The 2017 MotoGP World Championship came to a conclusion at Valencia on Sunday and although it wasn’t quite the finale we hoped for, one can’t but admire the stunning qualities of Marc Marquez who took his fourth premier class title in five years after taking third in the 18th and final race of the season.
The 24-year old – the youngest rider ever to win four 500cc/MotoGP titles – only needed to finish 11th but it was clear all weekend he was one of the fastest riders on track and cruising around for a finish isn’t in his make-up so he grabbed the lead from the outset. Under pressure from Johann Zarco from the first lap and with main rival Andrea Dovizioso having to fight his way through the pack, Marquez had it all under control.
But in true Marquez style, it didn’t quite go 100% to plan. With a third of the race to go and feeling he could go on and win the race, he took the lead from Zarco only to immediately lose the front end at turn one. Miraculous saves have become the norm for the Spaniard this year but this was perhaps the best as it was at high speed and, arguably, was the one that enabled him to win the title. Digging his elbow into the ground, bike and rider slid along the tarmac before he was able to get the bike upright and it only served to once more demonstrate his incredible skill and talent.
Sure, it dropped him back to fifth but with firstly Jorge Lorenzo and then Dovizioso crashing out – the Ducati pairing both later admitting they were riding over the limit just to keep up with the leading trio of Marquez, Zarco and Dani Pedrosa – he was soon back up to third and he crossed the line to spark wild celebrations. At such a young age, one can only wonder what he can go on and achieve in the sport.
Ducati just fall short
With a 21-point deficit coming into the final round, taking the MotoGP title was always going to be a tall order for Dovizioso and he needed everything to go his way for him to come out on top. From free practice though, it was clear the Ducati just wasn’t working at its optimum around the Spanish track. Not since Casey Stoner though has the Italian manufacturer seriously challenged for the number one plate in MotoGP so both they and Dovizioso can be proud of their efforts.
The Italian, a veteran in MotoGP having made his debut in the class way back in 2008, was rightly applauded when he arrived back at the garage and, arguably, can look back to the Australian round, when he could only finish 13th, as the turning point. It saw him lose momentum, something Marquez was quick to pounce upon, and it’s crucial now that Ducati continue their strong showing and ensure they’re fighting for the title again in 2018.
Factory Yamaha woes continue
He may have finished third in the Championship but Maverick Vinales has been largely anonymous for the last third of the season and it’s almost hard to understand how he actually won the first two races of the season. He could only manage 12th in the season-ending race at Valencia and although team-mate Valentino Rossi finished fifth, it’s clear there’s plenty of work to be done by Yamaha.
The 2017 M1 clearly has faults which need to be rectified quickly, their performance in the rain woeful at best. But whilst they started the season with a bang, Rossi also being victorious, they’ve tailed off quite spectacularly and whilst Zarco’s performances shouldn’t be underestimated and should be rightly applauded (he was comfortably the Rookie of the Year), the fact remains he was on a satellite Yamaha, the 2016 version of the M1, and that shouldn’t easy be finishing almost 15 seconds clear of the factory version.
One to remember
Whichever way you look at it, the 2017 MotoGP season has been one to remember and whilst 2016 was certainly good, this year was even better. Close racing occurred at every round, fortunes ebbed and flowed throughout, new names ran at the front and there was little to choose between either the riders or the manufacturers.
The Michelin tyres too meant that the riders always had a question mark over how well they’d perform and that unknown factor kept everyone on their toes. For race fans, it was spectacle at each and every round and the show and entertainment on offer was of grade A standard. Roll on 2018!
Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.