Not only did the final round of the MotoGP at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, Spain, where the world championship class met for the Gran Premio Motul de la Communitant Valenciana, mark the end of the season, it also was the end of a two year project between Team Suzuki Ecstar and their development riders on the factory team, Maverick Vinales and Aleix Espargaro.
Lorenzo moving to Ducati caused a whole lot more movement
Movistar Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo decided this season to move to Ducati next season; this decision started a whole flurry of excitement in the paddock. Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) was let go to make room for Lorenzo. Vinales decided to move to Movistar Yamaha to replace Lorenzo, and Iannone accepted an offer from Suzuki in place of Vinales. Aleix Espargaro was vocal about the change, and the lack of notification of the teams’ decisions, and basically he ended up signing for Aprilia Racing Team Gresini after contemplating a move to the Superbikes.
Two years with Suzuki came to the end for Vinales and Aleix Espargaro
This meant that this round was their last after spending two years with the team helping to ‘evolve’ the GSX-RR into the competitive piece of machinery it is now. Vinales has looked strong all weekend, and Aleix Espargaro has come into his own of late; he looked like he had the potential to become the 10th different winner in a season that will be remembered in history.
The season finale was the final chance to get a good result for their team, to thank them and reap their rewards of all of their hard work. Ahead of the race, Vinales qualified to start the race on fourth on the grid, leading the second row, and Aleix Espargaro was on the back of the third row in ninth. Vinales got a fantastic start and shot to third as they entered turn one behind Lorenzo and Iannone.
Vinales defended his position on track well
He was able to remain in third for while fending off his future teammate Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) and 2016 MotoGP champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda). He soon came under attack from Rossi who was able to pass him, and then Marquez did. He remained in fifth for the rest of the race holding Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) at bay.
Aleix battled with his brother Pol
Behind him, Aleix Espargaro was involved in a battle on track with his brother Pol Espargaro (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) after making up for lost positions at the start. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) crashed out ahead of them, and they were soon able to catch Dovizioso. After applying the pressure, Pol managed to get passed, but Aleix finished his final race for Suzuki in eighth.
When it comes to the championship, Vinales finished his second and final year with Suzuki in a solid fourth position. He finished on 202 points, three behind Lorenzo in third, and 31 ahead of Dovizioso in fourth. Not bad for a machine in just its second year of development. Aleix Espargaro finished the championship in 11th with 93 points; his recent form help to contribute to his rise in the standings.
Vinales found the Valencia GP hard
Vinales admitted it had been a “hard race” and that he was “expecting a little more”. He thought that the “podium was achievable” however he found that “at the end of the race, it was hard to keep the pace”. Despite the fact he tried his “best at the beginning” he then had to “cease position and hold to the end”.
He reflected on his two years with Suzuki during which he felt they “did a very good job”, he said, “if I think, all he struggles we had last year, and now we’ve been fighting for podiums consistently in the last part of the season”. He reported that it was “a good sensation” and he was “leaving here some people with which [they] created a very good connection”. He finished by saying, “I’m proud of the job we’ve done together”
Aleix proud to be part of the history of Suzuki
Aleix Espargaro spoke of how he “had a bad start” and then had to “recover some positions”, he admitted however that he “struggled in doing it”. He found it was “really difficult to overtake” and that at the start he “didn’t want to take too many risks”. Then he found that the “pace was good” however he “couldn’t do better than eighth”; he said, “It’s not what I hoped for but it’s OK.” He still “really enjoyed the race” although he felt that the “feeling with the front was not perfect”.
Aleix spoke of how he was feeling “proud of having been a part of the history that [they’ve] written with this team for Suzuki”, he praised the team saying, “The whole team was amazing with me and we really created a family”.
Talking about the Suzuki GSX-RR, he feels that “now the bike is a really good bike” and he was incredibly “proud” that he was able to give his “contribution”. He said, “I feel I’m not leaving with a complete work, I missed the podium, but al in the team know that I’ve put my 110% every time I wore this blue leather”. He admitted that his final weekend end of the season, at the finale in Valencia, has been a “really emotional one”, and that he is “leaving some good friends and a project that has grown very positively”.