MotoGP Valencia: Rins wins as Bagnaia claims the crown

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Alex Rins celebrated the final victory of 2022 as Suzuki Ecstar bowed out of the MotoGP Championship on top of the Valencia podium.

Red Bull KTM’s Brad Binder and pole man Jorge Martin joined the Spaniard for Sunday’s Parc Fermé celebrations with outgoing champion Fabio Quartararo completing the race in fourth.

Ducati Lenovo’s Pecco Bagnaia became the first Italian premier class champion since Valentino Rossi in 2009 and the first for the Bologna factory in 15 years, since Casey Stoner two years before. Ninth position enough to secure the spoils after a rollercoaster season comprising five DNF’s, five pole positions, seven victories and ten podiums with Ducati claiming the triple crown of rider, team and manufacturer titles.

Just three riders deviated from the majority on tyre choice as the final MotoGP race of 2022 prepared. LCR’s Takaaki Nakagami, Alex Marquez and Repsol Honda’s Pol Espargaro opting for soft rear Michelins with the remainder on medium, and the entirety utilising the hard front. Espargaro later changing his mind on the grid to go with the majority.

Prima Pramac’s Martin commanded the last pole position of the season as he headed Marc Marquez and Jack Miller on the front row. Title challengers Quartararo and Bagnaia lining up fourth and eighth respectively with nothing shy of a win - and a near no-score for the Italian - allowing the Frenchman to retain his current status as premier class champion.

Lights out for 27 laps in front of a sell out crowd and it was Rins who took control from Martin and Miller. Quartararo and Bagnaia battling it out in the middle of the leading group with the pair coming out in sixth and seventh through the opening turns. The Yamaha was through on Miller for fourth as Marquez pushed the Repsol Honda up to third before both Ducatis hit back. Miller dragging Bagnaia up to fourth and fifth with contact effecting the latter in the opening stages.

The title rivals continued to bicker for position as lap two played out. KTM’s Brad Binder briefly gaining advantage on the Frenchman before the number 20 hit back for sixth. Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro retiring from the race on lap four after an early off.

Quartararo was up to fifth as lap five fired up. The second Espargaro brother crashing out at turn two with Darryn Binder doing likewise on the WithU Yamaha.

Miller was through to third next time around as Rins continued his control out front. Alex Marquez the next to succumb to the Ricardo Tormo circuit, Cal Crutchlow following suit as the lap concluded.

Johann Zarco battled Miguel Oliveira on the fringes of the top ten as the KTM bettered and Luca Marini took advantage on the Mooney VR46. The Pramac dropped to 11th and into the path of Enea Bastianini before the Gresini man saw his own advantage to advance.

Binder took his own chance for promotion further up, with a move on Bagnaia for sixth on lap ten. Quartararo just under two seconds ahead but with a full second separating him from the Repsol Honda in fourth, until Marquez followed his younger brother into the gravel at turn eight.

Two and a half seconds separated Quartararo from race-leader Rins with 17 laps remaining as Joan Mir took a look at Bagnaia. The 2020 Champion positioning the Suzuki on the wheels of the GP22 with the battle bringing Oliveira and Marini into contention for sixth. Mir briefly making the move before the Italian struck back with success finally dispatched at the halfway stage.

Aprilia’s disastrous weekend concluded with Maverick Viñales retiring the second RS-GP into the pits with 12 laps to go. Zarco crashing out moments later.

Oliveira was through on Bagnaia next time around as Binder took his own look at Quartararo. The South African quickly dispatching the 2021 Champion at turn two as surprisingly Marini did likewise on the factory Ducati for eighth. Bastianini less than a tenth behind the ailing Bagnaia with seven to go.

Binder advance on his 2023 teammate as the race counted down. Bagnaia allowing his own incoming partner through with five laps remaining, with ninth still enough to claim the overall honours.
Binder picked off Miller before Quartararo did likewise. The Australian crashing out of his final race in red with his farewell podium in the dust into turn 11.

The KTM rider was finally through on Martin for second as the penultimate lap got underway, Quartararo half a second behind the Pramac with Yamaha teammate Franky Morbidelli now on the wheels of Bagnaia in tenth.

The chequered flag found Rins victorious for the departing Suzuki squad from Binder and Martin, Quartararo less than two seconds adrift of the leader as he crossed the line in fourth. Oliveira, Mir, Marini and Bastianini coming home ahead of the new MotoGP champion Pecco Bagnaia with Morbidelli, Marco Bezzecchi, Raul Fernandez, Remy Gardner, Nakagami and Fabio di Giannantonio completing the points finishers for the season finale.

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Picture: GeeBee Images