Espargaro had already vented his frustration after seeing his title challenge collapse with just 18 out of a possible 100 points during the flyaways.

But the Spaniard was still one point clear of Enea Bastianini heading into Valencia, where his only focus was to beat the Gresini rider and join Francesco Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo on the world championship ‘podium’.

Despite qualifying tenth, Espargaro was starting three places ahead of Bastianini and felt he had the better pace. But a technical issue sent Espargaro to the back of the field by the end of the second lap, then retirement.

“Engine problem. I don't know exactly yet. I don't even want to know,” said a crestfallen Espargaro. “From the start the bike was stopping, and then for the first 3 laps, so I was forced to stop in the garage.”

Bastianini went on to finish in a safe eighth place, putting him seven points clear of Espargaro in the final championship classification.

A NEW MotoGP champion is crowned as Suzuki win their last race! | Valencia MotoGP 2022

Aprilia later stated that Espargaro's bike had probably suffered a ‘fuel draught’ issue.

“I don't know. I don't really care about what happened to the engine,” Espargaro said. “The engine stopped, it's not the first time.

“Today was the worst time to have this happen, because I think I had more speed, enough to fight for third place in the championship, which was a dream for me. So in the end, which piece of the engine it was, I don't care.”

Espargaro's Japanese MotoGP hopes had also been sunk by an early technical issue, after an eco-map problem on the grid.

Aprilia: ‘Angry and disappointed'

But the Valencia nightmare wasn’t over Aprilia, with team-mate Maverick Vinales also tumbling down the timing screens before retiring due to a problem ‘with the front’ of his RS-GP.

The double DNF meant Aprilia lost its second place in the constructors’ standings, to Yamaha, and second in the teams’ world championship, to Red Bull KTM.

“We are angry and disappointed. Evaluating our season, we should look at the glass as half full, but it’s hard for me to do that today,” said Massimo Rivola, Aprilia Racing CEO.

“We had goals that were within our potential and deserved, such as third place for Aleix and second in the Constructors and Teams standings. Extraordinary results that would have been the just rewards for the hard work done by all of Aprilia Racing but evidently we are still not accustomed to battling consistently for the highest objectives.

“In order to do that, we need to learn to always be perfect, on the track and in Noale. Our championship season is still important and represents an exceptional base of results from which to resume.

“The last race does not change the certainty that we made a huge step forward and we’ll be back in 2023 to try again with four bikes on the track and renewed ambitions.

“Now I’d like to congratulate Ducati and Bagnaia for their season and say goodbye to Suzuki, in the hopes that we’ll see them again in the future."

Aleix Espargaro: ‘I love that Rins won’

Suzuki’s farewell victory for Alex Rins was also the only Sunday highpoint for Espargaro, who raced the GSX-RR during its debut 2015 and 2016 MotoGP seasons before joining Aprilia.

“I'm extremely happy [about Rins winning],” Espargaro said. “I think if I was today I was in second, for sure I would try to win. But I love that Alex won, because apart from Alex being my friend, I love this human group of people that are in Suzuki.

“They deserve this victory. I feel really sad for them. But this is a cruel world. At least they have a big present and a day to remember.”

Espargaro: ‘Sometimes there is no more you can do’

Meanwhile, fourth for Espargaro was still his (and the RS-GP's) highest-ever MotoGP ranking, beating seventh overall with Forward Yamaha in 2014.

“I'm proud of what we achieved this year, how we improved,” Espargaro said. “Nobody believed last year that I could achieve a podium, and I did it. And I don't think anybody last year believed that I could win, make pole positions, a lot of podiums, fight for the title, and I did that as well.

“I'm really proud of how I rode during the season. I always gave my best, I made no mistakes through all the year, which is extremely difficult in 20 races, I never crashed. Sometimes there is no more you can do.”