Spain’s Marc Marquez secured his sixth world title, his fourth in the top class, in a dramatic final round of the 2017 MotoGP world championship at Valencia yesterday.
With a 21 point advantage going into the race, Marquez was an odds on favourite going into the finale – although that didn’t stop the 30 lap race from producing plenty of drama and intrigue.
Andrea Dovizioso was the only man capable of deposing Marquez but it was clear that he would have an uphill battle after qualifying in ninth place. The Italian has won six races in 2017 and needed to add to that tally in Spain to have any chance of overhauling his rival. His only hope was to win the race and hope that Marquez suffered a mishap.
A miracle did happen on lap 24, but it was a miracle that was to favour Marquez. Having just taken the lead from Johann Zarco, the defending champion braked too hard and lost the front end of his Repsol Honda. The Spaniard to all intents and purposes crashed his bike going into turn one but miraculously was able to save the crash, right the bike and rejoin in fifth place.
Not that Dovizioso was in a place to take advantage had his rival crashed out. The Italian found himself stuck behind team-mate Jorge Lorenzo for the full race, despite the Ducati team signalling that the Spaniard should let his title chasing colleague through, and shortly after Marquez’ miracle save, both Ducati riders found themselves in the gravel trap – both men going out in separate incidents on the 25th lap as they tried to close the gap on a circuit that didn’t seem to suit the characteristics of their motorcycles.
In the end it was Marquez’ team-mate Dani Pedrosa who took the win, denying outgoing Moto2 world champion Zarco a win in his rookie MotoGP season with a last lap pass, with a delighted Marquez completing the podium in third.
“I’m living a dream,” exclaimed the champion. “I’m incredibly happy because we worked so much this year, and today the race was incredibly tense and exciting—a bit ‘Marquez Style.’ I made a mistake, but I also made my best save of the year. From that moment on, I just tried to finish the race in a good position. I’m sorry that Andrea didn’t finish the race, as he deserved to do so. He had an incredible season and I would have liked to have him on the podium with me today. The key to the year has been our mentality. In our world it’s very important to remain positive and motivated during the difficult moments. Some things happened to us at the beginning of the season but when we found the way to sort things out, everything went better.”
Race day was characterised by the good sportsmanship between the two protagonists, with Dovizioso full of smiles despite falling at the final hurdle.
“I tried everything and I think that we have to be pleased with this weekend,” he said. “We weren’t as quick as Marquez but we fought to the very end. I pushed hard right from the first lap, I didn’t make any mistakes and I put myself in the right position but unfortunately I didn’t have many cards to play. At the start I thought I could pass Jorge but there were some points where I was losing and others were I was gaining: in the end staying behind him helped me ride in a smoother way, so it was positive he was in front of me. We were all at the limit, even Marc who managed to save himself once again from a crash, and I want to congratulate him because also this year he managed to make the difference. At any rate I’m very happy with this season and I want to thank all the guys in the team, Ducati and all those who gave their support because our season has been over the top, full of satisfaction.”
Yamaha’s tough end to the season continued in Valencia with Valentino Rossi an anonymous fifth and Maverick Vinales, winner of three of the first five races this season, 35 seconds off the win in 12th.
British riders also endured a difficult weekend in Spain. Cal Crutchlow was best placed of the UK contingent, in eighth, with Bradley Smith 11th on his KTM, although Sam Lowes and Scott Redding crashed out in the early stages of the race.
Testing for the 2018 season takes place in Valencia tomorrow (Tuesday).