In a season which has been rammed to the rafters with drama, it is entirely appropriate that the final round of the year should be just as dramatic. It was partly to be expected, of course, with a championship at stake.
Sure, Marc Márquez entered the weekend with a nigh insurmountable 21-point lead. But he still had to finish at least eleventh or else hope that Andrea Dovizioso did not win the race.
Things were looking good after qualifying: Márquez would be starting from pole, while Dovizioso would have to line up on the third row of the grid.
Between the two, a host of fast rivals capable of getting in the way of Dovizioso’s charge to the front, and perhaps even depriving him of the race win by taking victory in their own right.
By the time the checkered flag fell at the end of the race, enough had happened to fill a Greek epic. Team orders and betrayal, crashes and near crashes, deceit and disguise, secret swapping of bikes, and a bunch or people finishing much higher than any had a right to expect.
An intriguing winner, a rider deprived of victory, and at last, a champion crowned. If the 17 races before Valencia had generated plenty to talk about, the final race of the year topped it all.
The 2017 MotoGP Championship has finally come to a close, and it took racing under the Valencian sun for us to crown a victor.
Though he was easily the pre-season favorite, this year was a long season for Marc Marquez to claim his sixth world championship, and his victory seemed far from certain as the races ticked by.
A DNF for three races this season, Marquez left the door open for a number of would-be usurpers, with Andrea Dovizioso rising to the top of that list. With the pair fighting head-to-head on a number of occasions, the Ducati rider put up a strong fight against the Spaniard.
Though Marquez’s three race scratches – one due to a mechanical failure – showed a return to his old ways of aggressive riding, when Marquez did finish a race, he was able to grab crucial points, with 12 podium finishes and 6 race wins.
This consistency was vital to his championship success, and it should be noted that he finished the season with the same number of points as last year’s more “conservative” championship bid.
MotoGP Race Results from the Valencia GP at Valencia, Spain: Pos. Rider Team Bike KM/H Diff. 1 Dani PEDROSA Repsol Honda Team Honda 156.2 46'08.125 2 Johann ZARCO Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 156.2 +0.337 3 Marc MARQUEZ Repsol Honda Team Honda 155.6 +10.861 4 Alex RINS Team SUZUKI ECSTAR
It is a quote I have used so often that it has become a cliché. When I asked the now sorely-missed Nicky Hayden what motivated him after a difficult day, he replied “That’s why we line up on Sunday; you never know what’s gonna happen.”
That is as true now as it was then, but you cannot escape the law of probabilities. Of course you never know what’s going to happen on any given Sunday. But if you want to hang on to your money, it is wise not to bet against the most likely course of events.
As of Saturday night, Andrea Dovizioso can still become 2017 MotoGP champion. But he trails Marc Márquez by 21 points in the championship. He has to win the race to even have a chance. Márquez has to finish no better than twelfth.
Dovizioso starts the race from ninth on the grid. Márquez starts from pole. And Márquez, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, and Johann Zarco all have (slightly) better race pace than Dovizioso.
The chances that Dovizioso becomes champion in this timeline are rather slim. Bookies have the odds of the Factory Ducati rider winning the 2017 title at 14/1.
They have Márquez at 1/50: even when interest rates are at a record low, you would make more money by putting your cash into a savings account rather than having a flutter on the Spaniard wrapping up his fourth MotoGP title on Sunday.
A lot has to happen if Andrea Dovizioso wants to win the 2017 MotoGP championship at Valencia. What he doesn’t want to happen is for Marc Márquez to run away with the race. And so far on Friday, that’s exactly what looks like happening.
On the face of it, fifth in both FP1 and FP2 is not promising. But look at race pace, and it is clear that Márquez is in devastating form.
In FP1, Márquez used a single medium rear tire, and posted 11 laps of 1’31. No one else managed more than 3 laps at that pace.
In FP2, he again used just a single tire, putting 20 laps on a soft rear tire. He set his fastest lap – good enough for fifth in the session – on his final lap, with a tire that has two-thirds race distance on it. While everyone else was throwing extra tires in to secure passage straight to Q2, Márquez was not concerned.
His pace left him feeling positive. “Of course this gives me good confidence,” Márquez said. “But what is better is that we started the weekend in a good way. In FP1 I felt good with the bike. We are on Friday so we need to keep working and keep the same mentality and concentration.”
In a sign of how difficult Yamaha’s 2017 season has been, they have a busy testing schedule ahead of them in the next few weeks. After the traditional two-day test at Valencia, both the Movistar Yamaha and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team will be heading to Malaysia, for a private test at Sepang.
The testing schedule for Yamaha means that Michael van der Mark will not be taking part in the two-day test at Valencia. Yamaha needs the resources from the Tech 3 team to assist Maverick Viñales, Valentino Rossi, and Johann Zarco get through their program.
“They have so much to test here that they need my team to help prepare everything,” Van der Mark told the media on Thursday.
The testing schedule and the decision to enlist the help of the Tech 3 team is a sign of how much work Yamaha fear they have ahead of them.
For the fourth time in twelve years, Valencia will play host to a MotoGP title showdown. On Sunday, Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Márquez will slug it out for who gets to call themselves the 2017 MotoGP champion.
If you want a detailed breakdown of who has to finish where to wrap up the championship, you can read our separate story here.
But it boils down to two simple premises: If Andrea Dovizioso doesn’t win the race, the title belongs to Márquez, but Márquez can put it out of reach of Dovizioso by finishing eleventh or better.
If you are staging a championship showdown, the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Cheste, near Valencia, is a fine venue to choose. Set in a natural bowl, the circuit owners have managed to snake 4km of asphalt into a confined space.
The upside to that is that spectators can see just about every part of the track from whichever stand they sit in. The furthest point of the track is at most a kilometer away, no matter where you sit.
Cramming so much track into such a tight space has obvious consequences. There are a lot of tight corners in Valencia: of the fourteen turns the circuit has, three are first gear corners, six more are second gear corners, while half of them are tighter than 90°.
The compact space into which the track is crammed, combined with the long front straight create a lot of complications for tire manufacturers.
On Sunday, Marc Márquez and Andrea Dovizioso will line up on the grid for the final MotoGP race of the 2017 season. At stake is the title of 2017 MotoGP Champion.
For Marc Márquez, it would be his fourth MotoGP title, making him the most successful Spanish rider in the premier class. For Andrea Dovizioso, it would be his first title, the one which is always most highly prized.
Dovizioso’s challenge cannot be underestimated. He trails Marc Márquez by 21 points. His path to the championship is difficult, and relies heavily on things going wrong for others.
Marc Márquez, on the other hand, faces a much easier task. The Repsol Honda rider has his destiny entirely in his own hands.
After 17 races, Marc Márquez has 282 points, while Andrea Dovizioso has 261 points. With 21 points separating them, who needs to do what to win the 2017 MotoGP title? We break down the arithmetic.
Last week during International Women’s Day, my colleague Tammy Gorali – the first female commentator ever in the MotoGP paddock, I should point out – tweeted some timely statistics about female attendance at MotoGP races.
In short, here tweets showed that over the past four years, the number of female spectators has declined an astonishing 19%. That’s no small drop, and the timeliness of that revelation should be noted.
On its face, this tweet showed that MotoGP was seemingly hemorrhaging female fans. But, the reality isn’t as clearcut, and this is also where things get weird.
Intrigued by Gorali’s info, I dug into the numbers a bit further to see what was behind this startling statistic. What I found was that if you pulled the scope back further by just one more year, then over the past five years female attendance at MotoGP races has actually increased by 33%.
If your brain is hurting right now, that’s ok, but it is difficult to understand how the number of women attending MotoGP races declined by 19% over the past four years, but increased somehow also increased 33% over the last five?
Keep on reading, and I will try and shed some light on this curious case of female MotoGP attendance.
Aki Ajo is one of the most significant figures in the Grand Prix paddock. The Finnish manager has seen a long string of talent pass through his team on their way to greater success.
Ajo explained how he goes about identifying talent in the first part of this two-part interview. In the second part, he gives more insight into the process of building a winning team.
Ajo talks about how he nearly ended up working with Romano Fenati in 2017, and some of the factors which prevented it. Ajo also explains why he believes Moto2 is the toughest category in motorcycle racing, and the daunting challenge stepping up to the intermediate category can be.
The Finnish team manager also dives more deeply into the importance of a team, and surrounding a rider with the right pieces to help him get the best out of himself.