If Moto3 had a reasonable amount of gravel trap fun in the crisp Spanish morning, the intermediate class did its best to catch up early with some tangles of its own featuring usual suspects like Stefano Manzi and Axel Pons.
In the cold Valencian morning, the occasional crash punctuated a mixed up timing sheet which featured a largely surprising Italian at the top. Andrea Iannone showcased Suzuki’s moustache fairing in all its glory at the top of the standings for the final few minutes of the session after fitting a brand new softer option tyre.
Deceptively sunny but cold is the usual welcome for the season finale and Valencia did not surprise from that point of view. What did surprise was a rare crash for world champion Joan Mir ten minutes into the morning session, ruining a pair of leathers into the gravel trap at turn ten. No harm, no foul, the Spaniard limped away, dusted himself off and probably rejoiced that the suit was already prepared for the gala.
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 Tech 3 Yamaha 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 need 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.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin previewing the final round of the year at Valencia:
Repsol Honda Team arrives in Valencia for 2017 MotoGP Championship finale
On Monday Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa attended the presentation of the brand new Honda models at the EICMA Show in Milan, Italy. On the same occasion they took part in the Honda 2018 racing programme presentation together with fellow HRC riders from Dakar, MXGP and WTC teams, before heading to Valencia for the season finale.
Previews of the final round of the season from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
To Valencia for the Grand Final 2017
In his last race with the Leopard Racing team after the conquest of the 2017 World Champion title, Mallorca's talent – Joan Mir – will try to attack Valentino Rossi's record in Valencia. Livio Loi is determined to do his best and surpass Bulega, who is only 1 point ahead.
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.
Michael van der Mark is to make a second appearance in MotoGP. The Dutchman is to step in once again to replace Jonas Folger in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team at Valencia.
Though the announcement is not yet official, the Dutchman revealed he would be riding at Valencia in a Dutch-language interview for the WorldSBK website, and published by the Dutch website Racesport.nl. Recorded after the final round of WorldSBK at Qatar on Saturday, Van der Mark says, "It's great to be riding in MotoGP again next week in Valencia. It's a shame Jonas [Folger] is still ill, but I'm deeply honored that Hervé [Poncharal] has asked me once again to replace him. It shows that I did my best in Sepang."
…and it probably is, but even if Andrea Dovizioso fails to climb the cliff at Valencia, he can still be satisfied with a near-perfect 2017
The odds will not be stacked in Andrea Dovizioso’s favour when he gets to Valencia next week. But there’s a tired old saying we’ve been regurgitating in the MotoGP media centre for the past three decades or so: anything can happen in motorcycle racing, and usually does.
Or as the late, great Nicky Hayden put it: “That’s why we line up on Sunday – you never know what’s going to happen."