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MotoGP: Francesco Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo settle the championship in Valencia

Halfway through the MotoGP season, Francesco Bagnaia was 91 points back from the championship spot. Now, he is 23 points up at the top and on the brink of winning his first MotoGP title.

On Sunday, November 6, the 2022 MotoGP season will conclude at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain with their tightest championship battle in five years as Francesco Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo each have chance to take the title home.

The phrase is often used, but rarely is it more accurate: This was the tale of two seasons. Quartararo easily led the first half of the season, holding a 34-point advantage over the second-place rider Aleix Espargaro. Bagnaia languished sixth in the standings 91 points in arrears.

From one perspective, Quartararo had a more-than three-race lead over Bagnaia in a series that awards a maximum of 25 points for the win. Quartararo was coming off back-to-back wins and podium finishes in four of the previous five events. Through the halfway point, he swept the top 10. The fewest points he banked during this span was seven for his ninth-place finish in the season-opener at Qatar.

The other perspective on the championship battle was that Bagnaia needed to make up nine points per round, which was a much more manageable number. In those same 10 rounds, Bagnaia was not classified four times. He earned only a single point for his 15th-place finish in Indonesia and the only light on the horizon was a pair of wins in Spain and Italy.

It is notable the championship battle comes down to the final round, but what happened beginning with the Dutch GP is what makes the 2022 season historic.

After such a strong start, Quartararo suffered his first DNF (failure to finish) of the season. Bagnaia won his third race of the season to match the total banked by his rival.

MotoGP Results

Bagnaia kept winning. He took the hardware home from England, Austria and San Marino. With this four-race streak of wins, Bagnaia closed the gap to 30 points. Quartararo still had a one-race advantage over Bagnaia, but now the challenger needed to make up only five points per race.

Enea Bastianini stopped Bagnaia’s winning streak the following week in the Aragon GP. Bagnaia finished second in Round 15 as Quartararo failed to finish for the second time in the season.

Discretion was needed that afternoon as any risky move might have stalled Bagnaia’s momentum.

“It’s been great,” Bagnaia said after that race. “I did my maximum and on the final lap it looked like there was more traction. Enea did an incredible job all weekend. It was already known that he and Fabio were the fastest - and Fabio had an unlucky crash on the first lap.

“In any case I did my best and on the final lap I didn’t feel like I was able to overtake Enea because I was already taking too many risks the lap before, so 20 points were important and it’s okay.”

Round 16 moved to Japan. Both championship contenders struggled through that round, riding outside the top five for most of the afternoon. The lesson Bagnaia learned one race earlier fell to his desire to keep making up ground in the points and he pushed too hard on the final trip around the Suzuka track, dropping from seventh. Running ninth at the time, Quartararo swept around the fallen rider and stopped his points slide.

That could have been another turning point in the season. Quartararo now led by 19 points with four rounds remaining and needed only to close out the season within a position of Bagnaia in each race.

Bagnaia stood on the podium in the next three rounds, earning 57 points in those races. Quartararo earned zero points in Thailand and Australia, handing the points lead to Bagnaia for the first time in 2022.

For the fourth time in the season, both championship contenders stood on the podium in the penultimate round. Bagnaia won each of those head-to-head battles, in Spain, Italy, Austria and Malaysia.

Bagnaia leads Quartararo into the final race this weekend with a 23-point advantage. The only way to lose the title is for Bagnaia to finish 15th or worse with his rival winning the race. If Quartararo does not earn his fourth trophy of the season, Bagnaia wins no matter what. But that is hardly the storyline of the season.

Bagnaia’s determination in the second half of the season is