The wait is almost over, and it is time for the new season to finally commence! It is Round One of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship coming to you from the Losail International Circuit, which is about 30 kilometres north of Doha, the capital of Qatar, and it will begin what promises to be a great season, and it will be the longest season in the history of the sport, with 19 races for all to enjoy!
Four-time MotoGP World Champion and defending champion Marc Márquez, who has recently re-signed with Honda, will start the 2018 season as the favourite to win his fifth premier class title, and join Mick Doohan in equal-third for most premier class world championships, but will have to get past a number of contenders wanting to snatch the crown off him.
They include Andrea Dovizioso, who pushed Márquez all the way in 2017, winning six races, which was the same amount won by Márquez.
Maverick Viñales will also be a strong contender for the championship, despite a difficult second-half to his first season with the factory Yamaha team. Viñales won three of the first five races, but was unable to win any of the last 13 as he fell away to finish third in the 2017 championship.
Márquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa should also be in the thick of things after winning twice in 2017, although he hasn’t been able to beat Márquez on a consistent basis, as should Valentino Rossi, who has re-signed with Yamaha, and is looking to defy age and perhaps the critics to equal Giacomo Agostini’s record of eight premier class world championships.
Three-time MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo will be looking to return to top form in 2018 after a tough first year with the factory Ducati team, being thrashed by his teammate, and rarely coming close to challenging for a race victory, only picking up three podiums, while Johann Zarco will be looking to back up his sensational rookie year last year, where he finished sixth in the championship with three podiums, with a strong season in 2018.
There will also be other contenders looking for race victories or podium finishes in 2018, including Danilo Petrucci, Cal Crutchlow, Alex Rins, Andrea Iannone, and even Australian Jack Miller.
The only disappointing news heading into the season is that German rider Jonas Folger will not take part in the 2018 season after missing the last four races of 2017, a season where he got a podium at his home race, after being diagonosed with a rare strain of Gilbert Syndrome, which is a common genetic disorder where the liver is unable to process toxins effectively, and it affects around two to five percent of the world’s population.
Overall, looking at the season as a whole, you would have to tip Marc Márquez to win his seventh world championship across all classes, as you sense that when he has the bike he wants underneath him, and is at his favourite circuits, he will win all of those races, but has the ability to finish on the podium when the bike isn’t quite there more often than his opposition.
However, in terms of the opening race of 2018, I am thinking that either Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo will be very hard to beat on their factory Ducati bikes on that long front straight at the Losail International Circuit.
So, I am tipping a Ducati one-two, with Márquez to start his quest for a fifth MotoGP World Championship with a strong third-place finish at one of his least-favourite tracks.
Yamaha will also be strong, but not as strong as this time last year, while Suzuki could be a surprise packet with Alex Rins and Andrea Iannone.
So, I cannot wait for the season to begin! It should be a classic!