It is a quote I have used so often that it has become a cliché. When I asked the now sorely-missed Nicky Hayden what motivated him after a difficult day, he replied "That's why we line up on Sunday; you never know what's gonna happen." That is as true now as it was then, but you cannot escape the law of probabilities. Of course you never know what's going to happen on any given Sunday. But if you want to hang on to your money, it is wise not to bet against the most likely course of events.
As of Saturday night, Andrea Dovizioso can still become 2017 MotoGP champion. But he trails Marc Márquez by 21 points in the championship. He has to win the race to even have a chance. Márquez has to finish no better than twelfth. Dovizioso starts the race from ninth on the grid. Márquez starts from pole. And Márquez, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, and Johann Zarco all have (slightly) better race pace than Dovizioso.
The chances that Dovizioso becomes champion in this timeline are rather slim. Bookies have the odds of the Factory Ducati rider winning the 2017 title at 14/1. They have Márquez at 1/50: even when interest rates are at a record low, you would make more money by putting your cash into a savings account rather than having a flutter on the Spaniard wrapping up his fourth MotoGP title on Sunday.
In a somewhat surprising development, Silverstone has signed up to host the British round of MotoGP for three more years. The Northamptonshire circuit is to hold the race through 2020.
Since the British round was held earlier this year, it looked like the race would go to Donington. The Leicestershire track had shown renewed interest in the race, after the circuit had been bought by MSV, who also run the BSB series and own several other British tracks. Hosting the series at Donington would have required upgrades in a number of areas, however, and making those in time for August next year would have been difficult.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class in Valencia:
Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class in Valencia:
Under the resplendent Valencian sun, it was hard to tell what was hotter: the Spanish circuit or the pace of Marc Marquez. The world champion rolled out the garage with a hard front-medium rear combination and posted an unrivalled series of low 1:31s straight away. The Honda man then switched to a used soft rear tyre and had another go at some mid 1:31s, clocking up 18 laps in the short session.
Meanwhile, Jorge Lorenzo got as close as a tenth of a second in speed but not quite there in terms of pace, the Spaniard ending the session in second position.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class in Valencia:
A usual sunny Saturday in Valencia, a usual configuration at the business end of the session. Already crowned world champion Franco Morbidelli set camp at the top of the timesheets at the start of the session and did not let the place go until the checker flag waved. After an average Friday by his own standards, the Italian picked up six tenths of a second overnight to post the best time of the weekend.
An extra touch of sun awaited the premier class for the pre-qualifying showdown. While the usual race runs were unfolding in the early part of the session, it was only Marc Marquez who improved on his Friday time by a few tenths and led FP3 throughout, with rather scary pace. His main challenger proved to be Johann Zarco, the Frenchman also improving to get within two hundredths of a second of the world champion.
The Valencian sun felt more generous the second time around and Saturday morning proved kinder to the lightweight class. Jorge Martin got back to his rightful place on a Saturday – at the top of the timesheets – with six minutes to go and continued to improve on the best time of the weekend in the following few laps. The Spaniard eventually posted the first time into the 1:38s to break the circuit record.
A lot has to happen if Andrea Dovizioso wants to win the 2017 MotoGP championship at Valencia. What he doesn't want to happen is for Marc Márquez to run away with the race. And so far on Friday, that's exactly what looks like happening. On the face of it, fifth in both FP1 and FP2 is not promising. But look at race pace, and it is clear that Márquez is in devastating form.
In FP1, Márquez used a single medium rear tire, and posted 11 laps of 1'31. No one else managed more than 3 laps at that pace. In FP2, he again used just a single tire, putting 20 laps on a soft rear tire. He set his fastest lap – good enough for fifth in the session – on his final lap, with a tire that has two-thirds race distance on it. While everyone else was throwing extra tires in to secure passage straight to Q2, Márquez was not concerned.
His pace left him feeling positive. "Of course this gives me good confidence," Márquez said. "But what is better is that we started the weekend in a good way. In FP1 I felt good with the bike. We are on Friday so we need to keep working and keep the same mentality and concentration."
Pol Espargaro will have to start the final round of MotoGP at Valencia from pit lane. The Spaniard exceeded his allocation of nine engines per season, by taking a tenth engine out in his final run of FP2.
Espargaro is a victim of the pace of development by KTM. The Austrian manufacturer switched from a screamer engine configuration to a big bang configuration at the Le Mans test before Jerez, electing to use it from the Jerez race. The two engines used until then were discarded.
A more welcoming 22 degrees were in store for the afternoon sessions, although – spoiler alert – it failed to liven up the intermediate class action too much, riders taking their time in improving their laps from the morning.
It did seem to do the trick for Pecco Bagnaia though. The Italian might have looked a little off the pace in FP1 but he built up some speed to lead the session after the first run and maintained his position until the final five minutes. Then it was once again Miguel Oliveira’s time to shine, the Portuguese rider the only one able to improve on his own FP1 benchmark. Bagnaia was demoted to second by only five hundredths of a second, the SKY rider splitting a KTM duo.