By Alan McManus
Sunday’s MotoGP in Abu Dhabi wraps up another season of excitement and first-class performances by the riders. While the last four races have all been to a tight finish, it’s never been quite as close as at Yas Marina on Sunday, where champion Marc Marquez denied Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso a maiden title. And it was a brave, and successful, attempt by double world champion Dani Pedrosa to snatch the race win on the last lap. The 30-year-old swapped places with two riders who had been around the podium in each of the last seven races, with the Italian Dovizioso going out ahead of Maverick Vinales on the final lap. Australian Jack Miller claimed a remarkable last-gasp podium finish. Pedrosa had led from start to finish and while it was only by the narrowest of margins, the title is what was in his sights. But to finish in the top five was a result in itself. He improved his lead in the standings over Vinales from 49 points to 55 – 50 now – and now faces a tough task to reclaim it on the back of the strong performances of Ducati’s Dovizioso and Honda’s Marquez in the last few races. Both are hungry for more glory. However, the Spaniard faces an extra challenge as he seeks to win an unprecedented third title in a row. Dani Pedrosa is preparing for his eighth final race of his MotoGP career, and he had to go to the wire in Abu Dhabi to win his third world title
The Spaniard’s domination of the front row at the French Grand Prix (where he won, beating Jorge Lorenzo to second and Vinales to third) was to no avail. The field was flat-out in qualifying on Saturday and they were still quite close on Sunday as they waited for a result. Marquez never faced an outright challenge, as his rivals struggled with the general condition of the track. Pedrosa went on to secure the outright victory that ultimately earned him the title. It’s the Spaniard’s eighth final race of his MotoGP career, and he had to go to the wire in Abu Dhabi to win his third world title, but it was an eventful end to an eventful season. RAIN DELAYS Saturday’s MotoGP qualifying sessions had to be delayed because of rain in Yas Marina. Qualifying started five minutes later than scheduled due to a threat of lightning. The start of the qualifying session was delayed by five minutes and the entire qualifying process was extended for an hour. It turned out to be the wrong call as qualifying was red-flagged in the pits area because of the risk of another storm storming across the track, sparking more fears of lightning strikes. MotoGP title odds (£) 01/50 (Dovizioso) 01/6 (Vinales) 01/20 (Lorenzo) 01/0 (Pedrosa) 000/1 (Miller) What’s more, the competition went out of its depth, with riders answering the call of nature by using all sorts of methods to cope with the non-stop rain. Such was the weight of the wet conditions, that it slowed down the normally speedy Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso, whose front wing got sliced open by a low-flying helicopter. To make matters worse, the Italian-American was forced to pull out of the race on the 33rd lap. With the field damp and slippery from the rain, the final 15 laps were a disappointment for riders. Rider finishes: 14 Marquez (Spa) 9,843 Dovizioso (Ita) 8,827 Vinales (Spa) 8,732 Lorenzo (Spa) 7,360 Miller (Aus) 7,409 Lo Cicero (Ita) 6,071 Munoz (Spa) 5,556 Van Gisbergen (Den) 4,536 Horner (GB) 4,251 Parra (Spa) 4,026 Chaves (Col) 4,022 Ryder (GB) 3,726 Garmont (Aus) 3,647 In contrast to the race, only 13 riders completed the Grand Prix and less than half (3) completed their full distances.
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