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Morbidelli: "Taking risks was key to the Championship"

Franky has relaxed: the new Champion talks 2017, taking his place in the Italian hall of fame and what he expects in the premier class

After taking the crown last time out, Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) sat down with ahead of the season finale in Valencia - his last race in the intermediate class before moving to MotoGP™ - to talk about the title, the highs and lows and the future. After a stunning season including eight wins so far, 'Franky' can now relax - although it wasn't the traditional showdown when the Italian wrapped up the crown.

In the end, key rival Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) was declared unfit following a crash on Saturday at Sepang, and that meant Morbidelli’s 29 point advantage was enough to secure the title. He was told during morning Warm Up that he was confirmed as the Champion – but says it only really sunk in after the race.

"It was a fantastic Sunday, though it was a bit weird to win it like that, in the sense of it not being the most adrenaline-fueled way,” says Morbidelli. “But I'm happy. I didn’t really feel like the Champion until I saw the chequered flag. It was a great emotion, a dream came true.”

Morbidelli is now amongst some very famous names on the list of Italian World Champions, including Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) - whose VR46 Riders Academy he is part of – and the late Marco Simoncelli. "It's beautiful,” is how the Italian describes taking his place on that list. “It’s something that lasts a lifetime, and that's what makes me happiest. I can say, maybe when I stop, that I won a title. That’s really satisfying."

On how he did it, Morbidelli believes one of the keys to the crown is his willingness to take risks: "I think I've been taking risks, a lot of them and often. In the sense that I won so many races at the beginning more easily and then as the season has gone on it has always been more and more difficult to get first. But anyway, I kept doing everything without doing too many calculations. I think this has been one of the keys to the Championship.”

So with eight wins so far, which was the best? The Marc VDS rider finds it easy to choose – Assen. Why? "It was a key part of the Championship where Lüthi and I were very close in the standings,” explains the Italian. “And we fought for the win on the last lap, and I won. I got a bit of an advantage in the Championship but above all, I managed to beat him in our first direct battle. That was very satisfying, and the win had more weight."

The worst is also an easy decision – crashing out on home turf at Misano in the rain. But since the middle of last season, when Morbidelli became a podium regular, the Italian has made few mistakes. He says there was no real turning point, he just tries to improve every time on the bike. “I try to improve myself every time. We have come to a point where our improvement has been so much that we started to fight for first position every weekend. We reached this level in the middle of last season, and fortunately for us, we haven't fallen off it."

 Now it’s the next challenge: the premier class. And before his debut, Morbidelli says he doesn’t have any concrete target further than adaptation.

"It is difficult to have a goal without ever having tried the bike,” explains the Italian. “The first thing, however, is to understand the prototype and how to ride it, to understand it quickly but also to understand how to express myself on the bike. Then, with regard to a target in terms of positions, I can’t say anything; I have no idea how it will go. I expect a lot of power. My first laps on a MotoGP bike will definitely be an experience to remember.”

They will come on Tuesday at the Valencia post-race test, when the first shoots of 2018 begin to appear. Next to him in the box should be Lüthi, but with the injury sustained at Sepang the Swiss rider is forced to sit it out. Morbidelli says it will be interesting to graduate alongside Lüthi once the runner up is back in action, as he gets to observe the experienced veteran up close. But first, it’s time for Morbidelli’s last mission in Moto2™ - a win in his final race.