Last weekend, a male MotoGP bike race saw one of its most compelling rivalries in months, proving it’s not what you look like but what you do.
The scintillating finale at Valencia revealed just how much horsepower a factory Honda offers, setting the pace of round nine with 793.5bhp.
And it wasn’t just on track that things got exciting.
As the superbike pit lane began to jam-pack, seeing bikes come off and a GP21 closed after a crash that left it with only 20 per cent of its engine capacity, there was the initial shock and awe. It didn’t take long to realize just how dangerous that was, seeing at least one rider getting thrown from his bike, as well as fellow battles about in them.
PHOTOS: The explosion of MotoGP action from Valencia
It was in the finale, though, that all eyes were on the battle for class honours between Spain’s Maverick Vinales and reigning world champion Marc Marquez, with the Yamaha rider storming to a convincing win to keep his title hopes alive.
Driving a MotoGP since the Moto3 world championship began in 2011, Vinales is an outstanding talent. He won three consecutive national championship titles (2011-2013), setting the pace in every race. But aside from being a maverick from the factory Honda, he’s just really naturally gifted.
Sitting third in the championship, Marquez held second place with double points on offer, and seemingly likely to hit the podium if things fell his way. However, Vinales was up to the job, finishing a scintillating third to take the lead by two points with two rounds remaining.
Although there were arguments over who should have taken top honors, the fact remains that Vinales is on the front line of one of the best races we’ve seen in some time.
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Vinales wasn’t prepared to go out for the season after the eighth round in Spain, with Valentino Rossi announcing his retirement just the week later. However, the Brit stepped up after splitting from his manager, and in just over a month had become factory Honda’s best front-runner, perhaps reaching an all-time career high on October 22 when he took pole position at Mugello for the first time.
But first, he took on Marquez, and in this race, he won by more than three seconds. His timing was incredible, closing every corner to inch just ahead as Marquez went off two corners later, with third coming just moments later.
Vinales was an absolute joy to watch, although he knew how crucial this win was. Qualifying at Valencia was and remains Marquez’s best, to this day, ever, and winning here in Valencia means extending his championship lead to 22 points. With the final two races in Phillip Island and Valencia, though, being split by just two points would give Marquez every chance to stay clear of the Spaniard.
With the series running out of time and many saying it was Marquez’s to lose, it seemed inevitable that the 2014 world champion would win the season, if he wasn’t already.
The chances of him riding his final MotoGP lap under the floodlights at Mugello looking likely, gave Vinales a huge boost, and even took him all the way to the Argentine capital just one week later to celebrate winning his first Grand Prix in front of his family.
It would become his second-to-last MotoGP race, and victory at Corse in early November would mean his fine MotoGP career ended on the podium. But, given that Marquez overtook a Manor to retake first place at the start of the penultimate lap, the season was blown wide open.
The second race in Belgium saw two riders in pole, with Marquez leading again. Victory would now mean a chance of becoming the youngest ever triple champion in world motorcycling. Despite dominating and enjoying a healthy lead, the Spaniard was warned to do his best to hold off Vinales, and it wasn’t long before the Briton grabbed the lead.
At the final corner, with no room to maneuver, Marquez’s left rear wheel hit the wall, with Vinales waiting patiently for the Marquez to come off.
The Venezuelan started to celebrate, and with victory sealed, Marquez climbed out of his bike and the pair embraced on the track.
The class they are now in, it’s nearly finished.
WATCH: Maverick Vinales clinches MotoGP title