Marc Marquez has the opportunity to close out a perfect MotoGP campaign in 2019 if he can help Repsol Honda seal the world teams’ title and duly complete its Triple Crown.

Having already sealed the world riders’ and constructors’ crown back in Thailand and Japan respectively, Marquez set a new all-time points scoring record by moving on to 395 points thanks to second place at the Malaysian round last time out.

With just one piece of his perfect 2019 missing, Marquez and Repsol Honda actually took a small step back in the teams’ fight against the factory Ducati squad at Sepang.

While the 26-year-old bagged 20 points with second place, plus team-mate Jorge Lorenzo’s contribution of two points in 14th place, Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso (third) and Danilo Petrucci (ninth) combined tally of 23 points saw the Italian team extend its advantage to a slender two-point lead heading into the season finale.

As a result it sets up a genuinely tight contest for the MotoGP teams’ world championship in Valencia and while the crown would act as small comfort to Ducati it would deny Repsol Honda and Marquez their a triple hat-trick – a third consecutive MotoGP Triple Crown following up its 2017 and 2018 feats.

“We have the objective of winning the team championship in Valencia, but also we are looking to 2020 already and continuing to try some options while we have this time before we go into test mode after the race,” Marquez said.

“We will try to put on one more really nice show for the fans before winter.”

What’s more Circuit Ricardo Tormo isn’t a happy hunting ground for Marquez with just one win across his premier class career at the Valencia track which came back in 2014 during his previous most dominant MotoGP campaign.

Dovizioso clinched victory last year in a wet and wild race which was red-flagged after 13 laps as the rain became too heavy before being restarted to set up a 14-lap sprint.

“The circuit has never been really easy for us, even though it’s true that last year we scored a great win in rainy conditions, which proved that anything can happen,” Dovizioso said. “Personally speaking, I really want to finish the season with a good result and safe in the knowledge that we gave our all right until the very end.

“The level of the championship is getting higher all the time, and we’ve seen this in the last three races outside of Europe, but I have confidence in the good job we’re doing to finish the championship on a high.”

While the season finale has very little riding on away from the teams’ title, with Fabio Quartararo requiring a disaster to miss out on the Independent riders’ title thanks to his 23-point lead over Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller, it provides an early look into 2020 with Iker Lecuona landing an unexpected early Tech3 debut filling in for future team-mate Miguel Oliveira who is out of action following shoulder surgery.

Lecuona will use the one-off as an early adaption opportunity as the Spanish rider steps up from Moto2 this winter – one of two rookies for 2020 along with Brad Binder heading to the factory Red Bull KTM squad as Johann Zarco’s replacement.

Zarco’s final act – for now

Speaking of Zarco, the French rider makes his final appearance as stand-in at LCR Honda for Takaaki Nakagami.

The two-time Moto2 world champion has impressed on the 2018-specificaiton RC213V and was unfortunate to be taken out by Suzuki’s Joan Mir with three laps to go in the Malaysian Grand Prix while fighting for a top eight finish.

While the 2019 Honda is clearly a different beast compared to its predecessor, just ask Cal Crutchlow and Jorge Lorenzo, Zarco’s ability to adapt in such a short period of time during race weekends held in challenging conditions in Australia and Malaysia has raised eyebrows throughout the MotoGP paddock.

Whether his efforts will lead to a spot on the MotoGP grid looks an unlikely prospect with all of the slots filled and teams busily preparing winter testing programmes, but Zarco’s quality on a motorcycle cannot be doubted which sooner or later should open up a new opportunity for the former factory KTM rider on either the MotoGP or Moto2 grid.

Another few goodbyes

Along with Zarco preparing to make a temporary exit from MotoGP, this weekend’s Valencia GP will also mark a goodbye for his former team-mate Hafizh Syahrin with the Malaysian rider returning to Moto2 for 2020.

“This is going to be my last round with the Red Bull KTM Tech3 team, which has been my second family these last years, plus it will be my last race in the MotoGP class for the moment,” Syahrin said.

“I will do my best and want to enjoy the whole weekend. It’s going to be a tough round, especially emotional, therefore I really want to do well in order to say goodbye with a positive feeling.”

Syahrin’s two-year stint in the premier class came about through an unusual set of circumstances when Jonas Folger withdrew from the 2018 MotoGP season with Tech3 as he fought a long-term illness.

With minimal pre-season testing to adjust to the Tech3 Yamaha, Syahrin impressed as a consistent points scorer and ended his rookie year with three top 10s from the final four rounds of the season.

Tech3’s switch from Yamaha to KTM machinery hasn’t suited the Malaysian rider who has struggled to get to grips with the hard-handling RC16, but as his nation’s first representative in the premier class he’s acted as a leader to future stars from the motorcycle-mad region.

MotoGP will also say a small farewell to Finland’s Mika Kallio who has also been unable to shine since stepping up as Zarco’s factory KTM replacement for the final six rounds of the year.

Kallio, predominately a test rider in the KTM project, will return to testing duties in 2020 along with an expected wildcard outing at the return of his nation’s Grand Prix round next July.

 

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