The last race of a Moto GP season is always special. things become a way more intriguing when there are riders are still scrapping over the spoils, battling for titles, for positions, for honour. There is much at stake at Valencia: a Moto3 title, second place in the Moto GP and Moto2 championships, and the team championship in Moto GP. Above all, though, there is victory, the glory of joining the elite band of Grand Prix winners. At the end of the day, that is what motivates motorcycle racers most on any given Sunday.
The most important race at Valencia is the race which is first, but with the most at stake. On Sunday, Jack Miller and Alex Marquez will slug it out for the 2014 Moto3 World Championship. The race at Sepang set up a fantastic season finale, with Miller riding an intimidating race to cut Marquez' championship lead. Just 11 points separate the two men, putting Marquez easily within reach of the Australian. But Miller will need help: it is not enough for him to win, he also needs to put a few riders between himself and the Estrella Galicia Honda of Marquez. As Miller found out at Sepang, that risks letting someone else slip ahead of him, making his quest even more difficult.
The math is relatively simple. Those 11 points would be enough for Miller to take the title, the Australian already having more wins than the younger Marquez. That means finishing ahead of the Estrella Galicia Honda, but above all, keeping him off the podium. A 3rd place finish would be enough for Marquez to lift the title, even if Miller were to win the race. Things get more difficult if Miller doesn't win: if he finishes second, then 6th will do for Marquez; if Miller ends in 3rd, then 11th will be sufficient for the Spaniard. If Miller doesn't get a top five finish, then his title ambitions are gone.
For Alex Marquez, the goal is clear. At the special press conference held on Thursday, where the two protagonists from Moto3 sat uneasily together, Marquez junior kept repeating his sole aim: finish on the podium. Though honor dictates that he attempts to win, a podium would be more than enough. Underlining the awkward situation between the two, Marquez also insisted that his goal was to become champion "with fair play."
With the titles settled in both Moto2 and Moto GP, the battle there is mainly for second. In Moto2, Mika Kallio has a 15 point advantage over Maverick Viñales, and is close to wrapping up a Marc VDS Racing one-two with Tito Rabat. Though Viñales has been getting stronger as the season nears its close, Kallio still has the wherewithal to keep his grip on second. A 5th place will be sufficient to secure the runner up spot for the Finnish veteran. Given Viñales recent run of form, the Spaniard has to be favourite for victory, though he may have to contend with Tito Rabat again, now that the pressure of securing a title has eased.
In Moto GP, the race for second is a little closer. Valentino Rossi leads his teammate Jorge Lorenzo by 12 points, meaning that Lorenzo has to win with Rossi finishing off the podium if the Spaniard is to take second from the Italian. That is not impossible, given that both Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa are traditionally strong here. Making it even more feasible is the fact that Lorenzo dominated the race here in 2013, when he put on a brave final stand trying to prevent Marquez from taking his first title. Rossi himself has often struggled here: his last win at the circuit dates from 2004, while his last podium was back in 2010.
Valencia also sees the return of Suzuki to Moto GP, first as a wildcard during the race, then full time on Monday when the test begins. Randy De Puniet makes his return to Moto GP at Valencia, but he was quick to downplay any expectations of results. He had spent his time only working as a test rider, and did not have any race rhythm, the Frenchman said. Valencia was his first race of the season, while the rest of the field had a full season of racing under their belts. Given the gap to the front runners during testing, it could be a tough weekend for Suzuki and De Puniet. From Monday, however, a new era beckons, with two young riders. Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales begin work at the test.
Another bike is to make its debut at Valencia. Hiroshi Aoyama is to race the Honda RC213V-RS at the final round of the year, rather than the RCV1000R he has ridden all season. It is part of Aoyama's new role as test rider for Honda, which he will take on for next season. It will also allow HRC to give the new bike, which replaces the RCV1000R production racer in the Open category in 2015, a proper shakedown at a race weekend. From Monday, Aoyama will hand the bike over to Nicky Hayden and Karel Abraham, who will share the machine during the test. Newcomers Jack Miller and Eugene Laverty can get acquainted with Moto GP on the old production racer, the new bike only being available for all of the riders at Sepang.
That means Valencia will be the first time we will be able to evaluate the bike which is to replace Honda's production racer. The RC213V-RS is basically the factory RC213V bike, but without the seamless gearbox and with the Open class spec electronics. With Aoyama on the new bike, we will get a good idea of just how much improvement the faster bike will mean for the Open class Honda riders. Hayden, Laverty, Abraham and Jack Miller will all be hoping it is quick enough to get close to the satellite machines. By Friday, we will have a much clearer picture of the future of Moto GP.