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MotoGP

The 2020 MotoGP season had a shorter calendar due to COVID-19; however, it did turn out to be one of the closest seasons in recent years. Arguably, in part due to the now exreigning champion, Repsol Honda Team legend Marc Marquez, missing the season following his injury in the first round. Neverthele­ss, the other talented motorcycle racers put on a great show for the fans of the sport around the world.

We stood with four races to go and the championsh­ip still up for grabs. Several riders could lay claim but a surprise came up in the form of Joan Mir of Team Suzuki Ecstar. Mir had been having a stellar season with consistenc­y being the keyword. The championsh­ip favourite, Fabio Quartararo of Petronas Yamaha SRT, had quite the opposite story with a great start to the season followed by many ups and downs with the 2020 Yamaha MotoGP machine. His teammate, Franco Morbidelli, seemed to be a bit stronger on the C-spec 2019 model of the same bike.

The first of the last four races was the second round in Aragon, Spain, where we were set to see the fight between Yamaha and Suzuki. But it was Takaaki Nakagami on the LCR Honda Idemitsu that took pole position. At the lights, Nakagami got off to a good start and was followed into corner one by a Yamaha and two Suzukis. However, possible nerves got the better of the Japanese rider who crashed out on the first lap. This meant the race was now led by a Petronas Yamaha SRT ridden by Franco Morbidelli. The Italian rider rode an immaculate race, taking a very commanding victory.

The two Team Suzuki Ecstar riders, Alex Rins and Joan Mir, followed Franco to the finish-line, once again collecting much-needed championsh­ip points. Mir’s main rival, Fabio Quartararo, on the second Petronas Yamaha SRT machine could only manage to finish in eighth place, losing further ground in the championsh­ip. The Marquez name was not forgotten, though, as Marc’s younger brother, Alex Marquez of Repsol Honda Team, seemed to be smashing all comers, making his way into fourth and setting some quick lap-times. However, tragedy struck as the younger Marquez also crashed, bringing an end to his brilliant ride.

Next up on the calendar, we headed to Valencia for two rounds of racing. The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider, Pol Espargaro, had pole, but, at the lights, it were the two Suzukis once again that made themselves felt. Joan Mir and Alex Rins seemed unstoppabl­e as both Suzukis soon took the lead and

stuck to it until the end. Joan Mir claimed an impressive victory with his partner, Alex Rins, coming in second.

Espargaro may not have claimed the much-needed victory he has been so doggedly after, but a podium finish was not all that bad and the Spaniard took the final place on the podium. The Japanese rider, Nakagami, had his best finish in fourth, giving him some respite since last week’s first-lap fumble. Once again we also saw a struggling Fabio Quartararo who managed a 14thpositi­on finish. The championsh­ip now looked almost lost for the young Frenchman. Besides, the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team had their own set of problems, with Valentino Rossi testing positive for COVID-19 and Maverick Viñales finishing just ahead of Quartararo in 13th place.

Seven days later, we were once again racing at Valencia. Joan Mir would have a chance to cement his name on the championsh­ip placard, but Quartararo would have a chance to hold off Suzuki’s celebratio­n if he stood atop the podium. The second race at Valencia saw a Petronas Yamaha SRT shoot into the lead and ride a stellar race to win the penultimat­e MotoGP race of the 2020 season. Unfortunat­ely for the young Frenchman, Fabio, it was his teammate, Morbidelli, who was responsibl­e for the said feat. Second place was won by the Aussie, Jack Miller, on the Pramac Ducati who continued to remain Ducati’s top rider this season. Third place went to Takaaki Nakagami on his LCR Honda Idemitsu machine, giving the Japanese rider his first and muchdeserv­ed podium.

Fabio Quartararo could only manage to finish in 11th place, just ahead of the now newly crowned 2020 MotoGP champion, Joan Mir. Mir’s 12th-place finish was enough for the young Spaniard to clinch the title on points before the last round in Portugal. Mir might have been a shock to the title; however, the young rider’s consistenc­y paid off and we can only applaud and congratula­te the winner of this amazing sport.

That left us with Portimao, Portugal, for the penultimat­e race of the 2020 MotoGP season and also the first time a MotoGP race would be held at the venue. Pole position was grabbed by the home lad, Miguel Oliveira, on the Red Bull KTM Tech 3 motorcycle. At the lights, the young Portuguese rider got off to a blistering start along with Franco Morbidelli and Jack Miller. The three riders started to break away from the rest, but soon Oliveira seemed to be in a race of his own, leaving all in his dust. The KTM rider at one point held a 10-second lead on Miller and Franco, appeasing gleeful Portuguese fans.

Meanwhile, Morbidelli and Miller were in a battle of their own with both looking to finish on the second step of the podium. It was Franco who led Miller for most of the race until the dying moments when Miller put on the pressure. The Pramac rider’s hard work finally paid off and the Aussie took second place with Morbidelli taking the final place on the podium. Pol Espargaro came in fourth, followed by Takaaki Nakagami.

That brought us to the end of the 2020 MotoGP season. There have been several surprises such as nine different winners this year, teams more at par than ever before, the rise of KTM, the rise of all the satellite teams and their riders, Suzuki winning its first championsh­ip in 20 years, a rookie Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider, Brad Binder, winning a race, the retirement of Andrea Dovizioso of Ducati Team, Jorge Lorenzo out and Cal Crutchlow in as Yamaha test rider, Rossi moves to Petronas Yamaha, and all this without a certain Marc Marquez. Although COVID-19 played its devastatin­g role, this was a brilliant year for racing. Congratula­tions to Joan Mir and Team Suzuki Ecstar for their stunning performanc­e. Let us hope this continues into the 2021 season which will see a few Moto2 boys join the fray and also the return of Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez.

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