Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez has been crowned 2017 World Champion with a third place at Valencia this afternoon despite nearly throwing it away at turn one with eight laps left to run.
Marquez had been sitting pretty behind leader Johann Zarco but elected to pass the Monster Yamaha man. He misjudged his speed out of the slipstream, braked too late and held the front of his RC213V up on his knee before riding into the gravel.
The six-time champion re-joined in fifth place behind the works Ducatis but then Jorge Lorenzo - who had ignored repeated instructions to allow Andrea Dovisoso past - crashed and then Dovizioso, who was the only man who could mathematically challenge Marquez for the title, also went down, giving the crown to the HRC man.
The race was won by Dani Pedrosa who denied Johann Zarco his maiden victory in the dying seconds of the race, passing the Fremchman at turn one on the last lap. Zarco said he almost crashed a couple of times trying to get back past but just didn’t have the grip. Marquez ended in a distant third.
Marquez took the lead into turn one even after messing up the start with Pedrosa slipping in behind him to run interference. Andrea Iannone took third with Lorenzo holding off Zarco for fourth and Dovisoso in fifth.
Zarco, who opted for soft Michelins all round, passed Lorenzo and Iannone on the opening lap, made short work of Pedrosa and lap later and then went under Marquez on lap four to take the lead. Marquez was in an idea position as he knew Dovizioso was behind him with Pedrosa as his wing man.
Iannone soon found he couldn’t keep with the pace and dropped backwards, leaving Lorenzo and Dovisoso to run fourth and fifth. The top five men were all lapping within a tenth of each other with Dovisoso looking for a way past early on.
Lorenzo received five ‘mapping eight’ dash messages plus a -1 and down arrow on his pitboard but still didn’t yield to Dovizioso. Marquez clearly wanted to take his title with a win and upped the game after riding smoothly and conservatively.
It all nearly ended in tears as couldn’t stop into turn one, held the bike up on his knee and then elbow before running into the kitty litter. Any other rider would have crashed but he was back on the gas in the gravel and emerged in fifth.
With six laps left, it appeared Dovizioso had run out of rear tyre as Lorenzo pulled a gap but then the Spaniard lost the front. Dovizioso then ran wide a couple of corners later and his GP17 dug into the gravel and toppled over.
The two crashes helped Alex Rins to a career-best fourth place as he slowly made his way through the field. A non-podium finish for Ecstar Suzuki means the team keep their concessions for 2018. Valentino Rossi finished in fifth place but 14s behind the leader.
Iannone was one place behind his compatriot with Jack Miller putting on a great show in his final race for Marc VDS to take seventh, one ahead of Cal Crutchlow. Michele Pirro and Tito Rabat completed the top ten with Bradley Smith in 11th.
Maverick Vinales’ nightmare continued as he rolled across the line in 12th place and Yamaha are going to have to bring out something special on Tuesday to fix the M1 in 2018.