Franco Morbidelli, the first member of Valentino Rossi's VR46 Riders Academy, had the 'lucky chance' of being directly behind the nine-time world champion as he completed his final MotoGP laps at Valencia.

The Yamaha rides lined-up alongside each other on the grid, but while Rossi rose to ninth, Morbidelli slipped to 13th on the opening lap.

Morbidelli, who began the season as Rossi's Petronas team-mate, then caught up to The Doctor on lap 9 of 27, with Andrea Dovizioso just behind for three M1s in a row.

It looked like Rossi was holding them up, but Morbidelli insisted there had been no room to safely attack and that the #46 then increased his pace.

While Dovizioso dropped away, Morbidelli - yet to reach full strength in his healing knee -remained in Rossi's wheelbacks to enjoy the historic final laps of his career.

The pair crossed the line in tenth and eleventh for what Rossi said was his best race of the season, while Morbidelli celebrated his highest finish since the major knee surgery in June.

"It was great to have the luck to make the race behind Vale," Morbidelli said. "Actually, before the race, I just wanted to stay as far as possible from him! I said I don't want to get involved in anything.

"At one point, I found myself right behind him, and I said OK, 'let's try to push and let's try to maybe overtake him' or maybe do something. But he was so fast and so unattackable that I needed to stay the whole race behind him.

"I was thinking that I was very, very lucky to have the chance to enjoy his last laps in MotoGP right from a really special position.

"And it was great. He was riding fantastic, he was riding unbelievably well.

"He increased the speed in the last laps, and you could see that he was really appreciating and enjoying these last moments on a MotoGP bike."

Morbidelli started the year as the reigning title runner-up at Petronas, taking what would be the team's only podium of the season before withdrawing for knee surgery.

The Italian then switched teams and bike spec, for his return to action in September, joining Monster Yamaha to replace Maverick Vinales.

"Crazy season. Lots of ups and downs, more downs than ups," Morbidelli said. "But such a last race makes us end the season with a sweet taste in our mouth and a great belief in next year.

" So now it's a matter of understand well in the Jerez [test] what we need for next year, understand well if what we did is better. Jerez is a right-hand track and it'll make me work better.

"Then have a nice and good recovery this winter and get well prepared for this year."

Like his fellow VR46 Academy riders, Morbidelli used one of Rossi's title-winning helmet designs on Sunday.

The Jerez Test takes place this Thursday and Friday.