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Morbidelli: MotoGP championship vice-champion result “something huge”

Franco Morbidelli says securing his runner-up finish in the 2020 MotoGP riders standings by finishing third in the Portuguese Grand Prix is “something great”, adding he will “remember it forever.”

The Petronas SRT Yamaha rider came into the Portuguese GP weekend only four points clear of Suzuki’s Alex Rins in second overall in the riders standings after Joan Mir wrapped up the title by finishing seventh in last weekend’s Valencia GP, the GSX-RR’s expected to work well around the twisty Algarve International Circuit.

Suzuki’s promise ultimately failed to come to pass though as Rins struggled to a distant 15th by the flag after qualifying tenth, while Morbidelli battled for second with Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller.

Unlike the pair’s battle for the Valencia GP victory last weekend-in which Morbidelli emerged victorious-the Aussie this time got the better of the Yamaha as he slid past with only two corners remaining on the final tour to snatch the position, Morbidelli having to make do with completing the rostrum positions.

The three-time MotoGP race winner says achieving vice-champion status is “something great”, pointing to a “new Frankie” that came to the fore as a result of being beaten by rookie team-mate Fabio Quartararo during his sophomore premier class campaign last year.  

“Congratulations to Miguel and to Jack, I’m happy to finish second in the riders championship, vice world champion of MotoGP is something great-not my dream-but something great so I will remember it forever, and I will work to improve myself as an athlete and person and we will see what the future brings,” said Morbidelli.

“This year with the Covid situation and being kicked in the butt by my team-mate last year I discovered a new Frankie, a more serious one-a worker-and this was a side of me that I never thought I had, this allowed me to really focus at home on being an athlete.

“I feel very good inside Yamaha, this year, quite fairly, I was the third rider but that didn’t put me down, I knew I had a good package and I knew that putting in a lot of work with the crew and at home I could do something good, and actually we did something huge and that’s great.”

Morbidelli added that he “couldn’t retaliate” against Miller’s last lap attack after realising the Pramac pilot “had something extra in the end”, but lauded the Algarve course as “wonderful but tricky as hell.”

“I enjoyed (Portimao) quite a lot, the track is wonderful and tricky as hell, when you’re riding you are consistently trying to control the bike and avoid over-wheelie or lifting the rear wheel off the ground,” continued Morbidelli.

“It’s difficult but super nice to ride, the race was wonderful as we chose the correct tyres and I was impressed by the pace I was maintaining.

“Miguel (Oliveira) was impossible to follow, I tried in the beginning because I thought I had something more so I tried to squeeze (the most out of) my package and tried to give 200% to arrive at the end, I could see that Jack (Miller) was there still and he had something extra in the end and was able to attack, and I couldn’t retaliate.”

Morbidelli’s three victories matched team-mate Quartararo’s win tally for the season, though the ’17 Moto2 world champions two extra rostrum results-compared to the Frenchman’s zero- and his greater consistency made the difference in the overall standings, Quartararo ending the year a disappointing eighth, 31 points adrift of Morbidelli.

His achievement holds even greater weight considering the age of his final two engines, the V4 motors having powered him to all three of his victories this season after being used every weekend since round six of the year in San Marino.

He lost one engine after it failed on him during the Andalucian GP while running in the top three, while he lost two more after they were withdrawn from his allocation of five due to having faulty valves.  

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