Maverick Vinales held his nerve to beat Alex Rins at the very last corner of the season to clinch the Moto3 title in a thrilling finish at Valencia. The 18 year old Spaniard who hadn’t won since round four at Le Mans delivered when it mattered most to win the final race of the season while Luis Salom saw his hopes disappear in the gravel trap.
Despite the enormous hype surrounding the three-way title showdown, the race more than lived up to expectations with all three riders in position to take the championship at one stage or another. Vinales had the bit between his teeth early on and dived past Salom as early as the fourth corner but nothing was decided just yet as the three ran nose to tail.
Salom struck for the first time on lap eight as the slipstream down the pit straight proved particularly useful but Vinales was in a feisty mood, handing Luis a taste of his own medicine two laps later. The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider, who led the championship at the start of the day, was looking dangerous behind Vinales but his challenge began to unravel when Rins passed him for second on lap fourteen. Now at the tail of the leading trio, Luis had to up his pace but in his attempts to do so, the 22 year old carried too much speed into turn five and the front end of his KTM tucked. The championship now boiled down to a straight fight between Vinales and Rins with Jonas Folger keeping a watching brief in third.
Turn one continued to be the overtaking place of choice as both Spanish teenagers enjoyed spells in the lead but with 4km of the season remaining, there was nothing to split the pair. Vinales entered the last lap ahead but Rins regained the lead at the first available opportunity, turn one. Maverick’s strategy was to cut straight back underneath at turn two and despite running slightly wide, the Calvo rider braved it out around the outside.
Rins’ last chance came at turn fourteen, the final corner and inevitably, the Estrella Galicia rider sent his KTM up the inside of the left hander but his braking had been left fractionally too late, allowing Vinales to surge back through on the exit. With all the momentum coming on to the home straight, Vinales had done enough to claim just his third win of the season but with fifteen podiums out of seventeen races, his consistency proved crucial in crowning him Moto3 champion.
Rins win-or-bust move at the final corner ultimately cost him second in the race to Folger but it was academic in the grand scheme of things. Teammate Alex Marquez finished fourth to clinch the ‘rookie of the year’ title with Efren Vazquez fifth for Mahindra ahead of Alexis Masbou who took sixth despite starting from the pitlane. Isaac Vinales finished seventh on a day when his cousin dominated the headlines while Ana Carrasco, teammate to Vinales, capped a dream day for Team Calvo with a career best eighth.
After his unfortunate crash mid-race, Salom brought his battered and bruised KTM home in fourteenth to end up third in the championship standings despite leading for much of the season. Jack Miller also ended a superb season with disappointment after crashing out of fourth.