Morbidelli and Miller stage a last lap thriller, Mir crowned MotoGP™ World Champion

2020-11-16 01:37
A stunning final lap scrap sees the Italian take his third win of the year after fending off Miller, with Mir taking seventh and with it the 2020 World Championship

Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) put on a spectacular duel in the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana as a tense race-long chess match turned into a final lap scrap for glory. It was decided by less than a tenth but it's Morbidelli who comes out on top, gloves off to take his third win of the year and move up to second in the standings. Miller was forced to settle for second in the end, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) once again completing the podium. Slightly further back, Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) made dreams a reality as he took seventh place and secured the 2020 MotoGP™ World Championship, with key rivals not able to do enough to stop the Majorcan's history-making charge.

As the lights went out, Miller put in a characteristically good start to take the holeshot before then heading wide out of Turn 1, leaving Morbidelli in the lead as the Yamaha man kept it clean to take over. Pol Espargaro pounced for third ahead of front-row starter Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), but then some shuffles just behind pulled immediate focus.

First, Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) had sliced through from P14 on the grid to seventh after a storming start, but things didn't go so well for fellow contender Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT). The Frenchman struggled to get it stopped into Turn 6 on Lap 1 and dropped back - right back - before it went from bad to worse. Sadly, his title hopes were over, 'El Diablo' sliding out of the race and contention.

Meanwhile at the front, Morbidelli had the hammer down and Rins was up to fifth - one place gained 'thanks' to a crash for Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) as the day sadly came to an early end for the Frenchman after a good start and a battle with the number 42. And Mir? Mir was in eighth, but was getting into the groove and past Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) to set off after Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) ahead of him.

Morbidelli rode on, Miller remained his shadow, and the two men kept edging away to make it a duel. It became a brief duel over third too as Nakagami homed in on Pol Espargaro, the Japanese rider once again showing some stunning pace. But the charge would end with disappointment as just as he struck, Nakagami slid out - leaving the KTM to take back third and now with a small cushion back to fourth.

The man in fourth by then was Rins, and with Suzuki's late race pace of late, Pol Espargaro couldn't afford to relax too much. But this weekend it seemed just off the podium was the maximum the Aragon GP winner could manage as he held station, two more KTMs on his tail. Initially the first was Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), but Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Brad Binder was coming in hot. The South African was also keeping Mir at bay as the number 36 failed to make inroads into the gap, seemingly set to take the crown from seventh.

Back at the front, Morbidelli was steadfast but the Petronas Yamaha SRT rider wasn't getting away as he had done for his previous wins. Miller was with him and gaining, gaining, until he was within touching distance with two to go. And over the line for the final lap, the Australian struck for the front.

Heading up the inside, the number 43 was past and it was game on - but he also headed wide. Morbidelli reacted to hug the apex and slice back through, the Yamaha back ahead and Miller reloading for another shot. That came not long after at Turn 4 as Miller chucked it up the inside, but Morbidelli snapped straight back to grab P1 again at Turn 5.

Down the back straight they went, the Ducati able to show a wheel but no way through. Miller then set himself up for a dive up the inside at Turn 11, but once again there was no way through as the duo got very close for comfort.

Attention then turned to the final corner, but Miller wasn’t close enough to lunge. Could the number 43 get the power down and use the extra grunt to scream past Morbidelli on the run to the line? It was his final chance at the win, but it wasn't to be. Morbidelli emerged victorious for the third time this season after a magnificent boxing match, and the Italian now sits second in the Championship. Petronas Yamaha SRT are also the top Independent Team. The gap over the line was just 0.093 seconds, tantalisingly close, but it’s a great third podium of the season for Miller nevertheless. Pol Espargaro goes back-to-back in Valencia for his fifth podium of the year in third, another fantastic effort from the Spaniard in his penultimate race for KTM.

Rins’ comeback ride was impressive from P14, but the Suzuki man ran out of steam and eventually missed out on the podium by six tenths as he was forced to settle for fourth. The Spaniard did, however, help Team Suzuki Ecstar claim the Team Championship after a stunning year that's seen both riders win and challenge for the crown, Mir ultimately taking it.

Binder got the better of Oliveira to return to the top five for the first time since the Austrian GP, and the South African also strengthened his grip on the Rookie of the Year title as he heads for the finale 20 points clear of Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). Oliveira in sixth make it three KTMs in the top six too, and the Portuguese rider arrives on home turf in form.

Just behind the KTM duo, Mir took the chequered flag. Pandemonium raged on the pit wall as Suzuki witnessed their rider come across the line to win the 2020 FIM MotoGP™ World Championship, the young Spaniard joining Barry Sheene, Marco Lucchinelli, Franco Uncini, Kevin Schwantz and Kenny Roberts Jr. as a Suzuki Champion. An incredible achievement from the sophomore, and the entire Hamamatsu factory, after a stunning season.

Dovizioso almost sprung a late surprise as he crossed the line just 0.026 behind Mir and could have possibly gone for a lunge, but he was the second Ducati home and took some solid points. Aleix Espargaro crossed the line in a solid P9 to grab his second top 10 of the season, the Aprilia man taking the flag one place ahead of Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) after a tougher one for the number 12.

Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) finished P11 and three tenths ahead of Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), as Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) and Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) completed the points.

And so, Valencia plays host to yet another Championship-deciding MotoGP™ race - and an amazing last lap duel. Suzuki now head to Portimao with the triple crown in sight, although the Japanese marque are equal on points with Ducati in the fight to become Constructor Champions. Whichever bike crosses the line first will win the Championship. See you in less than a week's time for another stunning MotoGP™ showdown!
MotoGP™ podium
1 Franco Morbidelli* - Petronas Yamaha SRT - Yamaha 41:22.478
2 Jack Miller* -Pramac Racing - Ducati +0.093
3 Pol Espargaro -Red Bull KTM Factory Racing - KTM +3.006
*Independent Team riders
Franco Morbidelli: "It was an unbelievable win, I gave everything all race long and finally I had to dig deeper to find something else at the last lap because Jack was there and was able to catch up at the end and fight at the end. I had to find something extra and luckily I was able to pull it out! It was a wonderful fight against Jack. It's always nice to fight with him, win or lose, so I enjoyed the battle and congrats to him, he was just as good as me. I have a great feeling about this year, we did great and I'm looking forward to party tonight and then go to Portimao!"
MotoGP™ podium L-R: Miller, Morbidelli and Espargaro
Martin fends off Garzo as the gloves come off in Moto2™
The fight for the crown goes down to the final round after a stunner of an intermediate class race sees four riders left in it with one round to go
Red Bull KTM Ajo's Jorge Martin stole a last-gasp victory at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, the Spaniard diving through on Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) in the final sector and able to hold off compatriot Hector Garzo (FlexBox HP40) on the run to the line to wrap up win number two of his Moto2™ career. Garzo beat Bezzecchi to second, although the Italian remains in mathematical contention and 23 points off the top in fourth. Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) will take a 14 point lead to the season finale in Portimao, the title fight still between four riders as the final round appears on the horizon.

From the outside of the front row, it was Bezzecchi who got a great start but an aggressive Martin dived through from the second row at Turn 1 to take the the holeshot. Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Forward Racing) settled into second from pole, just ahead of Fabio Di Giannantonio (MB Conveyors Speed Up) and then Bezzecchi, but at the start of lap two, 'Diggia' passed Manzi into Turn 2 as he saw Martin trying to spark an early escape. Two laps later, Bezzecchi was able to follow his compatriot through to demote the MV Agusta man back to fourth.

Coming out of the final corner both Martin and Di Giannantonio had rear-end twitches in perfect unison and that allowed Bezzecchi through to second. One lap later, and at exactly the same spot, the Sky Racing Team VR46 rider slipped up the inside of Martin to hit the front and, with Bastianini down in eighth, close the title lead down to 12 points. In a half a lap to forget for Martin, Di Giannantonio then found a way past the KTM man too.

A lead group of four was starting to form at the front and Garzo could see that, prompting a dive past Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) for fifth at the final corner. The fastest lap of the race at that time for the Spaniard saw him close in on the rear-end of Manzi and then move past the Italian to find himself in fourth and right in the podium fight on home turf.

Not long after, a mistake from Di Giannantonio out of the final corner saw Martin able to pull alongside him and edge in front but only for a split second, with the aggressive Speed Up braking as late as possible to hold on to second. That offered a chance to Garzo on the run up to Turn 2 and the Flexbox HP 40 rider took the chance with both hands, squeezing past Martin for third.

Stefano Manzi’s incredible weekend then came to an unfortunate end as the MV Agusta man crashed out of contention, doing a favour for compatriot Bastianini who moved up to seventh as a result and extended his potential title lead to 13 points. Marini was sat just ahead of Bastianini in sixth and a battered and bruised Sam Lowes was digging deep and picking his way through the field but still back in 18th.

The tension at the front was growing as the laps ticked away, with Di Giannantonio applying more and more pressure on Bezzecchi. With six to go Di Giannantonio then made his move, a cool and calculated dive through at Turn 11... before then making a costly error into the final corner that allowed Bezzecchi to retake the lead, as you were.

Martin’s late charge continued to gain momentum when he was next to make a move, diving past Garzo down the start-finish straight to grab hold of the final podium place. Could he home in on the Italians in the lead?

With two to go there was nothing between the duo at the front and Di Giannantonio then found a way through at Turn 11 once again, keeping it tidy through the final corner this time to lead the now four-way fight for victory over the line for the last lap. Bezzeccchi was starting to lose touch with the Speed Up and it looked like Diggia's to lose - and unfortunately he did. Suddenly, only half a lap from the win, the Italian slid out at Turn 6 and was out of the fight, leaving a trio scrapping over the podium order.

That left Bezzecchi in the lead but it was far from a done deal. Martin could sense the chance and then pounced at Turn 12, forcing Bezzecchi wide, but the pair’s dive through Turn 13 had been compromised and that opened a door for Garzo. The Valencian dived through into second, demoting Bezzecchi to third in less corners. It would all go down to the final corner...

Martin kept the door slammed shut so the former MotoE™ frontrunner took a sweeping line as he tried to out-drag his compatriot to the line, and it came incredibly close. Less than a tenth close, as Martin took the win by almost nothing. Nevertheless, the home hero took his first Grand Prix podium in second, with Bezzecchi forced to settle for third.

Schrötter took fourth spot ahead of Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46), who is now 18 points adrift of The Beast after the Italtrans man crossed the line just behind him in sixth. ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team's Remy Gardner took seventh, eight tenths clear of Bo Bendsneyder who clinched NTS RW Racing GP's best result. Italians Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) and Lorenzo Baldassarri (FlexBox HP40) rounded out the top ten.

Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing) took 11th ahead of Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo), with Xavi Vierge (Petronas Yamaha SRT) crossing the line in 13th. And then came Lowes.

A super human effort sees the Brit take two points despite the after affects of his FP3 crash, and he remains Bastianini's closest challenger although now 14 points down. Marini trails by 18 and Bezzecchi 23, leaving everything on the table in Portimao. Tune in again next weekend for another Moto2™ stunner - and a new World Champion!
Moto2™ podium
1 Jorge Martin - Red Bull KTM Ajo - Kalex 40:02.225
2 Hector Garzo - Flexbox HP 40 - Kalex +0.072
3 Marco Bezzecchi - Sky Racing Team VR46 - Kalex +0.204
Jorge Martin: "I started quite well from fifth to first in the first corner, that was great then with the wind it was difficult to be fast in front, the front tyre wasn't the perfect temperature. Lap by lap I was improving before the middle of the race when I felt so bad, then when I saw I was catching Hector I thought, 'come on you can do it'. I started to push, overtook him, then when I saw fighting between Bez and Diggia I said, 'come on never give up, try your best'. When Diggia crashed I thought, 'just one more overtake and you'll do it'. I thought about this move last weekend and at Turn 12 you never expect it. I risked a bit too much but you have to take risk to win and I did it today. I'm super happy, thanks to my team, my family and all the sponsors."

Source: Dorna Sports

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