Suzuki signs off in style, while Francesco Bagnaia claims his maiden MotoGP championship..
As Suzuki had made the shocking decision to pull out of MotoGP earlier this season, the team had dropped massively in form for several races, suffering with numerous double DNFs as well as the injury Joan Mir sustained later in the season. However, the team did not want to leave the sport empty handed, and fought hard enough with Alex Rins claiming a victory at Phillip Island, and another one today in the Valencia finale.
The race began with Jorge Martin on pole for the third consecutive race, but it was Rins who took the lead immediately after the start, as he led a train of Martin, Jack Miller, and Marc Marquez throughout the early stages of the race. The title contenders meanwhile fought a short but intense battle outside the top 5, triggered by an earlier moment where Miller pulled off a hard overtake on Quartararo in Turn 2, and Bagnaia attempted to pass Quartararo at the same time. That led to contact between the contenders, causing Bagnaia to lose a winglet. The pair then aggressively overtook each other corner after corner, before Bagnaia eventually dropped back as he could not keep up with Quartararo’s pace.
Despite the close gaps, Rins remained unchallenged throughout the race as his rivals eventually crashed out – Marquez falling off midway through the race, and Miller with five laps to go. Brad Binder however began to pour out consecutive fastest laps once he got past Bagnaia, and made it up to 2nd by the penultimate lap. It sadly wasn’t enough for the South African as he would fall 4 tenths short of the race win, with Alex Rins controlling his lead from start to finish to sign off Suzuki’s MotoGP era in style. Jorge Martin completed the podium, taking his fourth one of the season.
Fabio Quartararo finished 4th, a solid result for the Frenchman but ultimately not enough to save his championship hopes. He finished over five seconds ahead of Miguel Oliveira, who took a strong 5th for his final outing with Red Bull KTM, having raced for them since 2015 in Moto3, bar the following season where he raced for Leopard Racing for a single Moto2 season.
Joan Mir finished a strong 6th for Suzuki amid his injury struggles, being his only points finish since the summer break. Finishing a second behind was Luca Marini, who adds another top 7 result to his tally in a relatively consistent season.
Enea Bastianini ends his final race for Gresini in 8th, ahead of future teammate Bagnaia who sealed his championship win finishing 9th. He held off fellow VR46 Academy rider Franco Morbidelli, who takes his second top 10 finish of the season.
It is a big day for both Bagnaia and Ducati, as they managed to turn their lows into glory after an incredible comeback in the second half of the season. It has also been an incredible season not just for them, but for their graceful rivals who fought all the way to the end to give the fans what they deserve – a thrilling championship battle. With the way things are looking now with the significant rider transfers, rise of the young guns, Aprilia’s breakthrough, and the other factories pouring out their respective upgrades, we are looking into a very promising 2023 season!
Featured Image – Gold and Goose, Motorsport Images