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 will get to name themselves the 2017 MotoGP champion.
If you need an in depth breakdown of who has to complete the place to wrap up the championship, you’ll be able to learn our separate story right here.
However it boils down to 2 easy premises: If Andrea Dovizioso doesn’t win the race, the title belongs to Márquez, however Márquez can put it out of attain of Dovizioso by ending eleventh or higher.
If you’re staging a championship showdown, the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Cheste, close to Valencia, is a positive venue to decide on. Set in a pure bowl, the circuit house owners have managed to snake 4km of asphalt right into a confined area.
The upside to that’s that spectators can see nearly each a part of the monitor from whichever stand they sit in. The furthest level of the monitor is at most a kilometer away, irrespective of the place you sit.
Cramming a lot monitor into such a decent area has apparent penalties. There are quite a lot of tight corners in Valencia: of the fourteen turns the circuit has, three are first gear corners, six extra are second gear corners, whereas half of them are tighter than 90°.
The compact area into which the monitor is crammed, mixed with the lengthy entrance straight create quite a lot of issues for tire producers.
After the fast flick proper at Flip 12, the bikes spend half a lap solely ever turning left. By the point the following proper hander seems – Flip four – the appropriate facet of the tires have had 45 seconds to chill off. Push the bike too laborious into Flip four, and you find yourself within the gravel.
Making it via Flip four could be a reduction, however overconfidence lies ready. Nearly as many riders fall off at Flip 5, the following proper hander instantly following on from Flip four.
Turns four and 5 aren’t the principle locations individuals crash, nonetheless. That (dis)honor falls on Turns 1 and a pair of. The rationale for that’s easy: at a monitor the place passing is troublesome, the primary two corners are the very best locations to attempt to move.
The primary nook comes on the finish of an extended straight, and is a straight braking battle. The second nook provides a rider a second chunk on the cherry ought to they miss out the primary time. Or an opportunity to retaliate, if they’re handed on the way in which into Flip 1.
However tight as Valencia is, that doesn’t imply it’s solely bereft of character. There are a number of spots, significantly within the last a part of the monitor, that are among the many finest corners on this planet. The left kink at Flip 7 is fairly particular, because the exit from Flip eight via to Flip 11.
However the part leaving Flip 11 all the way in which to the ultimate nook is spectacular. First, the laborious braking earlier than flicking it laborious proper via Flip 12.
Then the wonderful, endless left of Flip 13, the place riders climb up and over the hill, the rear of their bikes hanging out as they drift over the crest and down in the direction of the ultimate nook. Lastly, the tight left of Flip 14, the final probability to make a move earlier than the road.
A move within the last nook is fraught with hazard. To make it via, you need to brake late and laborious for what’s already a really sluggish nook. Then you need to attempt to squeeze contained in the rider forward.
In the event you make it via with out crashing (and often taking out the rider you are attempting to move), you end up out broad too early and going too sluggish. Drive out of the ultimate nook is essential on the quick drag to the road. And drive is the value you pay for an tried move within the last nook.
In different years, that last nook is the place the championship could be determined, however that appears unlikely this season. Andrea Dovizioso must win, and Marc Márquez has to complete a good distance down the sector for it to occur.
Neither of these occasions is especially seemingly: Dovizioso has by no means gained at Valencia, and has solely had one podium there in MotoGP. Márquez, alternatively, has by no means completed off the rostrum there in MotoGP, and the final time he completed outdoors the highest ten was in 2009.
It’s a robust name for Dovizioso to win, however it’s equally inconceivable that Márquez will end worse than eleventh.
In days passed by, Valencia would have been one thing of a bogey monitor for Ducati, at the least since Casey Stoner switched to Honda. However the big step ahead made with the GP15 cured among the bike’s worst woes, making it simpler to show via the tight corners.
It nonetheless suffers via the lengthy turns – Flip 13 stays the Ducati’s Achilles heel – however the bike could be muscled via the tight hairpins that line the circuit.
However the Ducati has an upside: the robust drive the bike has provides it a transparent benefit out of the sluggish corners, and a spot to achieve. Marry that with its robust braking, and it’s aggressive sufficient round Valencia.
Andrea Iannone confirmed simply how robust it may, placing the GP16 on the rostrum there final 12 months. It was the primary time a Ducati rider had stood on the rostrum since Casey Stoner left on the finish of 2010.
Opposites Appeal to
The Honda’s issues are the inverse of the Ducati’s. The RC213V brakes properly, just like the Ducati, however this can be very nimble and maneuverable. Tight corners, lengthy corners, neither are an issue for the bike, making it properly suited to the Valencia monitor.
The place it loses is out of the sluggish corners, particularly out of the ultimate flip coming onto the again straight. Although that concern has been addressed to an extent this season, it places the Honda at a definite drawback out of Valencia’s last nook.
If there’s a Ducati rider who may carry out properly round Valencia, it’s absolutely Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo’s file with the Ducati thus far has been that he’s fast at tracks he likes, and tracks the place he feels comfy, and sluggish in all places else.
Since getting the winglets at Brno, Lorenzo has crept ever nearer to the entrance of the pack. He has two podiums within the final 4 races, and has regarded able to profitable, when all the things falls into place.
Issues nearly fell into place at Sepang for Lorenzo, however he had a minor downside developing behind him. Andrea Dovizioso was quicker than him, and wanted victory to maintain his title hopes alive. Lorenzo acquired a seemingly innocuous message on his sprint, “Steered Mapping: Mapping eight”.
When Dovizioso handed Lorenzo a few laps later, that naturally launched a thousand conspiracy theories. The front-end slide Lorenzo suffered within the last nook recommended that Lorenzo was just about on the restrict holding Dovizioso behind him.
So although he may probably have been capable of win, it wasn’t well worth the danger, and it actually wasn’t value upsetting his employers.
Might Lorenzo discover himself in the identical scenario at Valencia? Presumably. Andrea Iannone’s podium proved that the bike is getting higher, and Lorenzo’s file at Valencia is stellar, with 4 wins since 2010, together with the final two editions.
Regardless of the weak point of the Ducati, Lorenzo can be fast at Valencia. If he finally ends up main the race simply forward of his teammate, he could also be a bit extra blatant about shifting out of his approach.
For make no mistake, Lorenzo can be keen to assist Dovizioso within the last race of the 12 months. The query is, will it’s needed?
Marc Márquez’s teammate might also be ready to get entangled within the title struggle. If Lorenzo’s file at Valencia is stellar, then Pedrosa’s is intergalactic.
The Spaniard has gained 3 times in MotoGP, and is the one rider to have gained there in all three courses. He has one other 4 MotoGP podiums to his identify on the monitor, together with 4 in a row between 2012 and 2015. It’s a monitor that fits the Spaniard completely.
That might go well with Marc Márquez completely too. The very best factor Dani Pedrosa may do for his teammate is win the race. If Pedrosa wins, that robotically palms Márquez the title. Of all of the potential eventualities for deciding the 2017 championship, that is the most certainly.
Turning Gold into Lead
What of Yamaha? On paper, Valencia is a monitor the place the Yamaha can excel. In any case, Jorge Lorenzo gained there 4 instances on the bike. His former teammate Valentino Rossi has had so much much less luck there in recent times.
His final podium got here in 2014, and his final win approach again in 2004. It’s the monitor he misplaced the 2006 world championship to Nicky Hayden, and he hasn’t managed a lot better than fourth in recent times.
Maverick Viñales’ prospects are an excellent deal brighter. The Spanish teenager completed fifth on the circuit final 12 months using a Suzuki. This 12 months, on what’s a considerably higher bike, he must be stirring issues up on the entrance of the pack.
If the Yamaha can maintain the rear tire in a single piece, that’s. The M1 appears to be probably the most troublesome bike to arrange this 12 months, excellent one weekend, nowhere the following.
There’s some unusual alchemy taking place someplace within the mixture of tires, chassis, engine, and electronics. When Yamaha hit the candy spot, the bike is unstoppable. However that window is extraordinarily slim in 2017.
The place does the problem lie? The intense temperature sensitivity of the Michelins performs a job, however Yamaha solely actually have themselves responsible. Maybe they sacrificed a bit an excessive amount of manageability in pursuit of extra energy.
Maybe they haven’t discovered precisely the appropriate electronics settings but. Maybe components of chassis and swingarm stiffness aren’t fairly the place they have to be. However in all probability, it’s some mixture of all these components.
Out with the brand new, in with the outdated?
For the Yamaha M1 has been confirmed to be fast in 2017, in numerous totally different situations at numerous totally different tracks. However sadly for the Movistar Yamaha group, the M1 which was fast was the 2016 bike within the palms of Johann Zarco, and when match, Jonas Folger.
Zarco proved his mettle at Valencia in Moto2 over the previous 4 years, the Frenchman taking podiums in 2013 and 2014, then profitable from pole final 12 months.
On a motorbike on which he’s clearly comfy, at a monitor the place he could be quick, may this be the place the place Zarco takes his first MotoGP win? The competitors can be fierce. However it’s not past the realm of risk.
The Suzukis, too, may go properly at Valencia. Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins return from the flyaways with robust outcomes at Motegi and Phillip Island underneath their belts, and arrive at a monitor which ought to go well with the nimble GSX-RR.
Iannone had a podium at Valencia on a Ducati final 12 months, and Rins was on the rostrum in Moto2 in 2015, so each go properly on the monitor.
Although Suzuki would love an excellent end result to banish the reminiscence of what has been a troublesome season, a podium can be one thing of a poison capsule. If Suzuki end the season with no podium, they get full testing and engine improvement concessions again for subsequent 12 months.
That might permit them to rectify among the issues the bike had this 12 months, and regain among the floor misplaced. But when Rins or Iannone get a sniff of the rostrum on Sunday, they may take it.
Other than podium bonuses – profitable certainly from manufacturing unit groups and private sponsors – MotoGP racers trip for delight. And nothing soothes an ego bruised by a 12 months of underperforming fairly like a magnum of podium cava.
All Six Fast
MotoGP’s different two factories may simply as simply be an element at Valencia. Each Aprilia and KTM have examined extensively on the monitor, and have a server farm’s value of knowledge to fall again on.
For Aprilia, Aleix Espargaro is again from damage, and eager to complete the 12 months off with a robust end result, reward for all the progress made this 12 months.
There can be extra reduction than pleasure on the opposite facet of the storage, nonetheless. Sam Lowes was deserted by Aprilia very early on within the season, after getting off to an admittedly weak begin.
However Lowes’ poor leads to testing and the beginning of the season are partially right down to the very fact he was by no means on the identical spec tools as Aleix Espargaro. However a bigger half was as a consequence of Aprilia merely by no means taking an curiosity in him, nor placing within the effort to assist him.
Lowes’ MotoGP profession involves a untimely – and, he hopes, momentary – finish at Valencia. However it’s laborious to not assume that we don’t actually know the way good a MotoGP rider Lowes is, as a result of he was by no means actually given the prospect to indicate himself.
Perhaps he’s a promising rider filled with potential. Perhaps he simply can’t lower it in MotoGP, and wishes to stay to smaller bikes. We will’t inform both approach, as a result of Lowes by no means actually had an opportunity to show it in some way.
The KTM group is probably the most intriguing prospect at Valencia. Mika Kallio has a whole bunch of laps of testing right here underneath his belt, and the group has heaps of knowledge. Bradley Smith has discovered his mojo once more, now that his future is safe.
Pol Espargaro continues to go from energy to energy, the Spaniard having fallen in love with the RC16 as quickly as he swung a leg over it.
Kallio has the time on the bike and one other probability to show himself, although he’ll as soon as once more be compelled to accept a testing function in 2018, his hopes of securing a everlasting trip failing to materialize.
For KTM, although, the true work begins on Tuesday on the post-race check. The RC16 nonetheless suffers a bit understeer, and is difficult to drive via lengthy, quick turns. A revised engine for 2018 ought to tackle that weak point. Smith and Espargaro have already demonstrated the potential of the bike this 12 months.
A brand new and improved machine for 2018 ought to make it correctly aggressive. A podium could also be out of the query this Sunday, however who is aware of what may occur a 12 months from now?
That, in essence, is the allure of motorbike racing. At the same time as one season involves an finish, one other one begins simply two days later. Alternatives missed in 2017 will reappear in 2018.
Doorways that are already closed will open up as soon as once more after Sunday. On Monday, we wipe the slate clear once more. However first, spectacle awaits on Sunday.
Picture: © 2016 Tony Goldsmith / www.tonygoldsmith.web – All Rights Reserved
This text was initially printed on MotoMatters, and is republished right here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the writer.