Magnifico, Franco!

Catch me if you can: Franco Morbidelli is pursued by Jack Miller while leading the MotoGP race at the Valencia Grand Prix.

PETALING JAYA: MotoGP rider Franco Morbidelli restored some pride for Petronas Sepang Racing Team with a magnificent win as teammate Fabio Quartararo’s title challenge ended at the Valencia Grand Prix.

Morbidelli, astride a Yamaha, started from pole and was in control until the very last lap when a charging Jack Miller passed him twice on Sunday.

But the Italian responded superbly in a thrilling last-lap tussle with the Australian for his third victory of the season.

Morbidelli is now equal with Quartararo in the number of wins this season – the only two riders to win more than once – and has moved to second spot in the championship standings on 142 points. Quartararo is fifth on 125 points.

The win also saw the Malaysian team crowned as the independent team champions.

Suzuki’s Joan Mir won the world title when he finished seventh with one race remaining in Portimao, Portugal, this weekend.

Mir picked up 171 points while another Spaniard Alex Rins is third on 138.

Morbidelli celebrating with the trophy after the suspenseful win. — AFPMorbidelli celebrating with the trophy after the suspenseful win. — AFP

“I knew I could be tough in a fight but I had not done it in top positions, so it was nice to have a fight and prove myself in MotoGP against a great rider for the victory, ” said Morbidelli.

“It was good to see I was able to come out of this in a good way.

“My aim was to pull away and I was not getting that, the maximum advantage I saw was 0.9s after 14 laps, then it started to go down and on the last lap, Miller was there and he overtook me.

“After that, it was just a matter of trying to respond to every move he was doing and I was able to get it right to finish in front. To win a race with that battle at the end is a great feeling.

“We are now second in the championship and I’m looking forward to Portimao, ” he added.

For Quartararo, it was a race to forget as he was forced wide in Turn 2 on the opening lap and dropped to last place.

His race went from bad to worse when he crashed in the ninth lap.

“Unfortunately I could not do anything today to take the championship fight to the final race. We just didn’t have the pace. I was pushing with more than what I had today and that was why I made some mistakes.

“P10 (10th) might have been possible today but I wanted more than that and instead I made those mistakes, ” said the Frenchman, who congratulated Mir for winning the title fight. Joan (Mir) has been very strong and very consistent, so he deserves this championship and my congratulations to him.”

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