Unstoppable. Merciless Marc Marquez seals off his record-breaking season with yet more of them in the final round at Valencia
The 2019 world champion’s 12th win of the year not only netted a new lap record, but also a record points score (420) and a record winning points margin (151).
Even he said “it’s not normal like this. It’s been my best season so far. Maybe it will be the best in my career.”
He had also, virtually single-handed, won the teams’ prize against the two race-winning Ducati riders, giving the Repsol team and the Honda factory a third successive triple crown.
The 26-year-old Spanish racing genius had tied up the riders’ title with four races to spare, and the constructors’ one race later in Japan. The final prize went to the climax … but with Andrea Dovizioso fourth and Ducati team-mate Danilo Petrucci one of many to crash out in treacherously cold conditions, and with retiring team-mate Jorge Lorenzo contributing a final three points, the Repsol team ended up 13 points ahead.
The only race to run full distance in an incident-packed day at a cold and windswept Ricardo Tormo circuit outside Valencia was equally eventful, with a number of crashes on a surface that made it difficult to keep temperature in the tyres, dual-compound notwithstanding.
Making the finish was in itself something of an achievement; while securing a lap record in the process all the more impressive. “It was a difficult weekend. We were trying many different things [preparing for the post-race 2020-bike tests] and working very, very hard,” said Marquez. “My goal was to win the race and the team championship. It was a perfect season. It will be very difficult to repeat. But now is the time to celebrate.”
Fabio Quartararo had put the satellite Petronas Yamaha on pole for the sixth time this year, with Marquez and Jack Miller’s Pramac Ducati alongside.
Miller had predicted he would lead away thanks to the Ducati’s hole-shot device, though “I’d rather not. I’ll leave a gap.”
As he’d promised, he led into the first corner, but at the second Quartararo took advantage of his offer, while Marquez was caught up in a melee, finishing the first lap fifth, behind also Alex Rins’s Ecstar Suzuki, after a rocket-ship launch from the third row, and Andrea Dovizioso’s Ducati, up from the second.
By the end of lap two, however, he was in a position to duck inside Miller for second into the final corner. At that point, Quartararo was seven tenths clear. Now began a patient pursuit, the Honda a couple of tenths closer ever lap.
Marc set a new record on the fourth lap, and inching ever closer to the Yamaha.
The attack came through the turn ten-eleven switch on lap eight, and from there the order of the front three wouldn’t change. But the drama wasn’t done.
Miller was fighting the gusty wind, and that gave Rins an early chance to pull alongside. “I managed to shove him back,” said the Australian. But he was gradually losing ground on Quartararo, while from lap five Dovizioso’s factory Ducati was on his back wheel, looking poised to attach as the tyres dropped.
It didn’t work like that. Instead Miller started to close on Quartararo over the last eight laps, while the gap to Dovi was creeping towards one second, and the older rider was busy keeping himself ahead of Rins.
“The last eight laps were the longest of my life,” said Miller. Quartararo was looming ahead, but the wind was giving him many scares, and he kept the risk factor down and accepted third. “I feel I’ve matured into the role,” he said, of his fifth podium of the year.
At the finish, Marquez was barely a second ahead of Quartararo, and the Ducati just over a second away from the Yamaha.
Was Quartararo disappointed at another race with the win out of reach? His response was emphatic. “No! I said yesterday I knew I was fast for qualifying, but Marc and Maverick had better race pace. Before this year many people said I was not ready for this seat, and I really wanted to prove them wrong.”
Vinales was never in the picture, again dropping back from the beginning with the return of his mystifying poor early pace, and he only inherited sixth after second Petronas Yamaha rider Franco Morbidelli, who had passed him on lap three, crashed out ahead of him with nine laps to go. He was six second away from Rins, and only two ahead of Joan Mir on the second Ecstar Suzuki.
Monster Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi had an even worse afternoon, finishing eighth another 12 seconds out of touch, and also promoted by crashes ahead of him, in his case Danilo Petrucci (Ducati).
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Castrol Honda) had already fallen on lap nine, shortly after passing Rossi, losing the front under braking for the first corner.
Petrucci’s fall later round the lap on lap 14 signalled a drop in temperature or perhaps dirt on the track. More than five seconds behind him, Johann Zarco (LCR Idemitsu Honda) followed suit with a copy-cat crash, then a similar distance away also first-timer Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM). Lecuona’s bike rocketed into Zarco as he walked away, sending him somersaulting backwards, lucky to escape injury.
Another ten seconds behind Rossi the two Aprilia riders, Andrea Iannone and Aleix Espargaro, were engaged with Pol Espargaro’s factory KTM for almost the entire race. Iannone paid the price of the conditions, slipping off on the last lap, and Aleix managed to stay ahead of the KTM by a quarter of a second.
The attrition promoted the back-markers. Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Ducati) had caught and passed a fading Mika Kallio (Red Bull KTM) for 11th with four laps to go.
A cautious Jorge Lorenzo completed the last race of his illustrious career in a safe and lonely 13th, to the applause of crowd and pit lane, earning three points to help the Repsol Honda team’s acquisition of the championship.
Abraham and Syahrin were spaced out behind, in the points, and the last finishers. Michele Pirro (Ducati) had been an early retirement.
Marquez (420) and Dovizioso (269) were already set for the title. Vinales did enough to retain third from Rins, 211 to 205; then Quartararo (192) was fifth.