Valentino Rossi brought the curtain down on his illustrious MotoGP career with a 10th-placed finish at the Valencia Grand Prix while his protege Francesco Bagnaia crossed the line first in the final race of the campaign.

Seven-time MotoGP champion Rossi, 42, confirmed in August he would be hanging up his leathers at the end of the 2021 season, and he closed things out with a drama-free ride as he achieved his pre-weekend goal of a top-10 finish.

Danil Petrucci, who finished in 18th, is also departing MotoGP.

Rossi received a hero's reception at the end of the race as riders, fans and crew swarmed and held him aloft, with his old friend Ronaldo having waved the final chequered flag of his career.

The veteran enjoyed a solid performance in qualifying, securing a respectable 10th place on the grid, but it was his countryman Bagnaia and rookie Jorge Martin at the front who occupied the main in-race focus.

Martin started on pole for the fourth time this season and showed excellent poise to hold off Bagnaia for a while, but he left the door open at the end of the 15th lap as the Italian's persistence paid off.

Bagnaia was then in a class of his own for the rest of the race as Martin failed to reel him back in, though the latter did just enough to hold off Jack Miller to secure second.

Ducati bikes locked out the podium as their factory team secured the teams' title in emphatic fashion, but all the attention was on Rossi at the end, with various teams producing their own tributes to him as he rode back down the pit lane for the last time.

 

 

MotoGP great Valentino Rossi received a timely boost from one of the championship's emerging stars in qualifying for the Valencia Grand Prix.

Rossi, a nine-time world champion, is retiring after Sunday's race, which brings the curtain down on the 2021 season.

Fabio Quartararo already has the title sewn up, and the newly crowned champion will start from eighth on the grid, two ahead of 42-year-old Rossi.

Rossi was given a helping hand by Francesco Bagnaia, who is looking to cap a superb individual season that has seen him claim wins at Aragon, San Marino and Portimao.

Bagnaia finished second in qualifying, just 0.064 seconds behind Jorge Martin, who claimed the fourth pole of his rookie season with a superb ride.

The Ducati rider crashed at Turn Two, though still found the power to provide Rossi with a tow that secured his place in Q2.

"Pecco helped me, I'm very happy," Rossi explained.  "We didn't have a clear plan, I just started behind him and he saw me but he continued to push. So thanks a lot to Pecco, who helped me improve my lap time.

"This is a great feeling for me and for the team in my last race. I think that apart from the emotional moment for me it's very important to try to make a good weekend, a good result and I will start in the top 10. So it was a good Saturday."

Bagnaia added: "No, no [it wasn't planned]. But, I did see him enter on the track before me, so it's the minimum that I can do for him. He gave so much over the years to us so it's the minimum I could do."

Bagnaia gave Martin full credit for clinching pole and the Pramac Racing driver said he took a risky approach to give himself the best chance of a second win of the season.

"In qualifying as always, we risk a lot," Martin said. "It's not an easy track because the layout is strange, it's not normal and also the grip is not perfect here. So, I was risking every lap, in every corner, but finally I could finish this lap.

"I'm really happy. My performance is good. You can see all the Ducatis are strong, so tomorrow will be a great battle but I think I have the pace to fight for the podiums."

Jack Miller, Bagnaia's Ducati team-mate, will round out the front row on Sunday.

MotoGP championship leader Fabio Quartararo enjoyed a "good day" at the Styrian Grand Prix, as his podium finish and Jorge Martin's win extended his lead at the top of the standings.

Quartararo finished third in a race that was suspended for half an hour due to an early crash, which saw two bikes engulfed in flames.

Both riders – Dani Pedrosa and Lorenzo Savadori – escaped relatively unscathed, though the latter was unable to restart the race.

The restart benefited Martin, who had set a record time at the Red Bull Ring to take pole position in Saturday's qualifying session.

Francesco Bagnaia had overtaken the Pramac Racing rider but, despite an early attack from Jack Miller after the restart, Martin recovered to cruise to his maiden MotoGP triumph.

Behind Martin, Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) claimed second, with Quartararo nipping into third – Miller's hopes fading when he skidded off the track at Turn 7 with 10 laps remaining.

Quartararo (172) now has a 40-point lead over Johann Zarco, who finished sixth, in the championship standings, with Mir further behind on 121.

"It feels so good because when there is a red flag it is always tough," said Quartararo.

"I was extremely good on the braking on Turn 3. I knew that there was a possibility to overtake and did it.

"I don't really know the position of the other guys apart from Joan and Jorge finishing in front. I am so happy. The best goal was to finish on the podium and we did it. So happy for Jorge, he took some points off Joan, so a good day."

Martin, meanwhile, was ecstatic after achieving what he labelled the first step on his path to pushing for world championship glory.

"I can't believe it, I don't believe it, that's why I'm not so excited! I think the ride was amazing. I kept a really constant pace. I was super focused," said the 23-year-old.

"Even if I did some mistakes, my target was to win the race. Joan was impressive today, he was behind me almost all the race but then in the last laps I tried a bit more and I took a gap for the lead.

"The last laps I was thinking about things – everyone who has helped me to be here – that's why I did worse in the last laps but I had this gap to manage. Thanks to all my family, this is one big step towards my big area to be world champion."

Reigning world champion Mir said: "Today was close. I'm happy because all weekend we have been there, overall.

"I needed a couple of faster laps to fight with Jorge, he did a great job. We must push a bit more, find something more for next weekend if we want to be on the top of the podium.

"I am proud of the team, they have done a great job and finally, the performance is higher, so happy and proud of them."

Jorge Martin capitalised on his record-setting pole position to claim victory in a dramatic Styrian Grand Prix on Sunday to seal his maiden win in MotoGP.

Martin, competing in his maiden MotoGP campaign, clinched pole with a time of 1:22.994 – the fastest recorded at the Red Bull Ring.

However, he needed a second chance to turn his superb qualifying session into a race triumph following an early red flag due to a crash involving Dani Pedrosa and Lorenzo Savadori.

Francesco Bagnaia had taken an early lead ahead of Martin, but when the race restarted, the original grid positions were used, and having reclaimed control from Jack Miller – who later crashed out – the Pramac Racing rider held firm to secure a first premier class success ahead of Joan Mir and runaway championship leader Fabio Quartararo.

Bagnaia wasted no time in getting on the attack and had overtaken Martin within seconds of the start, while Mir, Quartararo and Marc Marquez had an almighty tussle for position on Turn 6.

Yet their efforts proved fruitless as the red flag was soon raised.

Pedrosa fell on the exit hairpin of Turn 3 with Savadori subsequently colliding with the stricken bike.

Making his first start in MotoGP since 2018, Pedrosa came away unscathed, though Savadori had to receive further medical attention and was carried away on a stretcher. Meanwhile, race marshals had to contend with a fire on the track – a result of a ruptured fuel tank from one of the bikes.

After a 30-minute delay, the race restarted with 27 laps remaining. This time, it was Miller who was the early aggressor, with six-time MotoGP champion Marquez dropping to 14th and Martin back to third.

Miller could not hold on, though, with Martin picking his line perfectly to undertake, while defending champion Mir and Quartararo soon followed suit.

Matters were made worse for Miller with 10 laps to go, the Australian skidding out on Turn 7 as he attempted to hunt down Quartararo. It is the second successive race he has failed to finish.

The day instead belonged to Martin, the 23-year-old keeping compatriot Mir at bay to win with a 1.548-second cushion.

Quartararo came in in third, collecting more points in his quest for the world title, while Marquez – who finished on the podium in three of his four previous MotoGP races at the Red Bull Ring – had to settle for eighth.

Jorge Martin made history as he claimed his second pole of the MotoGP season, which resumed at the Styrian Grand Prix on Saturday.

The Pramac Racing rider's winning time of 1:22.994 was the fastest recorded at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, as he finished 0.044s ahead of Francesco Bagnaia.

There was drama as Martin's effort was almost eclipsed by Fabio Quartararo, only for the runaway championship leader to exceed track limits by drifting into the green at the vital moment.

MotoGP debutant Martin made a strong start to his maiden campaign; taking pole in Doha in round two on the way to an impressive third-place finish.

However, injury during qualifying at the Portuguese Grand Prix two weeks later ruled him out of four races, while he was also forced to retire at the Dutch TT last time out.

Nevertheless, the 23-year-old has demonstrated brilliant determination to bounce back and finish fastest in qualifying, which he dedicated to his currently hospitalised grandfather.

"It wasn't the perfect lap," he said. "I started quite well in the first sector.

"I kept pushing and saw I was coming in hot, but then I made a mistake with the gearbox in corners four and five. 

"In the last two corners, I tried my best not to go to the green because with the wind, it was difficult. When I finished the lap and saw the time on my screen, I thought: 'that's a good time.'

"I want to dedicate this pole position to my grandfather. He's in hospital and he's battling a lot."

Despite missing out on a sixth pole of the season, Quartararo will begin Sunday's Grand Prix on the front row of the grid for Monster Energy Yamaha.

"It's a shame because of the track limit. I did the maximum with what I had," said the Frenchman, who is currently 34 points clear at the top of the riders' standings.

"Sunday, it looks like it's going to rain, so it's good to have a great position on the grid. 

"I pushed my bike to the limit. I will not say it's my best lap because I made many mistakes, but it's the first time that I've pushed that much on a bike."

It was a good day for Ducati with Martin and Bagnaia first and second with Jack Miller and Johann Zarco, who finished fourth and sixth respectively, not far behind.

World champion Joan Mir will start fifth for Suzuki Ecstar.

Meanwhile, seven-time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi, who announced earlier this week that he would retire at the end of this season, was 17th.

Provisional classification

1. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) 1:22.994
2. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) +0.044s
3. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) +0.081s
4. Jack Miller (Ducati) +0.306s
5. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +0.328s
6. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +0.382s
7. Alex Espargaro (Aprilia) +0.454s
8. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) +0.495s
9. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha) +0.514s
10. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) +0.542s
11. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda) +0.847s
12. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM) +0.950s

Fabio Quartararo says his Grand Prix of Doha victory provided a "boost of confidence for the future" and much more of a lift than his wins last season.

Quartararo topped the podium three times last year and gave Monster Yamaha a second successive win in Qatar on Sunday.

The 21-year-old came out on top under the lights at the Losail International Circuit ahead of compatriot Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing), giving France a first double premier class podium since way back in 1954.

Zarco's rookie team-mate Jorge Martin secured a maiden MotoGP podium finish in a thriller, which saw the closest top-15 finish in history.

Only 8.928 seconds separated Quartararo and Miguel Oliveira, who crossed the line in 15th place, comfortably smashing the record of 15.093 seconds set at the same venue.

Quartararo struggled with the pressure of mounting a championship challenge in 2020 and has worked closely with a psychologist in recent months.

He took great heart from rising to the occasion with his first victory of the season in the second round

"I feel like this win gives me much more confidence than the wins from last year as I came from far back," Quartararo said.

"In the test it was difficult and I say woah, because the Ducati are fast in the straight and in the pace and it would be difficult to beat them

"But actually you need to look at yourself and try to be the best you can, and this is what we did today and it gave me a boost of confidence for the future."

Quartararo is four points behind early championship leader Zarco in the standings.

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