MotoGP’s traditional Valenciana finalé, in years like this, resembles a boxing match in which the undercards are vaguely entertaining, and the main event is moved from late Saturday night to Tuesday afternoon and closed to the public. Sure, it would still be great to have a ticket. Even with all three championships decided, you could still get solidly buzzed, maybe work on your tan, and stoke a few adrenaline rushes of your own for your €100. Get your picture taken with a bunch of bored fashion models, too.

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Just two points separate Valentino Rossi (195) and Maverick Viñales (193) for third in the standings. Marc Marquez’s title is secured while Andrea Dovizioso holds the tiebreaker should Rossi match him at 220 points.

There’s teammates Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales battling for rear grip and third place; we’re picking Rossi, who can do more with less than Viñales. You’ve got Álex Rins, Johann Zarco and Danilo Petrucci locked in an interesting joust for fifth which Rins will win, setting off a mild celebration in my kitchen. Alvaro Bautista may be auditioning for 2020. Franco Morbidelli appears to be a lock for Rookie of the Year. And guys always want to win races, so there will be plenty of hair-raising action, if not as much urgency. Still, at 180 mph, it’s never really dull.

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Marc Marquez received a hero’s welcome in his hometown of Cevera, Spain.

With three classes competing, and a dizzying array of sub-championships to be awarded – team, constructor, color scheme, catering, brolly girls – trying to provide an overview would turn this into a term paper. As we used to claim in grad school, giddy, smugly, “Such questions are, unfortunately, beyond the scope of this paper.” Look ’em up and share with the group.

Recent History

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Marc Marquez stayed on Jorge Lorenzo’s tail for much of the 2015 race in Valencia but never seriously challenged him.

No one who reads this stuff is likely to forget the 2015 season finale, at which Jorge Lorenzo won from pole while his loathed championship rival and “teammate” Rossi, having been penalized for his encounter with Marc Marquez in Sepang two weeks prior, was forced to start from the back of the grid and could only (only!) make his way back to fourth place at the finish. There was additional controversy as to why the Repsol Honda team, especially Marquez, appeared to ride as wingmen for Lorenzo, never seriously challenging him over the last few laps. Rossi fans will never get over 2015. And so it goes.

Two years ago, Lorenzo was anxious for a win in his final race for Yamaha, wanting to go out on top after a difficult season. Marquez wanted to cap off his third premier class title with an exclamation point, as well as to avoid an awkward podium celebration. Jorge ended up winning the race, Marquez secured the title, and the podium celebration was awkward; the Spanish national anthem blaring in the background, Lorenzo over-celebrating and Marquez looking somewhat abashed, as if he, the 2017 world champion, were crashing Lorenzo’s party, along with Andrea Iannone who was, in fact, crashing Lorenzo’s party.

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When you realize too late the party had a dress code.

Last year, we at MO had been chanting the mantra, “Let Valencia Decide” since March. With the title unsettled heading into the November weekend, the opportunity for a riveting finale existed (if only mathematically), Marquez holding a 21-point lead over Ducati pilot Andrea Dovizioso as the riders lined up on the grid. The math caught up with Dovi on Lap 25 when, desperate to get past insubordinate teammate Jorge Lorenzo, he ran hot into Turn 8, ultimately laying his GP17 down gently in the gravel. And so the 2017 championship, having been essentially decided some weeks earlier, concluded, as usual, at Valencia, with Pedrosa, Zarco and Marquez on the podium. In all likelihood it was Dani Pedrosa’s last career MotoGP win.

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Dani Pedrosa last tasted victory in last year’s Valencia race. Dani will be a sentimental favorite to do it one more time this weekend in what will be his final MotoGP race.

Finishing Strong – Points Since Silverstone

Constantly looking for ways to shore up my passive-aggressive support of Álex Rins and Suzuki, I thought we could take a look at point totals since the cluster at Silverstone. I’ve taken the liberty of removing Marquez and his 120 points from the mix to add to the illusion.

Conclusions? None. Suggestions? Plenty.

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In the six rounds since the cancelled Silverstone race, Álex Rins has been entrenched into the top six including two podiums.

Rins says the new engine he received at Assen made a difference; the numbers support that. (Iannone has benefited from the change, too.) Bautista has been punching above his weight on a Ducati GP17. Petrucci is saving himself for the factory money. Cal Crutchlow is on IR, and Dani has been reduced to a sentimental favorite. As the current crop of Aliens, excluding #93, begins to age out, who will be the New Kids in Town in the next few years? Names like Mir, Bagnaia, Martin and Bezzechi would be my guess. These four, especially, seem to be highly upwardly-mobile. Careers in the ascendancy, as it were. [The winner of this year’s Pithy Quote award is herein foreshadowed; it is the abridged lyrics to a ’70s song. Hint: MO wouldn’t post it in 2011.]

Several talented riders who will be working for KTM during this period might appear above, were it not for two small words pertaining to its MotoGP program:

  1. Over.
  2. Rated.

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Dani Pedrosa may be retiring from racing but he still has a lot of work ahead of him as KTM’s official testing and development rider.

Further, I think it entirely possible that Suzuki could, so to speak, overtake Yamaha for #2 in the constructors’ championship once they secure a satellite team. (Loyal readers will recognize much of the preceding as a feeble attempt to generate controversy late in the season.) These days, Suzuki is doing more with less than Big Bad Blue. Those of you with long memories will recall Bautista riding for Suzuki back in the day. Wouldn’t it be cool to see that again in 2020.

Your Weekend Forecast

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If it turns out to be wet race, then why NOT Hafizh Syahrin?

The long-range forecast for the greater Valencia area over the weekend calls for Silverstone-like conditions, temps in the 60s and “light” rain in the area all three days. If the forecast holds, those of you with imaginary bookies might consider giving them an imaginary call and placing a small imaginary wager on a rider like Jack Miller or Danilo Petrucci or even, at the right odds, Hafizh Syahrin to win on Sunday. A flag-to-flag finale with so many riders injured or otherwise unconcerned about the outcome could provide an opportunity for substantial imaginary returns on some, um, dark horses. Like Johann Zarco… Or Álex Rins…

Dani Pedrosa…

Valentino Rossi…

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Since Dani Pedrosa entered MotoGP in 2006, he and Valentino Rossi have combined for 67 wins and 127 podium finishes. Here’s hoping these old dogs will battle it out one more time.

In the autumn of 2018, the height of The Marquez Era, the 2018 title securely stashed away, a number of riders entertain semi-realistic hopes of winning the Grand Prix of Valencia. But until Marquez clinches a title, he has become viewed as mostly unassailable. He wrestles the quick, fractious Honda RC213V into submission and will beat you if he’s able. He has learned patience and the right time to attack. He does not back away from contact. He makes saves on a routine basis that leave other riders shaking their heads. He’s 25 years old.

We’ll return Sunday with results, analysis and epilogue. BTW, I peeked at the 2018 Season Preview, preparing for the 2018 Report Card, and found myself to be pretty much dead on with the notable exception of #26, who wrecked my bracket. Otherwise, had it pretty much nailed. Lorenzo DNFs and DNSs killed his season. Petrucci won his factory seat for 2019 and nothing else afterwards. Whatever. Plenty of good reasons to watch the race on Sunday and argue about it here.