The Valencia round of MotoGP is going to be remembered primarily as the race where Joan Mir make history, becoming the sixth Suzuki rider to win the premier class title, following in the footsteps of Kenny Roberts Jr, Kevin Schwantz, Franco Uncini, Marco Lucchinelli, and Barry Sheene. Rightly so, given the significance of that title, and Mir's path to winning the title. You can read more about that in part one of my Valencia round up.
But there was more to Valencia than just Joan Mir clinching the championship. The Circuit Ricardo Tormo is supposed to be a hard track to pass at, yet in all three classes we saw last-lap battles where the lead and podium places changed hands multiple times. We saw the 2019 Yamaha triumph where the 2020 model came up a long way short. We saw KTM take three of the top six positions, and we saw Andrea Dovizioso surprise himself with an eighth place.
So here are some notes from an intriguing and exciting race weekend.
Let's start with all that overtaking. The Circuit Ricardo Tormo is notoriously hard to pass at, with just a few spots where it is worth taking the risk. Turn 1 is the ideal spot, a pass on the brakes after the long front straight a classic move. Turn 2 is another favorite, but after that, the moves required to pass become increasingly risky. There are a few places where you CAN pass, but the costs of getting it wrong are high.
Risks vs reward
That risk-reward calculation takes on a very different character on the last lap, however. Within sight of the line, and with victory up to grabs, it is worth making a more reckless move into Turn 4 or Turn 6, or into Turn 8, or trying to line up Turn 11 through Turn 10, or taking a run at Turn 12 to carry the speed through Turn 13 which will allow you to take a shot at the final left hander, Turn 14.
That may explain why we saw a thrilling conclusion to all three races at Valencia on Sunday. In Moto3, Tony Arbolino benefited from the fierce encounter between Sergio Garcia and Raul Fernandez, in which Garcia came out on top. In Moto2, the crash of Fabio Di Giannantonio at Turn 6 left Jorge Martin, Hector Garzo, and Marco Bezzecchi to scrap it out for the win, the outcome uncertain to the end.
MotoGP served up the icing on the cake, however. Franco Morbidelli had escaped from the start, putting into practice the searing pace he had shown during practice. He inched away from the chasing Jack Miller through the first half of the race, extending his lead to over a second. But as the laps ticked off, the Pramac Ducati rider clawed his way back onto the tail of the Petronas Yamaha rider, putting himself in position to exploit the top speed of the Desmosedici GP20 along Valencia's relatively long front straight to pass into Turn 1 and then get in front and block.
Miller got close on the penultimate lap, but not close enough. That put him in position to try again on the final lap, and as they fired along the front straight for the final time, Miller was finally close enough to pull out of the slipstream and fire past Morbidelli before they reached Turn 1.
What the Australian hadn't counted on was the tailwind blowing along the straight, which pushed him into the first corner a little harder than he had expected. That put him wide on the exit, allowing Morbidelli to draw level. The battle heated up through the first half of the track, with Morbidelli taking a clean line underneath Miller at Turn 2, Miller jamming his bike ahead of the Petronas Yamaha into Turn 4, Morbidelli slashing back underneath at Turn 5.
Miller took another shot on the way into Turn 11, nearly clipping the back of Morbidelli's Yamaha. But try as he might, he couldn't quite get close enough to dive underneath at Turn 14, and the drive out of the corner to the line was too short for the GP20 to properly unleash its horsepower.
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