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Morbidelli beats Miller as Mir becomes 2020 World Champion

In a thrilling Valencia encounter, the victory battle went to the wire as we witness the crowning of a new premier class World Champion

After a seventh place finish at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana that saw Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) beat Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) in a phenomenal last lap battle, Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) is 2020 MotoGP™ World Champion. History is made in MotoGP™ as Suzuki claim their first rider title since 2000, Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) completed the podium. 

Round 14: MotoGP™ Motul Valencia Grand Prix

The eagerly anticipated Valencia GP got underway and as the lights went out, both Morbidelli and Miller got great launches off the line but it was the Australian who grabbed the holeshot. However, Miller was way wide into Turn 1 and that allowed Morbidelli to take the lead heading into the tight Turn 2 as Pol Espagraro propelled himself into P2. And just behind, it was a nightmare start for Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT). The Frenchman was in way too hot and did well to avoid Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Mir, as Quartararo ran wide and dropped the last place.

Mir made a steady start from P12 and was up to P10, as Miller grabbed P2 from Pol Espargaro and locked his radar onto the back of race leader Morbidelli. Elsewhere, Rins had made a fantastic start from P14 to slot himself into P8 – crucial for the Spaniard. Miller set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 2 as he shadowed Morbidelli, but on the next two laps, it was Morbidelli who was slightly quicker. The Italian was in the groove but the gap wasn’t rising too much at this point.

First words of a World Champion: "I've achieved my dream"

Further back on the road, Rins was entangled in a battle with Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) and attempted a move at the final corner. Rins ran wide and the GP19 bullet cruised past Rins on the straight, however, heading into Turn 1, Zarco asked too much of the front and went down. Rins was now up to P6 and Lap 6, Mir was P9. As things stood, Mir was World Champion.

Morbidelli was now starting to stretch his legs at the front. On Lap 8 his lead was creeping up and going with Miller was third place Pol Espargaro, with fourth place Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) 1.3 seconds away from his KTM counterpart. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was keeping Rins at bay for now, but the Japanese rider received a track limit warning on Lap 9 – incredibly early to be getting one of those. In P6, Rins was looking – understandably – eager to get through.

From on top of the world in Jerez, Quartararo’s title-chasing season ended on Lap 9. Quartararo tucked the front at Turn 6 from outside the points, the Frenchman was down and out in terms of the World Championship. On track, P9 was ok for Mir but 10th place Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was swiftly reeling him in, with Mir right behind Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini).

"Unbelievable! What a last lap" - MotoGP™ podium first words

On Lap 11, Morbidelli’s lead still wasn’t over a second. Miller and Pol Espargaro were keeping the Italian honest and now, the gap between the orange KTM and Nakagami was coming down, with Rins also now past Oliveira – P5 now for the number 42. Mir then passed Aleix Espargaro for P8 to strengthen his title grip, knowing that Dovizioso was now right on his tail. Lap 12 was then completed and Morbidelli’s lead was now over a second, with Nakagami making slight inroads to Pol Espargaro.

This was incredibly tense. Rins needed a rostrum finish in order to try and take the Championship to Portimao, and it was in sight. On Lap 14, Mir was still in a title-winning position. As things stood, race leader Morbidelli would be 28 points behind with a race to go in second place. But Mir wasn’t breaking clear of Aleix Espargaro and Dovizioso, the trio 1.6 behind Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) in seventh.

Things then started to get very interesting in the podium scrap. Nakagami was lapping four tenths faster than Pol Espargaro and the gap was now down to a second with 12 laps remaining, Rins was 1.5 seconds back from Nakagami and not able to stick with the Honda at that moment in time. It was also getting interesting at the front. Miller had reduced the gap back down to below a second with 11 laps to go, this was far from over. Championship leader check: Mir was still P8, 1.5 seconds behind Binder and over half a second clear of Aleix Espargaro.

Quartararo's dream of becoming 2020 World Champion is over

Miller, on Lap 17, then slammed in a 1:31.378 to set the fastest lap of the race. Sensational from the number 43 who was on the medium front tyre, unlike a lot of the other riders who had gone for the hard. Pol Espargaro had his hands full as Nakagami swarmed in on a maiden MotoGP™ podium, Rins remained P5. Morbidelli then responded to edge his lead up to nine tenths, but the gap was remaining at just under a second.

With nine laps to go, Nakagami went for a pass on Pol Espargaro at the final corner. He had so much more grip around the famous left-hander but Nakagami’s race then ended, the number 30 tucked the front and crashed, narrowly avoiding Pol Espargaro. This was aiding Mir, who moved up to P7.

Something else which would aid Mir was Miller overtaking Morbidelli. The gap was down to 0.6 seconds with eight to go and now, as things stood, Mir would hold a 29-point lead over Morbidelli with one race remaining. With six laps to go, the World Championship crown was heading the way of Mir as Rins had to start fending off Binder. Miller was now 0.4 seconds away from Morbidelli, it was between these two for the win as Pol Espargaro was nearly three seconds back. Remember, if Miller won, we’d have a record-breaking 10th different winner.

M1R: Introducing your 2020 MotoGP™ World Champion

Right, five laps to go. The gap was three and a half tenths as Morbidelli dropped into the 1:32s. The title looked to be heading Mir’s way, but all eyes were focused on the lead duo. Morbidelli vs Miller, Yamaha vs Ducati, Italy vs Australia. Four to go and Morbidelli was back into the 1:31s, Mir four laps away from the title – and he was closing down on sixth place Oliveira.

Both Morbidelli and Miller were giving absolutely everything, four tenths were splitting them. Three laps to go now and Mir was still P7, Dovizioso was less than a second behind the Spaniard, and Rins had some last-minute pressure to deal with from Binder. There were now two laps left and the gap was now as close as it has been between Morbidelli and Miller, the latter was almost two tenths faster than Morbidelli on Lap 25.

The gap was still virtually nothing and heading onto the front straight for the last lap, Miller sniffed an opportunity. Miller blasted past Morbidelli to take the lead into Turn 1, but the Aussie was wide to allow Morbidelli back through. Turn 4 then saw Miller chuck it up the inside of the Yamaha, but having absolutely none of it, Morbidelli snapped straight back to grab P1 again at Turn 5. What a final lap this was! Miller then pulled alongside Morbidelli down the back straight and showed a wheel, but there was no way through. Miller then set himself up for a dive up the inside at Turn 11, however, there was no way through as the duo got very close for comfort.

Attention then turned to the final corner, but Miller wasn’t close enough to lunge. Could the number 43 get the power down and use the extra grunt to scream past Morbidelli on the run to the line? Not quite, Morbidelli emerged victorious for the third time this season in a magnificent battle with Miller, the Italian now sits second in the Championship. The gap over the line was just 0.093 seconds, tantalisingly close for Miller but it’s a great third podium of the season. Pol Espargaro goes back-to-back in Valencia for his fifth podium of the year, another fantastic effort from the Spaniard in his penultimate race for KTM.

Rins’ comeback ride was staggering from P14, but the Suzuki man ran out of steam and eventually missed out on the podium by six tenths. A fantastic effort from the Spaniard who helps Team Suzuki Ecstar claim the Team Championship, but his dreams of becoming 2020 World Champion are now over. Binder returns to the top five for the first time since the Austrian GP to strengthen his grip on the Rookie of the Year title, Oliveira finishes three seconds behind Binder to make it three KTMs in the top six.

Then, Mir took the chequered flag in P7. Pandemonium raged on the pit wall as Suzuki witnessed their rider come across the line to win the 2020 MotoGP™ World Championship, the young Spaniard joining Barry Sheene, Marco Lucchinelli, Franco Uncini, Kevin Schwantz and Kenny Roberts Jr. as Suzuki title winners. An incredible achievement from the sophomore and the entire Hamamatsu factory. 

Dovizioso finished 0.026 behind Mir in P8, the Italian’s aim of becoming 2020 World Champion are now officially over as he gets set for his Ducati and potentially MotoGP™ goodbye in Portimao next weekend. Aleix Espargaro crossed the line in a solid P9 to grab his second top 10 of the season, the Aprilia man taking the flag one place ahead of Viñales. It was another quiet race for the number 12 who will be hoping he and Yamaha can end the season on a high in Portimao.

Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) finished three tenths ahead of Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) as Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) and Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) completed the points.

Valencia plays host to yet another Championship-deciding MotoGP™ race. Congratulations to Joan Mir and Team Suzuki Ecstar, they are your 2020 MotoGP™ World Champions and head to Portimao with the triple crown in sight. Suzuki and Ducati sit level on points in the fight to become Constructor Champions, whichever bike crosses the line first will win the final Championship. See you in less than a week's time!

Top 10:
1. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT)
2. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) + 0.093
3. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 3.006
4. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 3.697
5. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 4.127
6. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) + 7.272
7. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 8.703
8. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) + 8.729
9. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 15.512
10. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 19.043

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