Highlights from De Angelis’ Motegi championship win

For years, the future was always about to be Alex de Angelis. The MotoGP world championship seemed set to be won by a Frenchman named Alex de Angelis. However, after 21 races in his rookie season of 2016, de Angelis’ fortunes took a nosedive, and his days in MotoGP seemed numbered.

Eventually, two years later, it is the 35-year-old de Angelis who clinched the 2017 title. Yes, when top class premier class motorcycle racing begins its long winter break in Malaysia, de Angelis will be the highest ranked Italian on the grid, but this is hardly a shock to the veteran as he’s been roundly on fire this season, winning six of the 20 rounds.

The title winner is first to the podium in 100 points after the Malaysian Grand Prix with nine race wins compared to four for class leader Johann Zarco of France. While the season is almost finished, perhaps the most intriguing story of this series remains how much better de Angelis has looked. In October’s Dutch GP, with his career on the line, he hit top form when first nipping past Zarco, and then passing two-time MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo.

His renaissance has been the result of continuing to apply the same approach he had been using all season. For years, this is what has brought results, starting with third in Argentina in 2016. Racing in what the wheelmen refer to as a “winning mentality,” not so much a great start is not an option for de Angelis.

To fuel his fires even more, and not wanting to let another opportunity go, de Angelis upped his game after qualifying seventh in Malaysia last year. Staying on the front row again, the Yamaha rider powered off in the first lap to the fifth fastest qualifying speed, ensuring he would start the race from the front of the grid. Although he did not look too comfortable in the first corner, de Angelis settled down in the second set, and made the most of the second row advantage to make his race debut one to remember.

The reigning champion quickly settled into his rhythm, setting about racing ruthlessly, no doubt eyeing all the championship points he could pick up at the front of the pack, only because of his winless career the end of the 2017 season seemed to be too far away, not to mention he wouldn’t even start his motorcycle season next year.

In a seven-lap race, de Angelis progressed through the field and within a few laps of the next restart, he was on the front row again, holding off Zarco’s charge to win the race and regain his title hopes in style. This victory is a tale of two races in particular, both completely filled with pace and hard racing that was full of fast exit and entry attempts by de Angelis. Zarco had a speed advantage over the field in the second leg, but he could not get past the Frenchman. In the end, however, de Angelis’ superb start was too much for the chiseled Frenchman to overcome.

Leading from the first lap, the pre-race favorite turned in a superb performance to secure his first MotoGP title, to call his DTM career a success is a stretch. De Angelis ended the championship with 12 wins, second in the overall standings on 24 points behind Zarco, who had a separate battle with Lorenzo for the title.

This season, de Angelis ended his open DTM season with a single podium finish, a highly impressive feat. While the former was never in doubt after leading the series on points through to the win, this success could serve as the impetus for the next stage of his career. Working to a reduced package, de Angelis’ performance on a Ducati could eventually elevate him to a front line rider across multiple races, qualifying for grand prix races at every circuit.

By no means can his DTM success be discounted, for it is a series that’s not quite such a demanding race, resulting in less extreme training during the winter months. While biding his time, de Angelis currently drives a Honda eight times per week during winter testing, but how he will fare at the next level of competition is yet to be seen.

While it is only in the future that we can truly reflect upon de Angelis’ career, his current performances are exceptional, and vindicate the high ambitions people held before his MotoGP debut.

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