Author: Simon Toyne

Lincolnshire Biker and PMF Biker magazine editor, Goodwood (grrc.goodwood.com) motorcycle road tester and reviewer, UlsterGP contributor, Paddock chatter contributor, Bikefan.co.uk editor, Ducati 749S & Aprilia RSV-R Factory owner, full-time sportsbike lover, part-time deer slayer, petrolhead and owner of Write On Media (Writeonmedia.strikingly.com)

MOTOGP: PEDROSA PRESENTED WITH TWO GP BIKES AT HONDA THANKS DAY, JAPAN

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Dani Pedrosa has been presented with two of his former Grand Prix bikes during a farewell appearance at the Honda Thanks Day.

The Spaniard spent his entire grand prix career with Honda – starting in the 125cc class in 2001, followed by two seasons in 250 and then 13 years at the factory Repsol team in MotoGP, culminating in his final race at Valencia last month.

Pedrosa and Honda claimed 54 race victories together, 31 in the premier-class, whilst winning the 125cc crown in 2003, then 250cc title in 2004 and 2005.

At the end of this year’s Honda Thanks Day, Pedrosa was given both an RCV MotoGP machine and RS250RW two-stroke by HRC Director Tetsuhiro Kuwata and Honda President Takahiro Hachigo.

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New kit: Alpinestars launches S-M8 helmet

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Hot on the heels of the S-M10 helmet that has made a big impact on the market, Alpinestars has launched the new S-M8 lid.

Designed to offer riders the most advanced, protective and performance enhancing helmet possible with excellent ventilation, comfort and a light weight, the S-M8 draws on Alpinestars depth of experience in world class innovation across all motorsports and its deep rooted commitment to motocross.

The S-M8 shell utilises a highly advanced moulding technology with a multi-composite combination for the greatest levels of protection while the smooth outer layer is streamlined and free of any external channels and features that might act as a load point in an impact, or compromise the overall integrity of the construction.

Another key feature is the S-M8 shell sizing solution; each helmet fit size has its own appropriate shell size to deliver the most anatomical solution for the wide variety of fit needs.

Other key design touches include the patented A-head fitting height and angle adjustment system, the patented visor release system, MIPS, emergency release system and a hydration system compatible lining design for easy and quick fitting and connection to a hydration system.

MotoGP: Nakagami leaves Jerez test on top

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LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami enjoyed Day two of testing at Jerez, putting in 66 laps on his 2018 Honda to go fastest.

Reigning Champion Marc Marquez wasn’t far behind on his Repsol Honda however, ending the day just 0.025 off Nakagami’s best with a 1:37.970 – with Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales completing the top three within a tenth of the top.

At Honda, the devil was in the details – not just the logo on the number 99’s side of the garage – although there was a new airbox on show. Marquez completed 56 laps – including a Marquez-style save – and says now focus will shift more towards the chassis. New teammate Jorge Lorenzo was also a force to be reckoned with on the timesheets. He put in a 1:38.105 and was just 0.039 off Viñales in third, securing fourth after 65 laps – the third Honda in the top five.

The leading Yamaha on Day Two was Viñales after completing 78 laps. Both he and teammate Valentino Rossi have been testing two different engine specs, with Viñales clear as to which one they should go with.

While Viñales seems content, the nine-time World Champion wasn’t quite as happy after Day 1, saying that it was good enough for fourth – if they can capitalise on others’ misfortunes. On Day 2 though, Rossi finished 11th fastest after setting a quickest time of 1:38.596, 0.651 from Nakagami’s benchmark after completing 67 laps.

In the Petronas Yamaha SRT garage, it was another good day for both Franco Morbidelli and rookie Fabio Quartararo. For the former, asixth finish after 68 laps and just 0.173 from the top sees him continue his quick adaptation from Honda to Yamaha. For Quartararo, it was another vital 58 laps in the bag – and it was another hugely positive day. The Frenchman finished the day twelth on the timesheets after setting a fastest lap of 1:38.761, just over a tenth off Rossi’s fastest lap and under a second from Nakagami.

Meanwhile Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso put in 44 laps with a fastest of 1:38.292 to put him in P8, and it was new teammate Danilo Petrucci who flew the flag highest in fifth, a 1:38.109 his fastest of 68 laps.

Pramac’s Jack Miller was fastest for a brief time in the afternoon, and ended the day in seventh overall after 57 laps, the best of which was a 1:38.207. His rookie teammate Francesco Bagnaia, meanwhile, made for close company and was the quickest of the new kids on the grid. The Pramac duo were split by Dovizioso but ‘Pecco’ was only just over a tenth off Miller and the Italian debutant did 50 laps.

Tito Rabat was another impressive performer on Ducati machinery. The Spaniard, who is still coming back from his leg break sustained at Silverstone, managed 60 laps and ended the day in thirteenth. The best lap from the recovering Reale Avintia Racing rider was a 1:38.876 – with teammate Karel Abraham putting in a 1:39.744 after 40 laps, taking seventeenth.

For Suzuki, Alex Rins was able to continue to test the new GSX-RR engine and chassis combinations, alongside test rider Sylvain Guintoli. Rins was able to post the tenthth quickest time on Day 2, his 1:38.522 0.577 off Nakagami’s pace as he completed 63 laps on Thursday. For teammate Joan Mir, it was another 55 laps under his belt as he continues to impress, bouncing back extremely well from a fast crash on Day 1. Fourteenth on the timesheets for the Spaniard and under a second from P1 shows the 2017 Moto3 World Champion is continuing to adapt well, and he also got to try the new Suzuki engine and chassis on Thursday.

It was a tough test for Aprilia with Aleix Espargaro missing the whole of Day One through illness, while also missing the morning of Day 2 to complete just 11 laps. In addition, after a crash on Day One, Andrea Iannone was riding with an injured foot as the Italian completed 36 laps by the end of the second day to finish eighteenth on the timesheets. This left new test rider Bradley Smith with the majority of the testing duties, the British rider getting 59 laps done on Thursday, and Matteo Baiocco was also on circuit for the Italian factory once again – with 48 laps completed for the latter.

At KTM, Pol Espargaro was once again the quickest Austrian machine as the Spaniard put in a best of 1:39.144 after 60 laps – putting him fifteenth on the timesheets. Work continued on many different parts of the RC16, with Espargaro testing what Team Manager Mike Leitner called “bigger items”. Johann Zarco, meanwhile, was getting to better grips with his switch to the machine – with Leitner confirming his adaptation to the bike and vice versa. The Frenchman was seven tenths off his teammate on Day Two.

KTM Tech 3 Racing, meanwhile, had Hafizh Syahrin on a 1:40.520 and rookie teammate Miguel Oliveira with a best lap of 1:40.577 – only half a tenth off the Malaysian. They put in 54 and 61 laps respectively as they both switch machinery – the former from Yamaha and the latter from Moto2.

MotoGP: own a KTM racebike, yours for a cool €250,000

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KTM’s slogan is ‘Ready to Race’, and the Austrian manufacturer is living up to its ethos by offering two lucky riders the chance to own a full-factory RC16 MotoGP race bike.

Placing the advert on the KTM Factory Racing social media pages, the €250,000 package also includes a full set of Pol Espargaro’s race kit, along with a signed helmet. The price also gives the successful buyer the chance to be a member of the team for the weekend with a paddock and pitbox tour, a meet and greet with Espagaro and newly-signed Johann Zarco at a Grand Prix of their choice and a complementary set of team wear. 

Any interested buyers should now contact rc16@ktm.com for more details.

MotoGP: Ducati’s Petrucci leads the pack at day one of Jerez test

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Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci topped the timesheets on Day 1 at the Jerez Test after setting a 1:37.968 in the afternoon, heading teammate Andrea Dovizioso – the 04 Italian crashing at Turn 5 late in the day – by 0.217 seconds.

LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami finished third on the timesheets, with just 0.380 splitting the top three.

A cold morning in southern Spain meant the track action didn’t get going until 11:30am local time, but conditions soon improved in the afternoon as the premier class riders continued their crucial 2019 preparations under sunny skies in Jerez. By the half way mark it was Repsol Honda Team’s Jorge Lorenzo heading the pack, but times would tumble further – and Petrucci would emerge fastest.

At Ducati, Petrucci completed 53 laps on Wednesday to be the only rider to dip below the 1:38 bracket. Both he and Dovizioso had a 2018 spec and 2019 spec bike to compare on the opening day in Jerez, but according to Team Manager Davide Tardozzi, both riders soon switched to the 2019 Desmosedici.

On his last run, however, Dovizioso crashed at Turn 5 to end his day prematurely, although he was uninjured and had already managed to get 53 laps in as he and Ducati concentrated on electronics, chassis and the engine. The returning Alvaro Bautista – the Spaniard replacing injured test rider Michele Pirro – had a full 2019 spec at his disposal, with the Ducati WSBK rider ending the day ninth on the timesheets. Just ahead of him was Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller in eighth, the Australian on a part-2018 and part-2019 Desmosedici as he worked on the geometry.

Miller’s rookie teammate Francesco Bagnaia had another good day on track and was 14th fastest on Day 1. The reigning Moto2 Champion has the 2018 Ducati available to him and he completed another 51 laps, finishing 1.189 off Petrucci. Bagnaia described Jerez as a ‘more difficult’ track than Valencia to ride a premier class machine, but he also confirmed he was happy with his progress.

For Honda, Takaaki Nakagami was the leading name on Day 1, continuing his impressive start to the 2019 preseason. The Japanese rider completed 66 laps on board a 2018 RC213V, the same bike teammate Cal Crutchlow was using last season. The number 30 rider said the improvement in the engine between the 2017 Honda and the 2018 Honda is quite big, and he was also able to set consistent lap times on the used tyre.

Reigning World Champion Marc Marquez wasn’t far off on the Repsol Honda. The second fastest Honda after the first day of action, the Spaniard ended Wednesday fifth on the timesheets. According to team manager Alberto Puig, the bikes were the same as they had in Valencia as the Japanese factory continue to mix parts in order to find the best combination to take to Japan. Marquez ended the day 0.549 from the top after completing 50 laps, while also sporting a new aero package on the front of his Honda.

New teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who led in the morning for a time, was seventh fastest on his third day riding a Honda. The Spaniard set a quickest time of 1:38.749 to finish 0.781 off Petrucci after getting another 56 laps under his belt. Lorenzo is still not 100% fit, adding to the challenge of adaptation from the Ducati.

At Yamaha, work continued on the engine. Maverick Viñales was a threat at the top throughout the day and put in 58 laps before the end of play – with the number 12 finishing up just over four tenths off the top in fourth. Teammate Valentino Rossi was a later presence pitting out, but the number 46 put in 50 laps on Wednesday once out on track. He ended the day just over a second off Viñales, in P17, but didn’t put in new tyres. He also suffered a technical problem that brought one run to a halt, with Rossi pulling off track after hearing a problem in his M1.

Petronas Yamaha SRT, meanwhile, had another solid day. Franco Morbidelli was sixth overall after 70 laps and a best of 1:38.659, and rookie teammate Fabio Quartararo ended the day in sixteenth. The Frenchman’s best was a 1:39.414 as he continues settling into the premier class.

Suzuki’s Joan Mir was another entering a new era who impressed – and he was the fastest rookie. He led the way for Suzuki in Jerez to finish the day tenth on the timesheets, although, the 2017 Moto3 World Champion suffered his first MotoGPcrash after going down at Turn 7 just after 13:00 local time. The Spaniard was unscathed and headed back out later in the day to improve – a hot 1:38.956 his best time, putting him under a second from the top.

His teammate Alex Rins, alongside test rider Sylvain Guintoli, had a lot of new parts to try on Wednesday. The new engine and the chassis has been the main focus for the Hamamatsu factory, with the new engine more powerful than last season’s. According to Team Manager Davide Brivio, Rins was on an aluminium chassis, while Guintoli was testing a carbon-based chassis – with Brivio also confirming the plan is to build an aluminium chassis that has the same stiffness as the carbon one. Rins ended the day P13 on the timesheets after completing 87 laps – the most of any rider – while the Guintoli was P22.

At Aprilia, the test got off to a tough start as Aleix Espargaro missed Day 1 through illness – although he’s hoping to ride on Thursday – but new signing Andrea Iannone put the Noale factory in P11 overall with a 1:39.008. He was only able to complete 24 laps, however, sitting out the rest of the session after a crash. Test rider and new arrival Bradley Smith, meanwhile, did 69 laps. He was working with Aleix Espargaro’s bikes, with a new spec engine focused on power delivery and torque, and each Aprilia rider had two chassis to compare. CIV Superbike superstar Matteo Baiocco was also on track for the Noale factory, and he did 49 laps.

Finally, for KTM, it was all hands on deck as the Austrian factory look forward after a more difficult 2018 – Valencia notwithstanding – and they had six bikes in the garage. Pol Espargaro was the lead orange machine in P15 with a best of 1:39.241 after 58 laps, while new teammate Johann Zarco was in P19, with both riders testing a seamless gearbox, chassis parts, aerodynamic parts and a new IMU.

The two independent team riders at Red Bull KTM Tech 3, meanwhile, were working on the best bike from 2018 – although they’re expected to receive an update in Sepang. Hafizh Syahrin did 51 laps with a best of 1:40.630 and rookie Miguel Oliveira put in 61 laps, ending the day around a second off his more experienced teammate.

WSBK: Rea tops the timesheet at pre-season test at Jerez

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Glorious sunshine basked the Circuito de Jerez Angel Nieto once again for the second of a two-day test in Southern Spain, where four WSBK teams continued to work on their 2019 set-ups.

More than 600 laps of the 4.2km circuit were run by the eight riders, and steps were made ahead of what is set to be a sensational season with new bikes, new teams and new riders. Despite this, it was still four time world champion Jonathan Rea who led the way on the Kawasaki.

Rea continued with his sensational pace out on track for the second and final day of testing, as the 2018 world champion was continuing to work on getting the chassis in tune with the engine on his ZX-10RR. Explaining that his new bike offers even more potential than the 2018 Ninja, he was a force to be reckoned with, setting the fastest lap time of 1.38.713. On the other side of the garage, new team-mate Leon Haslam was left with one bike after a big crash on Monday. However, this didn’t stop the Brit putting the laps in, as he reached more than 100 on the second day. Ending the day in third with a time of 1.39.766, Haslam was able to continue with his base setting of the ZX-10RR and will take some strong pace into the winter.

It was a telling two days for the Pata Yamaha official WSBK team, as they began to understand the work they will need to do to bridge the gap to the green and red machines out on track. Working through their small updates for 2019, Alex Lowes had a strong test sitting in second position for most of the day, bridging the gap to fastest man Rea. It was a tough test for team-mate Michael van der Mark who was riding with a fractured wrist sustained from his crash in Qatar. Working to get more grip and acceleration on exit amongst other factors, Lowes finished in second position overall, 0.664s off Rea’s pace while van der Mark was sixth and 1.379s behind.

Lessons continued to be learnt for the Aruba.it Racing Ducati squad with Chaz Davies and Alvaro Bautista getting to grips with the all-new Panigale V4 R. Davies is continuing to struggle with his shoulder injury sustained over the summer break, meaning he isn’t riding at 100%, and used the test to focus on electronics and throttle connection on his new machine, posting the fifth overall fastest time. Bautista had a more challenging second day with his V4 R, suffering two crashes during the day around Circuito de Jerez Angel Nieto. Able to walk away from both crashes, Bautista was still happy with the bike as he works on his base set-up. Putting in an impressive pace on his debut, Bautista was able to finish in fourth, with a lap time of 1.39.845.

For new WSBK team GRT Yamaha, Sandro Cortese and Marco Melandri spent time getting to get to grips with the YZF-R1. Happy with the progress they have made, 2018 WSSP champion Cortese was still working on adapting and adjusting to an WSBK machine, while Melandri was working on his base setting and with the Pirelli tyres.

Unofficial Combined Times Jerez Day Two:

  1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1.38.713
  2. Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) 1.39.377 (+0.664)
  3. Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1.39.766 (+1.053)
  4. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) 1.39.845 (+1.132)
  5. Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) 1.39.852 (+1.139)
  6. Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) 1.40.092 (+1.379)
  7. Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha Team) 1.40.235 (+1.522)
  8. Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha Team) 1.40.592 (+1.879)

Motorcycle Live: Aprilia RS 660 concept

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Meet the Aprilia RS 660 concept, a mid-weight sportsbike prototype from the Noale-based motorcycle manufacturer.

Details are scarce, but Aprilia has revealed some insights into the new RS 660, which Aprilia says is for a ‘new generation of riders looking to fulfil thrills on the road as well as on the occasional track day’.

Aprilia says the 660 is a parallel twin unit derived from the 1100cc that powered the Tuono 1100 and the RSV4 1100 Factory. Aprilia says this configuration was chosen for its compact nature and efficiency, the extremely low level of heat transmitted to the rider and for the freedom it gives its designers to create a sleek and lightweight frame and suspension.

The engine is mated to an aluminium frame and swingarm that helps keep the weight down, and the engine is used as a stress member of the frame. Other noticeable features include the curved shape of the right side of the swingarm, which allows for cleaner exhaust routing, and lack of linkage between the shock absorber and swingarm.

Motorcycle Live: Panigale V4R breaks cover

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So, the covers are off, the manufacturers have made their move and Ducati has blown everyone out of the water with the Panigale V4R, its WSBK homologation special.

WSBK is a production-based race series, which sees tweaked versions of the actual bikes you can go and buy race against one another in competition – and this is why the V4R exists; to allow Ducati to take the WSBK fight to Kawasaki and wrestle the title out of the hands of the all-conquering Johnny Rea.

The new Panigale V4R runs a 998cc version of the Desmosedici Stradale 90-degree V4, with the stroke shortened from 53.5 mm to 48.4 mm, and the 81 mm bore untouched, essentially taking an extremely oversquare and rev-focused motor and making it significantly more oversquare and revvy.

The engine internals have also lost a fair bit of weight: the pistons are forged, with just two piston rings (one for compression, the other an oil scraper) and the crankshaft, high-lift valves and con rods are titanium. The crank alone saves an astonishing 1.1kg over the version used in the1103cc bikes, whereas the con rods save 100g each.

So as well as having less distance to travel with each revolution thanks to the shorter stroke, there’s significantly less mass to move as well. That means Ducati can rev this thing much higher than the 1103cc version: the V4S revs to 13,000rpm, and the R version keeps on pulling, up to a crazy 15,250rpm.

So the new R bike loses torque, which drops from a peak of 124Nm in the S bike down to 114Nm in the R, but gains significant horsepower at the top of its new stratospheric rev range: while the S bike makes 214bhp, the R boosts this to 221 in fully road-legal trim. Bin the legal cans for the Performance kit from Akrapovic and that horsepower figure leaps to 234 ponies.

The bodywork is notably different too, thanks to the gills on the side fairings, as well as the silver rear of the tank, the overall larger and higher front fairing and those black carbon winglets behind the headlights.

Ducati, of course, was the first manufacturer to push winglet technology in MotoGP, and even though that series has banned them, WSBK continues to allow their use.

Other stand out features include the Brembo Stylema brakes, traction, wheelie and control, cornering ABS Evo, up/down quickshifting, engine brake control, three riding modes, pit lane limiter, lap timing, data analysis and multimedia Bluetooth systems.

MotoGP: Dovi masters the wet to win at season finale in Valencia

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Andrea Dovizioso gave a wet weather riding masterclass to take a dominant Valencia victory in the restarted race.

The Ducati rider capped a strong end to 2018 with victory in Valencia, Ducati’s first at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo for a decade and the first of his career at the track, with flawless wet weather riding in each MotoGP race following the initial start’s red flag on 15 laps after a large number of riders fall foul of the tough conditions – not least reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP duo Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi.

On the original start, Suzuki’s Alex Rins had destroyed the field to gain a huge lead after only a couple of corners, and the rain was falling but not heavy. The conditions remained difficult, however, and a good few big names – including some wet specialists – found themselves sliding out. They included a highside that skittled Marquez into the gravel from podium contention, and a high-speed tumble for Viñales after a good initial getaway. Pol Espargaro crashed out of P4 at Turn 3 after a stunning start, but he was incredibly able to re-join. Brother Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing), teammate Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) and Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) also all crashed out and couldn’t get back in it, but Rossi? At that stage, he was only getting faster as the rain was getting worse.

Eventually, however, the volume of rain was starting to beat the circuit’s ability to drain and the Red Flag came out. The race would be re-started for 14 laps, and the grid would be decided by the standings as of the last completed lap – meaning it was Rins on pole, Dovizioso second, Rossi third and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) lining up fourth in his final race. 14 laps and the end of an era for many…

The front row held station as the lights went out for ‘Race 2’ and all 16 riders safely negotiated the opening exchanges, with Rins leading. However, Dovizioso was once again able to get the power down on his GP18 to slice past Rins heading onto lap 2 – with Rossi in close pursuit. The three leaders quickly gapped fourth place Espargaro by 2.9 seconds, and Pedrosa tucked in behind the KTM in P5.

By then, the rain was starting to fall once again and conditions were still incredibly tough. Nevertheless, the leading trio were all lapping in the low 1:43s – two seconds quicker than anyone else as it soon became a three horse race for the final win of 2018.

On Lap 6, Dovizioso then pulled the pin to create a one-second gap back to Rins – a 1:49.921 creating that gap, with 1.5 seconds then splitting the trio. Another fastest lap soon followed for Dovi, as Rossi made his move past Rins at Turn 4 – 1.5 down on  the Ducati. However, with six to go, the gap was up to 2.4 and a lap later, the Ducati rider’s lead was over three seconds. But then, the drama hit again and ‘The Doctor’ was down at Turn 12 – rider ok, but lifting Espargaro and KTM up to a podium place.

As the last lap began, Dovizioso’s advantage was four seconds to Rins as both safely waded their way to the finish line – the Italian taking his first win since Misano and Rins grabbing a fifth podium of the year to claim P5 in the Championship. Then, emotional scenes followed as Espargaro kept Michele Pirro (Ducati Team) at bay to take both his and KTM’s maiden MotoGP podium – phenomenal from rider and factory alike after the number 44 rider had crashed earlier. Behind him and Pirro came the new MotoGP Legend, pedrosa, who took home a hard-earned P5 from his farewell Grand Prix ride on home soil as he helped Repsol Honda secure the triple crown. Behind the three-time Champion was fellow Honda rider Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), the Japanese rookie taking home a career-best P6 as top Independent Team rider in the race, with Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) taking the overall 2018 Independent Team rider honours after crossing the line in P7. The Frenchman held off Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), who grabbed his best KTM result on his final ride for the team.

Replacement rider Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda Castrol) crossed the line in P9, with Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) rounding out the top ten – a great ride, but not quite enough to beat Morbidelli to ‘Rookie of the Year’. On his final Grand Prix appearance, Scott Redding (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) claimed a season-best P11, with Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) bringing his Ducati career to an end with a tough P12 on the comeback from injury. Rossi remounted to ride to P13 and take third in the championship, with Karel Abraham (Angel Nieto Team) and Jordi Torres (Reale Avintia Racing) claiming the final point-scoring positions.

Dovizioso, who finished runner-up in the overall rider standings, said: “The mix of the [new] tyre and the set-up worked well so I am so happy in the way we worked this weekend. Also every practice our speed was good but we never were the fastest. In the end in qualifying and the race we were there so I am so happy to finish the season like this. I am happy to give this victory to my team.”