End Of An Era: Valentino Rossi Retires, Ducati Achieve a Lockout Podium Finish & Remy Gardner Moto2 World Champion!
Author: Myanna Wedes
It is the end of an era, with the retirement and last race of Valentino Rossi concluding with a top ten finish and bidding farewell to the sport that made him a master of two wheels. “The Doctor” has left the surgery and been crowned a MotoGP legend. It was an emotional race to watch as the laps unfolded, knowing that Rossi was going to hang up the leathers from professional two wheel racing although he was fast and put on an impressive display racing against his fellow rivals and also riders he has helped grow into professional athletes in the sport of MotoGP including Pecco Bagnaia and Franco Morbidelli just to name two standouts who have very close relationships with the Italian multi World Champion. Rossi has built an empire within the sport and allowed so many younger riders to have careers through his success, inspiration, support and guidance. It was a nice way for the Yamaha rider to sign off from the sport. Overall, the race was electric between the Ducati and Suzuki riders swapping positions and of course drama, as Alex Rins, the one who could have thrown a spanner at the Ducati teams to upset their rhythm, managed to crash out once again from a front running position. The result was devastating, with Suzuki fully aware that their chances of winning the race were gone as Joan Mir started off strong, then lost touch with the Ducati riders and eventually struggled to regain the ground he lost. If Rins did not crash, who knows what could have eventuated especially with his outstanding tyre conservation skills. The only one who could have charged and pushed Bagnaia, Jack Miller and Jorge Martin to the edge would have been Rins. It was unfortunate, though we certainly enjoyed watching the Suzuki rider’s entry and exit corner speeds as they slid like motocross style. Poetry in motion! The sliding of Mir reminded us of Casey Stoner who was trackside once again completing some television commentary whilst inside the Ducati garages with both Miller and Bagnaia sharing insight, guidance and cementing his expert knowledge as a potential rider coach. Everyone would love to have Stoner by their side because he was a technical yet reactive rider and knew how to tweak the bike to gain the best advantages possible from track to track. Stoner may just be back to share knowledge or rather enjoying himself after being stuck in lockdown in Australia for so long and making the most of the freedom to travel whilst working.
In comparison, the Moto2 race was a nail biter, with Remy Gardener securing the World Championship in the class of Moto2, the first trophy holder since Casey Stoner in 2011 and also one of the only other Father/Son rider relationships to achieve the glory with Wayne Gardner so proud of his son for pushing past the adversity, hard times, negative press and challenges to become a success. Gardner played it smart in the race though it was not easy considering his title rival and teammate ended up only four points away from the crown. We are very excited to see both Raul Fernandez and Gardner as teammates in 2021 on board the KTM machines with Herve Poncharal guiding them with the departure of Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona. The dynamics of KTM and Ducati for 2022 are looking superb and no doubt they will be contenders to fight hard especially with eight (8) Ducati’s lining up on the grid next year! The progression of Moto2 World Champions into MotoGP has been excellent and we have are 100% certain that Gardner and Fernandez will be major assets to the KTM package as Brad Binder had a quality yet up and down season and Miguel Oliveira in the second half of the season has been quite problematic with lack of pace, positivity and did not appear emotionally charged enough to win. KTM want answers and they like Suzuki will not wait around for a rider to improve if the bike is capable of winning, podiums and quality points finishes. Oliveira has been told to pull his socks up, put the boots on and go fast.
We are sad to see Petrucci leave the paddock, one of the nicest guys in the family MotoGP circle and a real hard worker. It was not an ideal Valencia race with him riding at the back of the pack, though his presence on the grid always puts a smile on people’s faces. In fact, moments before the start of the race, some Ducati personnel hugged Petrucci and he was already crying. A quality rider whose adventures with Toby Price in the Dakar will be awesome to watch unfold. We wish both Petrucci and Lecuona all the best with their new jobs knowing that some incredible battles of the past will be replayed for those to enjoy over the years to come. Who knows, we may see Lecuona back on the grid if the stars align as he is a quality rider and still young enough to return.
“I didn’t expect that it could be a weekend like this. I was very worried for this weekend because I didn’t know how I felt and there was a lot of pressure with many things to do. It was fantastic, I received a lot of positive energy from all the people in the paddock and I had a lot of great surprises: from seeing all my bikes on Thursday, to all the VR46 Academy riders with my helmets today. I’m also happy because I was able to be strong in both Qualifying yesterday and in the race today, finishing in the top-ten. I enjoyed it a lot and it was the best way to finish. I am in the top ten best riders in the world and it means everything, because this result will never change. I also enjoyed the celebrations after the race. It was a long career and I want to say thanks to everybody.”
“I’m lost for words. After so many years of suffering and so many points in my career where I thought ‘I’m not good enough, I’m not gonna make it’ we did it. This is a dream come true and I want to thank everyone who believed in me when others didn’t. I still cannot believe this has happened. I so grateful to be here.”
“A huge thank you to everybody, everybody in KTM, everybody in Tech3 and generally everyone, who has been working with me. We tried our best. In this race, I just tried to enjoy until the last moment. I’m really thankful for everything. Now it’s time to rest a bit.”
“I’m happy with where we finished in the championship and the race was a lot harder than I expected. I thought I’d be stronger and, unfortunately, I was missing a little in a few places and the gap was too much to make-up in some corners. It was a tough race but I tried my absolute best from lap one to the end. I have to leave here happy because I left it all on the table. It has been my most consistent year and a level-up. I have to thank the team. Even though we had some tough times they never stopped working. 6th in the championship is good and now five to go.”
“I knew it was going to be difficult today but we made it into the points. My pace wasn’t fantastic and I struggled a bit with the front tire. Overall, it wasn’t our best race and we have to take motivation into the winter test that starts next week and keep working for the future.”
The Rookie Of The Year title was also crowned with Pramac Ducati MotoGP rider Martin winning the honour. What an absolute machine to come back after such a horror leg injury earlier into the season and to showcase his talent plus secure a bright future with the Ducati squad. For us, Martin was ride of the day purely based on the fact that 24 hours prior he was vomiting and did not eat any food leading up the race. He pushed beyond the emotional, mental and physical barriers in order to race, finish on the podium and did not sleep from 10:00 PM the night before until 5:00 AM on race day. Those who want to be in the sport will do what it takes and at times this extreme level and sacrifice is what creates World Champions. To the Martinator, everyone is truly impressed at the level of commitment you displayed on and off track especially at the last race of the season where others can switch off and cruise over the line, aiming to start 2022 before the end of 2021.
With such a dynamic lockout podium, Ducati are finally showcasing their strengths and with a pack of riders gunning for the title, they are looking at 2022 with a whole new light after such a quality 2021 season with Bagnaia, Miller, Martin and at times Johann Zarco. The final race was a quality one for both leading Ducati riders, in particular, Miller decided on a strategy that worked to achieve a podium result though could have also been a couple of laps too late. Regardless, he was able to stand on the step and celebrate which is far sweeter than falling behind because of tyre issues. The Australian rider adapted a new strategy and that was to conserve the tyres in order to be punchy towards the middle and end of the race. Luckily for Miller, he made the right call at the right time to push instead of being swallowed up into the middle of the pack where errors can cause frustration. We are so excited to see the Bologna Bullet’s in 2022 and what they have up their sleeves to chase for a World Championship because they have been working tirelessly in order to achieve that greatness.
"I'm thrilled with the victory today. To win wearing Valentino Rossi's helmet was incredible and the best way to celebrate his last race. Today's success was incredible, and now we know we are ready to fight for the riders' title next year. During this season, we have improved the bike's setup race after race, and at the end of 2021, the Desmosedici GP has become very strong, as well as its riders. We have a very good base for next year, and I hope to start as we finish. We have gained a lot of experience, and we have grown a lot! The team is unbelievable, and the atmosphere inside the garage is amazing! I'm really happy, and I thank Ducati for all this".
"I'm delighted, even though I would have liked to have achieved something more today. Unfortunately, I lost some time at the start and had to recover to get back in the fight for the podium. It was a good race, and I had a lot of fun. Valencia is a track I really like, and it's nice to finish the season like this. It's the first time three Ducatis have finished on the podium, and it's great to be part of this important achievement. I'm sure our bike will be even better next year, so I'm looking forward to the 2022 season and trying to fight for the riders' title. This year we finish fourth, and it is my best result ever in the MotoGP Championship, so I hope to do even better next year."
“I couldn’t have asked for more. We finished what was a difficult race for me, with an important podium. It has been an incredible year, filled with both highs and lows, from which we have come to stronger than ever. I would like to thank my team, Ducati, and my family.”
The last two races for Yamaha have not been ideal and in particular, the new World Champion Fabio Quartararo. There was such a lack of pace both in the qualifying sessions and race overall. Questions will be asked as to why the French rider was slow and suffering considering how hard he raced in order to bag the title. The support network of Morbidelli needs to speed up because a lone wolve opens themselves up to attack if they are not able to rely on the double results as a team. We must always remember that MotoGP is a team sport and that a rider Championship is just one key element. Teams want to win just as much as the riders.
The main rivals for Yamaha next year are Ducati considering that Honda is already on the back foot with injury: Marc Marquez with his double vision and Pol Espargaro suffering a nasty high side that left him on the sidelines and trying to be fit for the upcoming testing schedule. Every team can have their ups and downs. Right now, Honda are the ones suffering and we so desperately hope to see Marquez back fighting fit. For now, we have to be patient as his injury is a complex one. As we progress with a new generation of riders, the fear levels are minimal with so many riders not worried about what happens when they fall off the bikes and more worried about who they need to beat in order to succeed. It is a mine field of psychological fitness in order to stay ahead of the competition.
“To be honest, I’m satisfied because we were in a bad situation when we started on Friday morning, but we achieved quite a great pace today. We changed the bike in Warm Up this morning and that made it a bit better. It wasn’t easy, but we achieved something that’s pretty great. I wanted to have fun today more than wanting a good result, and I had fun today. So, I’m super happy, because even if it wasn’t the perfect weekend I hoped for, we were able to get a top-5 result. I enjoyed the race, and we finished the season in a good way.”
“I was lucky enough to enjoy Valentino’s last laps for the whole way as I was riding behind him. I feel really lucky for that. Before the race, I wanted to stay as far as possible from him. I didn’t want to be involved in anything that could upset his final race, but when I found myself behind him, I just enjoyed it. I tried to push him and stay behind him. It was really, really fast, and difficult to overtake. At the end of the race, he made a step also, he accelerated his pace – it was just amazing! I feel really lucky, and it was a really nice race.”
With regards to pace and improving, Andrea Dovizioso is shaping up as a good bet for Yamaha and with the new team from 2022, plus a rookie teammate with Darryn Binder jumping up to the task. Dovi will be the leading rider once again so we are going to watch him with interest to see what he can create within the team. In addition to this, Cal Crutchlow is remaining on as a Yamaha test rider, whilst Marco Bezzecchi and Luca Marini have been announced as VR46 riders for his MotoGP team next year. We expect big things from these two as “The Doctor” invests in their talent.
“We were much closer than we have been in other races today, so I’m happy to finish the season with that speed. We also worked well to improve the bike under braking, which meant I could take different lines. It was good for me that I could follow ‘Vale’ [Rossi] and Franco [Morbidelli] to learn how they ride the Yamaha, as they are very experienced with it. I’m very happy with today and it was a good way to finish the season.
To be a team-mate of Rossi was strange, as I have always been in different teams to him, but it has been enjoyable. I tried to beat him but he was very strong and he always has something more to give in a race. It has been really nice to share the box with him at his final round and I feel lucky to have been part of it.”
Finally, the team with so much more to give is Suzuki. Both riders are frustrated, one for crashing and the other for a lack of performance. Mir is very critical of the team because he wants more and that is fair enough, he is the 2020 World Champion after all. The last race was meant to be one where Suzuki were on the podium and this did not eventuate. Instead, they have a rider fail once again by crashing out whose contract will be on notice as other riders look to jump at the opportunity to work for the Japanese manufacturer and another one whereby his frustration is being felt across the paddock. With so many gaps in their armour, Suzuki have to improve at a rapid pace if they are to be title contenders in the new season with a dynamic grid already set to ride with strength.
“Well, I don’t know where to start; I’m really disappointed because I didn’t expect this feeling during the race; I thought today could be our day because I had strong pace all throughout the weekend, but when it came to the race it was different and I struggled with the front. In the end the most I could do was fourth. It’s not the way I wanted the race to go, I want to be fighting for the podium every time, and especially here. I’m third in the championship, which is something after a tricky season for us. Let’s look towards Jerez…”
“It has been an unlucky race for us here in Valencia, for sure it’s a big shame to end the season like this. Because I had the pace and I was running well, but I made a mistake. I was very slightly off-line and that’s what caused the crash, when that moment happened I knew I might crash - in the end it can be like that, but I’m disappointed. We’ll look at the data and then I’ll start to focus on the test, we’ll go to Jerez next week to try next year’s bike and our goal is to fight again in 2022.”
Be sure to keep an eye on the testing schedule taking place on 18th and 19th November at the at the Circuit de Jerez - Angel Nieto. Who is your pick for the 2022 title?Protect your Motorcycle. Call Shannons Insurance on 13 46 46 to get a quote today.