Morbidelli eyeing strong finish in Valencia to clinch ‘Rookie of the Year’ prize

Morbidelli eyeing strong finish in Valencia to clinch ‘Rookie of the Year’ prize

Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli heads into the last race of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship in Valencia this weekend full of enthusiasm and optimism that he can clinch the coveted 'Rookie of the Year' title

An emotional weekend lies in store for Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS when Franco Morbidelli and Thomas Lüthi line-up on the grid for the last competitive MotoGP action of the year at the 4km Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia.

This weekend’s action will bring an end to a successful four-year involvement in the elite MotoGP category for the Belgium-based Marc VDS squad, with the undoubted highlight being Jack Miller’s stunning victory in Assen in 2016.

Morbidelli and Lüthi are now equally determined to ensure it is a memorable farewell in the 27-lap lap race.

Franco Morbidelli still has plenty to fight for on Sunday, with the Italian star locked in an exciting duel with Malaysia’s Hafizh Syahrin for the prestigious honour of being crowned 'Rookie of the Year'.

A sixth successive top 15 finish last time out in the draining heat and humidity of Sepang means Morbidelli is in the driving seat by 10-points, and he is confident of sealing the Rookie of the Year crown on a track where he’s tasted success at previously.

Morbidelli took the first front row start of his World Championship career in Valencia back in 2014 and in 2016 and 2017 he raced to a top three finish in the traditional season finale.

Tom Luthi is determined to savour his final appearance in MotoGP this weekend as he goes in search of an elusive point-scoring finish.

The Swiss rider came tantalisingly close to his first top 15 in Malaysia last time out but for the fifth time in 2018 he had to settle for 16th spot. Luthi is a previous winner in Valencia when he triumphed in the Moto2 race in 2014 and he was also on the podium in 2015 and 2016 before injured prevented him from competing 12 months ago.

The Valencia track features a tight and twisty layout but set in a natural amphitheatre it is a treat for fans who have an unobstructed view of the entire track from almost every seat.

MotoGP practice starts at 9:55am local time on Friday morning, with the final showdown of the season scheduled to get underway at 2pm on Sunday.

Franco Morbidelli: 14th in the overall standings on 50 points

“Valencia is a very important race for me”

“I’m really looking forward to the final round in Valencia because it is a very important race for me to try and clinch the Rookie of the Year title. That was one of my big targets coming into this season and to achieve it this weekend will be a great reward for all the hard work put in by my team throughout the season. Valencia is a track that I really like and it suits my style and the Honda, so I’m happy about that.”

Tom Luthi: 28th in the overall rankings

“I want to have a strong finish this weekend”

“There is one more race to go and I’ll put my all into making this weekend a successful one. I’m looking forward to racing in Valencia because it is a nice and very technical track. It will be the last MotoGP race before I start a new chapter back in Moto2, so I want to have a strong finish this weekend.”

Track facts / Circuit Ricardo Tormo (Cheste, Spain)

Length: 2.489 miles (4,005 metres)
Width: 12 metres
Corners: 9 (left) + 5 (right)
Longest straight: 876 metres
MotoGP Race: 27 laps, 67.2 miles (108.1 km)
Best pole: Jorge Lorenzo (1'29.401 – 2016)
Circuit record: Jorge Lorenzo (1'31.171 – 2016)
Top speed: Andrea Dovizioso, 208.1 mph (335.9 kph) – 2015)
2017 race winner: Dani Pedrosa (46'08.125)