Dovi wins two-part race as Espargaro claims first KTM podium

A dramatic season finale saw 'Race 1' red-flagged as Ducati rider claims P1 after re-start, Rins takes P2 and Espargaro gets emotional P3

Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) claimed the final MotoGP™ victory of 2018 at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana finish ahead of Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) in a hugely dramatic two-part race. The red flags came out after 14 laps as heavy rain fell, with several riders crashing out of contention, including World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) – riders ok.

In ‘Race 1’, from second on the line, Rins got the holeshot and produced a stunning opening lap – the Spaniard 1.7 ahead as the field crossed the line, with Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) getting a good start in P2, before Dovizioso used the Desmosedici grunt to get by on the straight. Meanwhile, Pol Espargaro had got off to a flyer from P6, getting the better of Marquez and Viñales but it was all about Rins – the Suzuki decimating the field to lead by over three seconds after three laps.

However, the rain was relentless and track conditions were deteriorating, leading to several crashes. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) were both fallers at Turn 3, as Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) and Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) also crashed out. Drama then happened at the front. Espargaro crashed out of P4 at Turn 3, he was able to re-join, with 2018 World Champion Marquez then crashing on the same lap – Turn 9 the corner, with the Spaniard thankfully walking away without looking in too much pain with his shoulder. However, the seven-time Champion was unable to remount.  

After a chaotic couple of laps, Rossi was now sitting in P3 behind race leader Rins – whose lead was now 2.2 – and Dovizioso, with teammate Viñales in hot pursuit of ‘The Doctor’. But then, on lap 13, Viñales suffered a huge crash at Turn 13 as the rain continued to hammer down – rider ok, with Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) also crashing on the same lap at Turn 8 – the Italian out of a career-best P5.

It was nothing but a race of attrition at this point as Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) then crashed at Turn 13 but Dovi and Rossi were closing in on Rins, the gap now down to nothing. The duo then got the better of Rins after the Spaniard was wide at Turn 11 but as the leaders crossed the line, ‘DesmoDovi’ raised his hand and the race was red-flagged on lap 14.

With three-quarter race distance not completed, a 14-lap race was scheduled with only the riders who were classified on lap 13 allowed to re-start, with their positions on lap 13 deciding the order of the grid. A quick re-start procedure was announced and pitlane was open at 15:00 local time for 60 seconds as the 16 riders made their way to the grid – Rins on pole, Dovi P2, Rossi P3 and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) P4 on his swansong ride.

The front row held station as the lights went out for ‘Race 2’ and all 16 riders safely negotiated the opening exchanges, with Rins leading. However, Dovizioso was once again able to get the power down on his GP18 to power past Rins heading onto lap 2 – Rossi in close pursuit. The three leaders quickly gapped fourth place Espargaro by 2.9, Pedrosa tucked in behind the KTM in P5.

The rain was once again starting to fall and conditions were still incredibly treacherous as the leading trio were all lapping in the low 1:43s – two seconds quicker than anyone else as it soon became a three horse race for the final win of 2018.

On lap 6, Dovizioso pulled the pin to create a one-second gap back to Rins – a 1:49.921 creating that gap, with 1.5 now splitting the trio. Another fastest lap then followed for Dovi, as Rossi made his move past Rins at Turn 4 – 1.5 the gap to his compatriot with eight to go. However, with six to go, the gap was up to 2.4 and a lap later, Dovizioso’s lead was over three seconds. But then, ‘The Doctor’ was down at Turn 12 – rider ok, lifting Espargaro and KTM up to a podium place.

Everyone held firm and it was last lap time; Dovi’s advantage was four seconds to Rins as both safely waded their way to the finish line – Dovi taking his first win since Misano, Rins grabbing a fifth podium of the year to claim P5 in the Championship. Then, emotional scenes followed as Espargaro kept Michele Pirro (Ducati Team) at bay to take his and KTM’s maiden MotoGP™ podium – phenomenal from rider and factory alike after the number 44 rider had crashed in 'Race 1'.  

Behind Pirro came a new MotoGP™ Legend: Pedrosa. The ‘Little Samurai’ taking home a hard-earned P5 from his farewell Grand Prix ride on home soil as he helped Repsol Honda secure the triple crown. Behind the three-time Champion was fellow Honda rider Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), the Japanese rookie taking home a career-best P6, with Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) taking 2018 Independent Team rider honours after crossing the line in P7. The Frenchman held off Smith, who grabs his best KTM result on his final ride for the team.  

Replacement rider Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda Castrol) crossed the line in P9, with Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) rounding out the top ten – a great ride, but not enough to beat Morbidelli to ‘Rookie of the Year’. On his final Grand Prix appearance, Scott Redding (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) claimed a season-best P11, with Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) bringing his Ducati career to an end with a battling P12. Rossi remounted to ride to P13, P3 in the Championship is the nine-time World Champion’s, with Karel Abraham (Angel Nieto Team) and Jordi Torres (Reale Avintia Racing) claiming the final point-scoring positions.

Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) crashed out of his final Grand Prix race with seven to go – rider ok.

Well, what a sensational end to the 2018 MotoGP™ World Championship. Who could have predicted that? Another magnificent season draws to a close but you haven’t got long to wait before 2019 begins – cast your eyes on on Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st of November to catch the first 2019 preseason tests begin. 

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