MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix 2016
The final Grand Prix of a unique and thrilling 2016 MotoGP season takes place this weekend at Valencia, where Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda RC213V) will ride in front of his home fans for the first time since securing his third MotoGP Riders World Championship at last month’s Japanese Grand Prix.
The weekend also marks the return of Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V), who was injured during Japanese GP practice and missed the subsequent Australian and Malaysian rounds.
This has been an historic MotoGP season with nine different race winners – an all-time record in 67 years of Grand Prix racing. Marquez has scored more victories than anyone else, with five wins so far, and he will be out to make that six on Sunday. A good season finale is especially important because Honda needs a few more points to make sure of a record-breaking 22nd Constructors World Championship in the premier-class. Also, the Repsol Honda Team needs a great result to retake the lead in the Teams World Championship from the factory Yamaha squad.
In many ways this has been Marquez’s greatest MotoGP campaign, the 23-year-old dominating a season complicated by important technical changes – a switch to a unified electronics software and Michelin tires. Thus riders and engineers had to go racing while adjusting to this new technical environment. Marquez’s extraordinary natural talent allowed him to ride around any issues, so that he was the only rider to score points at each and every round, at least until after he wrapped up the title at Twin Ring Motegi.
After that perfect run of 15 points-scoring finishes, Marquez tumbled out of the lead in Australia and slid off during the wet Malaysian GP, remounting to finish 11th, running a similar pace to winner Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati). The Spaniard has a good record at Valencia: he won the 2012 Moto2 race (from the back of the grid) and the 2014 MotoGP race. Last year he finished a close second and this year he will mark his 150th Grand Prix, since his debut in the 125cc class at Estoril, Portugal, in 2008.
Pedrosa had a difficult start to MotoGP’s new technical era but came on strong in the second half of the season, after making important set-up changes during the post-Czech GP tests at Brno. He finished just off the podium at the British GP and scored his first victory of 2016 at the subsequent San Marino round. Two races later at Motegi he was sidelined by a crash that left him nursing a broken right collarbone, left fibula and toe.
During his absence, Pedrosa’s bikes were raced by Nicky Hayden in Australia and Hiroshi Aoyama in Japan and Malaysia. This weekend the 31-year-old hopes to be able to return to racing almost fully competitive. Pedrosa scored one of his first GP wins at Valencia – in the 125cc class way back in 2002 – and followed that up with 250cc victories in 2004 and 2005 and MotoGP successes in 2007, 2009 and 2012. Last year he finished third, just a fraction of a second behind Marquez.
For top independent-team rider Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda RC213V) this has been a breakthrough season. In August the Briton won his first MotoGP race at a damp Brno and he backed that up with a stunning win in the dry at Phillip Island, brilliantly resisting pressure from nine-times World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha). Two weeks ago at Sepang he was once again in the lead group, until he tumbled just after half-distance. His best finish at Valencia is a fourth in 2011, his rookie season. Last year he finished in ninth place.
Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) took a well-deserved eighth-place finish at Sepang, his third top-ten finish since he won his first MotoGP race at Assen in June. The young Australian is a former winner at Valencia – he won the Moto3 race at the track in 2014.
Tito Rabat (EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) is another Honda MotoGP rider who has been victorious at the Valencia circuit, named after the late Ricardo Tormo, local hero and 50cc World Champion in 1978 and 1981. Rabat won last year’s Valencia Moto2 race and will be hoping for another good ride this Sunday at the end of what has been a challenging rookie MotoGP campaign.
Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport Kalex) was MotoGP’s final champion of 2016 to be crowned, the Frenchman winning the Honda-powered Moto2 World Championship with a dominant victory at Sepang. This was his sixth win of the year but his first since August’s Austrian Grand Prix. In the next few races Zarco appeared to lose form and saw a 34-point lead shrink to just one point after September’s Aragon race.
The man on the charge at that point was Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40 Kalex), who seemed to have the necessary momentum to win the title. But then it was Rins’s turn to enter the doldrums. Rins scored just two points from the next three races, allowing Zarco to secure the title. Zarco is the first rider to successfully defend a Moto2 crown since the class – in which all riders use identically prepared CBR600 engines – was inaugurated in 2010.
Rins’ below-par results at recent races, combined with a late-season surge by Thomas Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten Kalex) have pushed the Spaniard down to third. Luthi scored the first back-to-back wins of his career with victories in Japan and Australia. The Swiss rider comes to Valencia holding a 14-point lead over Rins, making him favorite for the runner-up spot, which would be his best championship result since he won the 125cc world title in 2005.
Indeed Rins could slip to fourth overall at Valencia, because young Italian Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0.0 Marc VDS Kalex) has also found excellent form, with podium results at each of the last four races, including strong rides to second place in Australia (where he missed a first win by 0.01 seconds) and Malaysia.
Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Kalex) was a title contender in the early stages of the season but a series of tumbles have dropped him to fifth overall, with Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex) and Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia Kalex) now just three points behind him. The current top ten is completed by San Marino winner Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team Kalex), Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia Kalex) and Simone Corsi (Speed Up Speed Up).
Honda’s top performer in the Moto3 World Championship plans to race at Valencia after recuperating from injuries suffered at last month’s Australian GP. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3 Honda NSF250RW) fractured a vertebra and a rib in the crash and aims to do enough at on Sunday to seal second place in the points chase. The 18-year-old won his first race of 2016 at Motegi, the Sunday before the Australian round.
Star rookie Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing Moto3 Honda NSF250RW) is in the thick of a battle for fifth overall. The 18-year-old Italian, who made his GP debut at Valencia last year, has scored three podiums so far this season and is currently just five points behind fifth-placed Nicolo Bulega (KTM).
Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda NSF250RW) has also been out of luck at recent races, which has pushed him down to fourth overall. The Spaniard, already winner of this year’s Catalan and Aragon GPs, is hoping to end the season in the best way possible with a third victory on home asphalt.
Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team Honda NSF250RW) rode a superb race in Malaysia to finish second, strengthening his eighth place in the championship. The Czech rider is all set to achieve the first top-ten championship finish of his World Championship career.
Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold Honda NSF250RW), winner of the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix is 11th at the moment, but a good result at the last race could well haul him into the championship top ten. The Italian stands just three points behind tenth-placed Romano Fenati (KTM).
Fourteenth overall Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda NSF250RW) is another rider recovering from recent injury. He was involved in an accident at the Malaysian GP in which he broke bones in his left hand and wrist. He has had the fractures pinned and plated and should be okay to ride this weekend.
Although Sunday’s racing concludes the 2016 MotoGP season, the paddock gets little chance to relax afterwards, with the traditional post-season Valencia test taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday. Riders and teams get their break during the winter testing moratorium which runs from December 1st until the first tests of 2017 get underway at Sepang, Malaysia, on January 30th.
Honda MotoGP rider quotes
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda:
“It has been good coming back home after the three flyaway races with the title already won, and to celebrate it with all my family and friends. I had the chance to chill out a bit and get back to my usual training, both indoors in the gym and outdoors with some motocross and cycling. ‘Thanks’ to the jetlag, I had the opportunity to enjoy some really spectacular dawns on my bicycle! Anyway, the season isn’t over yet, as we’ll race in Valencia on Sunday, and after that we’ll have two important days of testing. Our target for the race is of course to try and finish on a high in front of our fans, possibly with a win or at least a podium. It is good to see that Dani is getting better and to know he’ll be back in Valencia.”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda:
“These past three weeks haven’t been easy because of the pain, especially immediately after the operation, and also because I missed racing at some of my favorite tracks. Anyway, after I started with my rehab, things began getting better day-by-day, and the thought of trying to recover in time for Valencia was a boost that helped during the tougher moments. We’re still not sure about how I’ll feel on the bike, but anyway I’m happy to be able to get back to racing! I love the Valencia track, I have fantastic memories here and I like the idea of getting back to action in front of my fans.”
Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda:
“Valencia is a track that I’m targeting for a great result. I don’t love the track there but there are parts of it which suit my style and parts of it which suit our bike. It’s the last race of the season so everyone’s going to be all out, I can tell you that. The last race in Sepang was disappointing but we have to be happy with the three flyaway races.”
Jack Miller, EG 0,0 Marc VDS:
“It’s been good to get back to my base in Andorra after a pretty hectic overseas trip and have some time to get back out on the bicycle again, which I’ve missed. I can take a lot of positives from the last two races in Australia and Malaysia and I’m looking forward to this weekend in Valencia, where I’m keen to finish the season on a high note before getting back to testing on Tuesday ready for the 2017 season.”
Tito Rabat, EG 0,0 Marc VDS:
“Valencia is always a track that has given me a good feeling and it was special to finish my time in Moto2 last year with a victory. It is going to be interesting to understand the progress we have made because it was in Valencia one year ago when I did my first proper test on a MotoGP machine. I hope to go there and be competitive and finish the season with a decent result to take into the winter. I think the Honda will work well in Valencia now because the bike has become more manageable. Like always I will be giving my maximum and trying to put on a good show for the fans.”
Moto2 rider quotes
Johann Zarco, Ajo Motorsport:
“We won the title at Sepang and we will be aiming to celebrate with the best way possible – with a final Moto2 win at Valencia, before I move up to MotoGP. It has been a long and very emotional season. We were going great and then we had a few problems and very nearly lost the championship lead, so I feel proud and want to say a big thank you to my team for coming back from those problems. I know we can be fast this weekend, so as usual we will give our all and work hard. It’s great that we’ve already won the title but it’s not time to relax yet – we still have one more Moto2 fight left!”
Thomas Luthi, Garage Plus Interwetten:
“Johann won the championship and he did a good job but we didn’t lose it there. We lost it earlier in the season. It was a good overseas trip and we now go to Valencia. Even though Zarco is World Champion we still have to try and finish ahead of Rins. We made some points on him in Malaysia and it’s good to still be in second position in the championship. That’s the target now, to stay there, and stay ahead of Rins and Morbidelli. Morbidelli is strong at the moment and Rins will be back again. He’ll be racing at home again in Valencia. I like the track. I had some positive races there in the past. I’m looking forward to going there.”
Alex Rins, Paginas Amarillas HP 40:
“Me and the team go to Valencia aiming to score a great result to finish my fantastic experience with them in the best possible way. This has been another tough season, with some highs and lows, just like most years. The good thing is that we were in the fight for the world title for most of the season, but in the end it didn’t quite work out for us. I’m looking forwarding to enjoying my last Moto2 race with the Spanish fans. I’ve been on the podium at Valencia in both Moto2 and Moto3 but I’ve yet to win a GP race there, so it’s my aim to fix that this weekend!”
Honda Moto3 rider quotes
Enea Bastianini, Gresini Racing Moto3:
“This year we approach the Valencia Grand Prix in a particular situation. I’m fresh from the Phillip Island bad accident, so first of all we need to receive the green light by doctors on Thursday. Anyway I feel good, my physical condition is improving day by day and I’m convinced that I will arrive in Valencia ready to race and battle! I expect a hard fight to clinch the second place in the championship, although the 19-point lead in the standings is undoubtedly a good starting point.”
Jorge Navarro, Estrella Galicia 0,0:
“This weekend I come into the race at Valencia after three very difficult Grands Prix in Japan, Australia and Malaysia. The races in Spain and, especially, at ‘home’ are always very special as you are riding in front of your family and friends, and having them close is always a source of motivation and extra support. In addition, Cheste is a circuit at which I have ridden a lot and one that brings back good memories, so I hope to have a great race and be able to say goodbye to both the Moto3 class and my team in the best possible way. Most of all, we will try to enjoy the weekend, since whenever I approach a race in this way, things turn out well. I think we have to aim for the top spot, focusing every practice on preparing for Sunday to be ready to fight for victory.”
Fabio Di Giannantonio, Gresini Racing Moto3:
“Obviously I have good memories of Valencia, because it’s here that exactly one year ago I made my debut in the World Championship. After two unlucky races we are very determined to fight back and I’m convinced that we can have a good race. It will be crucial to start the weekend in a good way and finally make a good Qualifying on Saturday. We are three riders fighting for the Rookie of the Year trophy and I’m ready to battle!”