Sebastian Nystrom of Sweden (top), with his team, Orica-GreenEdge, second placed. Bryan Liggett of Australia (bottom) behind sixth placed Danny Kent (top) of Britain. Image Credit: AP
The 2018 MotoGP season saw a new world champion crowned, with Andrea Dovizioso claiming his first of three Grand Prix titles in a convincing fashion. But it also saw a great deal of ups and downs and controversy for some of the top riders.
As the season draws to a close, with the Valencia Grand Prix taking place this Sunday, here are some of the stories to watch out for:
Dovizioso’s title challenge
Dovizioso’s win in Japan gave him an 85-point lead over Maverick Vinales and an unprecedented fourth straight MotoGP world championship. But he has been placed under pressure from Vinales, who has been on a five-race winning streak to go with five podium finishes.
As Vinales stands four points clear, a Honda rider could win the championship for the first time since 2006, when Casey Stoner won it for the first time before retiring.
The fastest GP finish ever in Valencia is the 68.4sec, set by Jimmy Clark in 1978.
Reminder of the past
Just six years ago, during the debut season in which Valentino Rossi won five of the first nine races, Maverick Vinales was thrown out of a practice for speeding past stop-signs.
This was only for five seconds, but that equates to a difference of almost 60mph. Vinales received a six-second penalty and was punished further when he crashed, tearing off the right wheel.
In 2016, Dani Pedrosa was taken to hospital after a heavy crash.
Back in action
Valentino Rossi rode a round of free practice after disappointing results in Indianapolis and Brazil.
Currently the top rider on the MotoGP World Rankings, he recorded five laps for the Ducati factory Yamaha team. Rossi is to be granted a major incentive for improving his position next season. He will receive three points for every Grand Prix point he achieves, from the 2019 season onwards.
The 32-year-old Italian is aiming to win a record sixth world title and intends to produce a “perfect season” to improve on his 10 wins and 20 podiums during the past three years.
Kojima: A real story
It was a hard year for Kazuki Nakajima of Japan, who crashed out of every Grand Prix, with only one podium finish. But at least his fellow Japanese Honda riders didn’t get a better time.
Yamaha MotoGP star Dani Pedrosa crashed out in nine of 10 races in 2018 and Marc Marquez (7 of 10) and Cal Crutchlow (10 of 12) failed to finish in their first ten races.