They called it the Final Showdown and a showdown it was, filled with drama from start to end. But the end is all that matters and the outcome was Marc Marquez becoming the youngest rider to win six grand prix world titles. Honda’s celebrations got another kick as Dani Pedrosa ended up adding to his prolific tally of victories in Valencia after breaking France’s heart by overtaking Johann Zarco on the last lap of the race and season.
Poleman Marquez and eventual victor Pedrosa played around at the start as Pedrosa jumped into second place after the lights went off and made a nice buffer between his teammate and the crazy gang of Zarco and Andrea Iannone. Meanwhile, Andrea Dovizioso was up to sixth place after the start and right behind his teammate, Valentino Rossi up to seventh and Maverick Viñales only twelfth.
Zarco did not let Honda have their way though, getting rough with Pedrosa by lap two and threatening Marquez soon after. Marquez clearly did not take it easy on the hard front and was already posting fastest times on the second lap but could not quite shake off the Frenchman, who was too close for comfort. Zarco finally made into the lead on lap four as Marquez did not engage in battle, leaving the factory Hondas being chased by the factory Ducatis as Iannone lost ground slightly.
Meanwhile, Rossi was eighth and set to battle Miller and Iannone if he wanted to join the podium fight. Teammate Viñales was further behind and with Cal Crutchlow and Danilo Petrucci to contend with for a top ten position.
Back at the front, Marquez kept within reach of Zarco, with Pedrosa a safe half second behind. The Ducatis led by Jorge Lorenzo were another half a second behind Pedrosa but avoiding any unnecessary shenanigans at this stage of the race.
A sense of false calm set in by lap eight, the gaps stabilizing in the top five and Iannone being left to lead the pursuers two seconds down the road, in a group with Rossi and Miller. Two laps later the gap between Zarco and Marquez was steadily around the half a second mark, with Pedrosa giving Marquez a second’s worth of breathing space. Seven tenths down the road, Dovizioso was biding his time in attempting a move on his teammate as Rossi moved into the lead of the chasing group another four seconds down.
Dovizioso picked up the pace on lap 12 with some personal best sectors but could not make his way past Lorenzo until the Spaniard got the infamous Mapping 8 dashboard message. Lorenzo did not pick up the suggestion right away and Ducati went for third time lucky, pushing the suggestion another two times in an attempt to put Dovizioso in a better position.
Meanwhile, Marquez did not show any intentions but looked tempted to hang on and pick his time to go hunting. At the halfway mark, Pedrosa was starting to come back into play, the gap to his teammate going from a second to only half, while the small Spaniard’s gap to the Ducatis extended to one second.
Just as Ducati were adding another message to Lorenzo’s pit board with 11 laps to go, Marquez was smelling blood already by quickly swapping places with Zarco but the Tech 3 man was back in front soon after. Despite missing his team’s love letters, Lorenzo was slowly bringing down the gap to the leading trio to six tenths of a second with eigth laps to go, the entire top five running nearly identical times into the 1:32.
Marquez finally attacked for the lead with seven laps to go but followed it up with a massive save on his knee into turn one and rejoined in fifth place after some off-roading into the turn one gravel trap. Just as our heart rate was settling down from that, the curse Ducati placed on Lorenzo paid off as the Spaniard slid out with six laps to go into turn five. Unfortunately, Dovizioso did not get a chance to benefit from that as, in an unbelievable turn of events, the Italian crashed out in turn eight a few seconds later and returned to his garage to the applause of his team and pretty much everyone else.
In the middle of all that, Pedrosa was left to hunt down Zarco for victory, with Marquez finding himself back into a podium position five seconds back on his teammate. Pedrosa was shaking all over the place but biding his time until the final crossing of the line to attack. The Frenchman put the Spaniard under pressure until the last turn but had to concede the victory to Pedrosa in the end. Ten seconds behind them crossed the line as world champion Marc Marquez and went on to roll the dice one last time for the year, this time literally, in his title celebrations.
Despite having seen none of him throughout the race, Alex Rins was the best of the rest in fourth position, ahead of Valentino Rossi and Andrea Iannone. The top ten was an interesting mix including three more Hondas, with Jack Miller seventh, Cal Crutchlow eighth and Tito Rabat tenth, while Michele Pirro ended up as top Ducati in ninth place. Maverick Viñales’ weekend finished the same way it started, down in twelfth position.
With Marquez crowned in front of 110.000 fans ended another season with an incredibly packed highlights reel, including twenty seven crashes for the world champion and almost as many saves. 2018 can’t come soon enough.
|17||60||Michael VAN DER MARK||Yamaha||+52.134|
|44||Pol ESPARGARO||KTM||5 Laps|
|4||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||Ducati||5 Laps|
|99||Jorge LORENZO||Ducati||6 Laps|
|22||Sam LOWES||Aprilia||8 Laps|
|19||Alvaro BAUTISTA||Ducati||16 Laps|
|45||Scott REDDING||Ducati||26 Laps|
|41||Aleix ESPARGARO||Aprilia||27 Laps|
|36||Mika KALLIO||KTM||28 Laps|