The 2016 MotoGP™ season finale already has its place in history secure. The curtain call for a new era as half the grid move teams, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing make their debut, and the history-making 2016 season draws to a close, the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana is primed for another incredible end-of-season party. And after a history-making Malaysian GP, there’s that chance of a tenth winner.
No one could have imagined an honour roll with nine names on it when the season began. But that’s the incredible outcome of a truly historic season in the premier class of Grand Prix racing, after Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) became the ninth different winner of the year in Malaysia.
With the Championship wrapped up, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) will be one of the first attempting to assure victory in Valencia for one of the nine who have already won this year. An error in Phillip Island when the pressure was off followed by an easy mistake to make in Malaysia mean the newly-crowned 5-time World Champion will be fired up as the paddock gets back on home turf – but so will the only other men to have won at the venue in over a decade: Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team).
Lorenzo especially will be out for glory. Trying to secure third in the Championship and looking to end the season on a high, the race also sees the end of an era for the Mallorcan before he moves to the Ducati Team. After 3 MotoGP™ World Championships, 43 race wins and 106 podiums before the Spaniard’s final race in Yamaha colours approaches, the relationship is one that has played a key role in defining an era of MotoGP™. With wins at the track in 2010, 2013 and 2015, Lorenzo’s last dance in blue could be one to remember.
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) has a more difficult record at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo but, having secured P2 in the Championship in Sepang and finished the tough race on the podium, the Italian’s focus is solely forward and he has a point to prove behind enemy lines once again – having already spoiled the hometown party in Jerez and Catalunya, and staged a stunning fight through the field in Valencia in 2015.
As Lorenzo leaves the other side of the Yamaha garage, Rossi’s 2017 teammate will be another out for glory at home. Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) is already a winner in 2016 at Silverstone, and will want to close out his incredible run with Suzuki as far towards the front as possible. With weather less likely to make life harder for the Hamamatsu factory machines, Viñales and teammate Aleix Espargaro will have their sights set squarely on the podium once again – at least – as they prepare to say goodbye to Suzuki.
Dani Pedrosa is the other man, along with Lorenzo, who has an incredible record at the track – but isn’t yet sure whether he will be fit to return after his highside in Motegi and collarbone break. Hoping to be able to contest the round on home turf, the venue will be a kind one for Pedrosa if he makes the grid – another of those circuits that sees his name penciled on a trophy before arrival, like Sepang: a race Pedrosa sat out.
Sepang winner Andrea Dovizioso will be one to watch after his incredible ride in Malaysia on a roll of good form, as well as teammate Andrea Iannone – who is another of the many on the grid whose future lies down a different path. His last race for the factory Ducati Team, after taking their first win since 2010 in Austria, will mean the ‘Maniac’ is sure to put on a good show once again. A frontrunner in Malaysia despite his ongoing recovery from cracked vertebrae, Iannone was back with a bang in Sepang.
After Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) crashed out in Malaysia, Valencia gives the Brit his final shot at securing the title of Top Independent team rider in 2016 – with Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro the only one in mathematical distance of the Brno and Phillip Island winner, and counting on home support. Espargaro is another of those who will be moving teams in the end of season shuffle – this time to KTM – and is set to remain alongside current teammate Bradley Smith in 2017.
The eyes of the world will be on Red Bull KTM Factory Racing in the season finale. Their first appearance, with test rider and GP winner Mika Kallio on board, will be the first benchmark for the Austrian factory as they prepare to line up on the grid full time next season – with a reputation for winning built on their incredible success in Moto3™.
Whatever hand Valencia deals for the season finale, one thing is sure: 2016 has been one for the record books – or more accurately, it’s rewritten them.
The final call for 2016 goes out at 9:00 local time on Friday (GMT +1), with lights out for the race on Sunday at 14:00.
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko