of them starting the fifth lap though, Marquez was able to overtake Vinales. Meanwhile, at the very front of the race, Lorenzo had managed to create a bigger gap at the front and now had a lead of two seconds.
Pedrosa crashes out of the Valencia GP
The first crash of the race came from Pedrosa who crashed out of turn two of lap six. It seemed that he did not end up adding more injuries to the list of ones he is already carrying, as he was up and walking to his bike that had been recovered by Marshals; he checked it over and found that it would be unable to continue with.
The battle continued between Rossi and Dovizioso
Meanwhile, back on track, Rossi had managed to make his way past Iannone to claim second at the first right hand corner of the lap. Ahead of him though, Lorenzo’s lead was now up to 2.5 seconds. Rossi’s advantage over Iannone did not last long, because as they crossed the line to start the seventh lap, Iannone belted down the straight and overtook Rossi heading into turn one, putting the power of the Ducati to use. Rossi missed his line on turn two which meant that he was able to get further out of his reach. Vinales was right on Marquez’s tail as they made their way down the straight, the Suzuki proving it can be competitive compared to the acceleration of the Honda.
On the next lap, Rossi was able to catch Iannone again. He again overtook him heading into the same right-hand corner with an almost identical move as before. Rossi managed to fend off Iannone as they approached turn one however he went off track and Iannone was able to bypass him again; Rossi managed to maintain third as Marquez had gone wide a few corners previous and lost some time behind him.
Marquez takes third in Valencia
Again, Rossi made an attempt on Iannone passing him in the third sector on the inside of a left hand corner, hoping that if he made his move sooner, and increased a gap before the straight, Iannone would not be close enough to pass them when they got to the straight. It worked, and Rossi stayed in front heading into turn one, however Rossi still went hot into the turn and lost momentum and Iannone was instead able to take advantage in turn two. Rossi retaliated at turn three of lap 10 though and then Iannone went wide allowing Marquez to catch him and pass him at the first right-hand corner.
Third for Marque did not last long as Iannone was able to shoot back past the Spanish champion with ease. Marquez waited until turn 14 to retaliate and block passed him before the straight. It was Ducati v Honda down the straight, and although Marquez used an inside line to try and avoid Iannone benefiting from his slipstream, the power of the Ducati allowed Iannone to win the drag race.
Dovizioso applying the pressure to Vinales
A group of five had formed as the battle for second continued. Dovizioso had caught Vinales and was applying the pressure by the 11th lap, but he fell off his tail over the next two laps. Rossi, who led the group, had closed the gap between him and Lorenzo by 0.2 seconds, but his success was short-lived as Iannone passed Rossi on the 16th lap. Rossi retaliated a few corners later on the right-handed corner of the chicane, but Iannone was able to passed back through. Marquez then made a challenge on Rossi who had again lost momentum from the battle.
Crutchlow crashes out of the final round
Cruthclow’s season came to an end but luckily for him Pol Espargaro was too far behind to jeopardise his independent championship too much. The British Honda rider crashed out on lap 17 at turn 14 of the race. A corner that had caught several riders out over the weekend, Crutchlow was back up to his feet after tumbling through the gravel but he had to call it a day.
Now, 12 laps of the race remained, and Marquez was able to pass Rossi at turn two of the circuit. Marquez had claimed before the race that the Honda would come into play later on in the race when the fuel load was down and the tyre wears down. Marquez was soon on Iannone’s tail and Rossi was adding pressure behind him. Marquez used an inside line of turn 14 to overtake Iannone again but again his work was undone on the straight. The Spanish rider then forced his way through on turn two of lap 19 which forced Iannone to have to sit up; it meant that Marquez’s move was able to stick and he pulled away.
Kallio retires on the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing debut
Disappointingly for the Red Bull Factory KTM Racing team, Kallio had returned to the pits as he had to retire out of the debut race. He was seen discussing in depth issues that he had experienced out on track, and he did not end up returning to the race.
With nine laps remaining, Rossi was again able to pass Iannone as they passed through the chicane. Two laps later, Iannone looked to pass Rossi on the first two corners of the lap and it threw into question, did Rossi have a problem with his M1? On the next lap, Iannone, like he did to others, bombed it down the straight overtaking Rossi in the process. Behind them, Dovizioso was being hunted down by the Espargaro brothers. Pol was able to pass and Dovizioso was still under pressure from Espargaro; he would have been caught had the Ducati not been so strong on the straight.
Marquez closing in on leader Lorenzo
Marquez had pushed after he had gotten into second position and with five laps of the race remaining he had Lorenzo in eye shot. The images shared by Dorna then confirmed that Lorenzo was actually struggling with his front tyre as it had worn away significantly on the front as he had pushed and lap consistently throughout the race. There was originally a 4.5 second gap that the Spaniard had managed to reduce down to 2.7 seconds. But Marquez was lacking in time and number of laps left on track and although he was able to take another half second out of Lorenzo there was no way he would catch him before the end of the race.
Rossi makes final challenge
They began the penultimate lap of the season, and the results were still not decided. Iannone made a mistake which allowed Rossi to close in on him, and he again overtook him on a right hand corner. Iannone retaliated one last time, and then he was able to pull away from the Italian nine times world champion. That was it, they continued on for one more lap, but it did not impact any further on the results.
Lorenzo wins his final race with movistar Yamaha
Lorenzo won the final race of the season, and his final race for Movistar Yamaha which left him third in his final championship with them; what a way to thank a team who he had been with for nine years, a third of his lifetime. The emotional celebrations began as he celebrated at various locations around the track, before returning to parc ferme where they continued. Marquez was also celebrating having finished in second; keen to do so, on home turf, he parked up in front of his Spanish fans, set off fire crackers and jumped on the tyre wall and screamed to his adoring fans behind the railing.
Emotional end to Iannone's time with Ducati
An emotional Iannone, who finished his last race for Ducati in third, pulled up track side and put on a t-shirt in tribute to his team thanking them for his time with them. An exhausted ‘Maniac’ returned to his team in parc ferme where the emotion continued.
Rossi had to settle for fourth at the season finale in Valencia; he had already guaranteed second in the championship. Vinales was fifth in the race and fourth in the ...
championship and Pol Espargaro finished as the highest placed independent team rider in sixth; although it was not enough to take the independent team championship as he was second, eight overall.
Dovizioso finished the season finale in seventh ahead of Aleix Espargaro who completed his last race for Suzuki in eighth. Smith’s last race for Tech 3 Yamaha, where he had been for six years, ended up with him finishing ninth ahead of Bautsista who completed the top 10 in his last race for Aprilia. Hector Barbera (Avintia Ducati) was 11th ahead of Petrucci in 12th; a result that would help to guarantee him the new Ducati next year.
On his last MotoGP race, Bradl finished the race in 13th ahead of Redding and Miler who claimed the lastM MotoGP championship point of 2016 in 15th. Just outside the points, Laverty failed to pick up any points in his final MotoGP race, rookie Rabat was 17th and Loris Baz (Avintia Racing) completed the list of finshers at the season finale in 18th.