2018 Malaysian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

Yamaha ended their worst losing run in their history at Phillip Island in Australia with  Maverick Viñales taking his first race victory since the 2017 French Grand Prix, and Yamaha’s first since the 2017 Dutch TT, ending a winless streak of 25-straight races, while Marc Márquez suffered yet another retirement at the Australian Grand Prix after clinching championship success in Japan, this time not of his own doing after Johann Zarco clattered into the back of his bike in what was a scary incident, and while only Zarco went down, Márquez was forced to retire from the race after sustaining significant damage to his Honda.

So, what are we install for as the grid heads to the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia for Round 18 of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship, the penultimate round of the season?

Márquez (296 points) leads the championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 86 points over Andrea Dovizioso (210 points) after the Ducati Team rider finished an impressive third, equalling his best result at Phillip Island in the premier class (2011), and solidifies a strong grip on second spot in the world championship.

Valentino Rossi (195 points) is third in the championship for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP after a slightly disappointing sixth-place finish in Australia, and has now gone seven completed races without a podium, while his teammate Viñales (180 points) closes up on him in the battle for third in the world championship.

Cal Crutchlow (148 points) is fifth in the championship at the moment for LCR Honda, but will likely miss the rest of the season after breaking his ankle during Friday practice at Phillip Island, meaning that he could potentially fall down the standings to 10th by the end of the season.

Behind the current top five in the championship, the five other riders inside the top 10 in the standings are covered by just eight points with Alma Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci (137 points), Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (133 points), Team SUZUKI ECSTAR rider Andrea Iannone (133 points), Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (130 points), who should be close to being fit for the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend, and Iannone’s teammate Álex Rins (129 points) all firmly in the battle for fifth in the world championship given Crutchlow’s injury.

With the world championship already wrapped up in favour of Marc Márquez, the battle for second in the 2018 MotoGP World Championship could be decided this weekend in favour of Andrea Dovizioso as long as he finishes inside the top six.

Dovizioso can claim second in the championship if:

  1. If Dovizioso wins, Rossi must finish 4th or lower.
  2. If Dovizioso finishes 2nd, Rossi must finish 6th or lower.
  3. If Dovizioso finishes 3rd, Rossi must finish 10th or lower, Viñales must finish 2nd or lower.
  4. If Dovizioso finishes 4th, Rossi must finish 13th or lower, Viñales must finish 3rd or lower.
  5. If Dovizioso finishes 5th, Rossi must finish 15th or lower, Viñales must finish 3rd or lower.
  6. If Dovizioso finishes 6th, Rossi must finish outside of the points, Viñales must finish 4th or lower.

So, who will win at Sepang International Circuit?

On paper it suits Ducati, and realistically, you know Marc Márquez is going to be right there with them on his Honda, and with some of the long, flowing corners around the track, you would expect Yamaha to be involved in the battle, but I don’t it is going to be that simple for them to be there at the very front and challenging the likes of Andrea Dovizioso, Márquez, and Jorge Lorenzo (if he is fit).

So, assuming Lorenzo is fit, it will be a battle between those three for the win, and if it is wet, I think Dovizioso may win, but if it is dry, I think Márquez may well claim his ninth victory of the season.

 

 

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2018 W.S. Cox Plate Day – Preview

It is always a special race, a special day, but in 2018 it goes to a whole new level with Winx attempting to become the first horse ever to win the W.S. Cox Plate four times, and would be just the second seven year old mare to win the Weight-For-Age Championship of Australasia.

The great mare is also looking to equal Hurricane Fly’s world-wide record of 22 Group One wins, and take the outright record for most Group One wins in a row (going for her 10th-straight Group One without racing at a lower level), and extend her winning streak to 29. Should Winx win from barrier six, it will become the equal-most successful barrier in the history of the W.S. Cox Plate (Barrier Seven has 11 wins: Humidor will go from Barrier Seven).

There are also some milestones to achieve for both the jockey and trainer of Winx, with Hugh Bowman looking to join Darby Munro (five), Brent Thomson (four), and Jack Purtell (four) as the only jockeys to win the W.S. Cox Plate at least four times, while Chris Waller will join T. J Smith (seven), Jack Holt (six), and J.B Cummings (five) as the only trainers to win the W.S. Cox Plate at least four times should Winx or D’argento win.

In addition to this, there is a foreign raid looking to topple Winx, with Benbatl, Rostropovich, and Savvy Coup looking to become just the second internationally-trained horse to win the W.S. Cox Plate.

So, let’s have a look at my tips for the great day of racing at Moonee Valley, including the 98th running of the W.S. Cox Plate.

 

Race 1. Inglis Banner 12:10pm 1000m INGLIS 2YO

1st 4. True Serendipity (5)

2nd 6. Biscara (1)

3rd 5. Wedgetail (7)

4th 3. Reddisun (12)

Race 2. Strathmore Community Bendigo Bank Handicap 12:40pm 955m HCP

1st 4. Guard of Honour (5)

2nd 7. Invincible Al (9)

3rd 3. Ashlor (10)

4th 11. Gauteng Gal (8)

Race 3. Powerflo Solutions Stakes 1:15pm 1600m Group 3 TESIO STKS

1st 2. Savatiano (4)

2nd 1. Princess Posh (2)

3rd 6. Mamzelle Tess (3)

4th 4. Bring Me Roses (1)

Race 4. Harrolds Crockett Stakes 1:50pm 1200m Listed CROCKETT

1st 1. Spanish Whisper (8)

2nd 4. Into the Abyss (3)

3rd 3. Illuminaire (4)

4th 2. Assertive Play (5)

Race 5. 1300 Australia Stakes 2:25pm 1200m Group 3 RED ANCHOR STKS

1st 3. Spin (6)

2nd 7. Wagner (3)

3rd 2. Ragged Rascal (7)

4th 4. Sunset Watch (2)

Race 6. Aquis Farm Fillies Classic 3:00pm 1600m Group 2 CLASSIC

1st 3. Mystic Journey (7)

2nd 2. Fundamentalist (11)

3rd 1. El Dorado Dreaming (10)

4th 4. Krone (3)

Race 7. Schweppes Crystal Mile 3:35pm 1600m Group 2 CRYSTL MILE

1st 9. Siege of Quebec (8)

2nd 8. Cliff’s Edge (10)

3rd 10. Octabello (1)

4th 2. Prized Icon (2)

Race 8. McCafe Moonee Valley Gold Cup 4:10pm 2500m Group 2 MV CUP

1st 6. The Taj Mahal (IRE) (17)

2nd 9. Trap for Fools (8)

3rd 10. Libran (IRE) (2)

4th 14. Ventura Storm (IRE) (9)

Race 9. Ladbrokes Cox Plate 5:00pm 2040m Group 1 COX PLATE

1st 6. Winx (6)

2nd 1. Benbatl (GB) (3)

3rd 2. Humidor (NZ) (7)

4th 4. Avilius (GB) (1)

Race 10. Drummond Golf Vase 5:50pm 2040m Group 2 VASE

1st 5. Savoie (7)

2nd 12. Savvy Oak (NZ) (2)

3rd 10. Stars Of Carrum (6)

4th 9. Thunderdome (15)

2018 Mexican Grand Prix – Preview

Kimi Räikkönen took his 21st career race victory in Formula One, but his first since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix, when he was with the Lotus F1 Team, by taking out the 2018 United States Grand Prix, his first win in the United States, holding of Max Verstappen, who charged from 18th on the grid to claim second, and claimed the Driver of the Day award, and Lewis Hamilton, with Mercedes taking a strategic gamble by taking the pit-stop under the virtual safety car, but it backfired, but despite requiring a second pit-stop, Hamilton charged back to finish in a close third.

And with this, the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship battle is still alive heading into the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix, Round 19 of the championship.

Hamilton (346 points) leads the world championship for Mercedes by 70 points over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel (276 points) after another disappointing performance by the German, finishing in fourth after spinning on the opening lap when racing Daniel Ricciardo, throwing away yet another opportunity for a crucial race victory.

Behind Hamilton and Vettel in the championship, Vettel’s teammate Räikkönen (221 points) has re-taken third in the standings ahead of Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (217 points), while Verstappen (191 points) is closing in on both of them in a close fifth for Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer, but the Dutchman’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo (146 points) is still mathematically in the hunt, but realistically knows that sixth is the best he can do this year in the world championship after suffering his seventh retirement of the season.

However, while the battle for third in the championship is starting to heat up, the battle for seventh in the standings has been blown wide open, with Nico Hülkenberg (61 points) moving up to seventh after a sixth-place finish at the Circuit of the Americas for Renault, with Sergio Pérez (57 points) slipping one place back to eighth in the world championship after finishing in the same position at the United States Grand Prix for Force India-Mercedes.

Behind Hülkenberg and Pérez, the trio of Kevin Magnussen (53 points) for Haas-Ferrari, Fernando Alonso (50 points) for McLaren-Renault, and Esteban Ocon (49 points) for Force India-Mercedes, who in the case of Alonso retired from the United States Grand Prix, and in the case of Magnussen and Ocon were disqualified after technical breaches in regards to their fuel usage, with Magnussen using beyond the maximum 105kg of fuel, and Ocon for exceeding the fuel-flow limit on the opening lap of the grand prix, while Hülkenberg’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. (45 points) moves into the tussle for seventh in the world championship after finishing seventh in Austin.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (563 points) have had their lead narrowed slightly to 66 points over Ferrari (497 points), while Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (337 points) will finish third regardless of what happens in the final three races of the season, but behind them, Renault (106 points) have taken a firm grip on fourth ahead of Haas-Ferrari (84 points), while Force India-Mercedes (47 points) close in on McLaren-Renault (58 points) for sixth, a tight battle continues for eighth in the championship between Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (32 points) and Sauber-Ferrari (28 points), while Williams-Mercedes (seven points) have had a lock on 10th in the Constructors’ Championship for quite a while.

So, with the opportunity of both the Drivers’ World Championship, and the Constructors’ World Championship to be claimed this weekend by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes respectively, this is how they can do it.

For Hamilton to claim his fifth world championship at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City:

  1. If Vettel wins, Hamilton must finish 7th or higher.
  2. If Vettel doesn’t win, Hamilton becomes a five-time Formula One World Champion.

For Mercedes to claim their fifth-straight Constructors World Championship at the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix, Mercedes must out-score Ferrari by 20 points or more.

So, who will win in Mexico?

Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer have been targeting this race as a chance to grab a win before the 2018 season comes to an end, and judging by their form in Austin, they are a strong chance of success, and with the high altitude reducing the power-unit advantage of Mercedes and Ferrari, you could see a race victory from either Max Verstappen or Daniel Ricciardo, and if that happens, Lewis Hamilton will be a five-time world champion.

2018 Australian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

Marc Márquez at the age of 25 years and 246 days became the youngest rider to win five world championships after winning the Japanese Grand Prix last weekend, surpassing the record that was held by Valentino Rossi, who was 26 years, 221 days when he claimed his fifth premier class world championship after finishing second at the Malaysian Grand Prix back in 2005, and joining Giacomo Agostini, Rossi, and Mick Doohan as the only riders to win at least five premier class world championships.

Márquez also became the youngest rider in history to win seven world championships across all classes, surpassing Mike Hailwood, who was 26 years and 140 days old when he claimed his seventh world championship across all classes back in 1966, and joins John Surtees (7), Phil Read (7), Carlo Ubbiali (9), Hailwood (9), Rossi (9), Angel Nieto (13) and Agostini (15) as the only riders to have won at least seven world championships across all classes.

So, with three races to go in the 2018 FIM MotoGP World Championship, the title may have already been decided in favour of Márquez, but the battle for second (and third) in the world championship is starting to heat up with six riders mathematically in contention for the title of “best of the rest” behind Márquez as the field heads to the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, about 140 kilometres south-east of Melbourne for the 2018 Australian Grand Prix.

For the record, Márquez (296 points) leads the championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 102 points over Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso (194 points), with Rossi (185 points) only nine points behind Dovizioso in third for the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team, and is realistically the only rider who can take second in the world championship away from Dovizioso.

Behind the top three, Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (155 points) leads a group of five riders separated by 25 points, with LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow (148 points), Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (133 points), Alma Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci (133 points), and Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (130 points) all in the realistic battle for fourth in the world championship.

However, Lorenzo is the only rider out of the five who is unable to challenge for a top three finish in the championship after being ruled out of the Australian Grand Prix due to a wrist injury, and will be replaced by Ángel Nieto Team rider Álvaro Bautista (83 points), who will be joining the factory Ducati team in the World Superbikes Championship next year, and currently sits in 12th in the world championship. Bautista’s seat at the Ángel Nieto Team for the Australian Grand Prix will be filled by Australian Mike Jones.

However, the two riders behind Lorenzo in the championship, the two Team SUZUKI ECSTAR riders in Álex Rins (118 points) and Andrea Iannone (113 points) still have a mathematical chance of finishing third in the championship.

So, who will win the 2018 Australian Grand Prix?

Looking at the surface of the battle, and considering the race we saw last year, where the top seven riders finished within six seconds of each other, we could potentially have a 12-rider fight for the victory at Phillip Island when you count in the top 10 in the championship (minus Lorenzo), the teammate of Marc Márquez in Dani Pedrosa (95 points), who sits in 11th in his final season in the MotoGP World Championship, Bautista, and Petrucci’s Australian teammate Jack Miller (74 points), who has slipped to 13th in the championship, but is capable of a big performance in front of his home crowd.

Under normal circumstances, I would tip Márquez to win the Australian Grand Prix, but on both occasions when he has secured the world championship at the Twin Ring Motegi, he has crashed out in the following race, which on both occasions were at Phillip Island, crashing out at Turn 10 in 2014, and at Turn Four (Honda Corner) in 2016, and was leading comfortably on both occasions.

So, if it is not to be Márquez who wins the 2018 Australian Grand Prix, who will?

When you look at the last 29 MotoGP races, the two men that have stood out have been Márquez, who has claimed 13 victories within those 29, and Andrea Dovizioso, who has claimed nine wins within those 29. However, the Ducati strengths don’t necessarily suit the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, and if that is the case, does it suit the strengths of the Yamaha?

Maybe it does, but Yamaha have generally been not in good form in 2018, with no wins and only 11 podiums (five for Rossi, four for Viñales, and two for Zarco), so you couldn’t tip a Yamaha to win with any realistic confidence, so if you take Márquez out of the picture, I feel the only two riders that can take the Australian Grand Prix are Cal Crutchlow and Dani Pedrosa, and I don’t think they will have the consistent pace of the great Spaniard.

So, in my opinion, if Márquez can stay upright, he will win the 2018 Australian Grand Prix, but it will be a thrilling race!

2018 United States Grand Prix – Preview

Lewis Hamilton has taken six of the last seven races, and now has the distinct opportunity to become only the third driver in history to become a five-time Formula One World Champion when Round 18 of the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship takes place from the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for the 2018 United States Grand Prix.

Hamilton (331 points), who has won the United States Grand Prix six times, including five times at the Circuit of the Americas, including in each of the last four years, leads the championship for Mercedes by 67 points over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel (264 points) after claiming his fourth win in a row at Suzuka, and with the big step-up in performance Mercedes has taken, particularly during the flyaway races, it is almost a fait accompli that Hamilton will take out his fifth world championship, if not in the United States, at the following race in Mexico.

Behind the top two in the championship, the battle, in terms of the points score, has really fizzled out in the battle for third, with Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (207 points) starting to take a firm grip on third in the world championship ahead of Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen (196 points), who will be looking to finish his time with Ferrari on a high before joining Sauber-Ferrari in 2019.

Max Verstappen (173 points) is fifth in the championship for Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer, and has a good chance of finishing third or fourth in 2018, ahead of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo (146 points), who seems destined to finish his final year with Red Bull, before linking up with Renault in 2019, in sixth position in the world championship despite three-straight points-scoring finishes.

And, behind the top six in the championship, we have five drivers separated by just four points battling to finish seventh, with Sergio Pérez (53 points), Kevin Magnussen (53 points), Nico Hülkenberg (53 points), Fernando Alonso (50 points), and Esteban Ocon (49 points) jostling between each other for the “best of the rest” title.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (538 points) have a stranglehold on the world championship, leading by 78 points over Ferrari (460 points), and could take their fifth-straight Constructors’ Championship at the next round in Mexico.

Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (319 points) are guaranteed to finish third at worst, should they, as expected, not be able to catch Ferrari, while the battle behind only continues to heat up, with Haas-Ferrari closing in on Renault for fourth, McLaren-Renault coming under increasing pressure from Force India-Mercedes for sixth, while Sauber-Ferrari are still in touching distance of Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda for eighth, while Williams-Mercedes are destined to finish 2018 in 10th.

Looking at the championship permutations, Lewis Hamilton must finish inside the top six at the 2018 United States Grand Prix, and ahead of Sebastian Vettel if he is to become a five-time world champion this weekend. Hamilton will become a five-time world champion at the Circuit of the Americas if:

  1. If Hamilton wins, Vettel must finish in 3rd or lower.
  2. If Hamilton finishes in 2nd, Vettel must finish in 5th or lower.
  3. If Hamilton finishes in 3rd, Vettel must finish in 7th or lower.
  4. If Hamilton finishes in 4th, Vettel must finish in 8th or lower.
  5. If Hamilton finishes in 5th, Vettel must finish in 9th or lower.
  6. If Hamilton finishes in 6th,  Vettel must finish outside of the points-scoring positions (11th or lower).

So, who will win the 2018 United States Grand Prix?

Unless Ferrari magically find some mind-blowing speed, Mercedes are most certainly the team to beat, and given what we saw in Russia and Japan, it would not be surprising if Mercedes finish first and second in Austin, and if that is the case, as long as Hamilton wins the United States Grand Prix for the seventh time, and at the Circuit of the Americas for the sixth time, he will claim his fifth world championship, and join Juan Manuel Fangio in equal-second for the most Formula One World Championships.

2018 Japanese GP (MotoGP) – Preview

The inaugural edition of the Thailand Grand Prix was an epic to say the least, with three different leaders and tight racing throughout the field, with the top 15 finishers being separated by just 23.628 seconds over the course of a 26-lap race, with the top 10 separated by 11.077 seconds, the top six by 3.023 seconds, and the top three separated by just 0.270 seconds!

However, when it was all said and done, one man took control of the Thailand Grand Prix, and now has the opportunity to take his fifth MotoGP World Championship, and become the youngest rider in history to win five premier class world championships when the 2018 MotoGP World Championship resumes with Round 16 of the championship at the Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.

Marc Márquez (271 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 77 points over Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso (194 points), the man who Márquez defeated to take victory in Thailand, while Valentino Rossi (172 points), who was in the battle for the majority of the race before slipping to fourth, is still in mathematical contention for the championship, but is 99 points behind the Spaniard for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP.

Behind the top three in the championship, Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (146 points) leads the pack who cannot win the world championship in 2018, ahead of Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (130 points), whose year has taken a nose-dive with three crashes, one in the race in Misano, one in the race at Aragon, which damaged his toe, and a massive highside in practice in Thailand, which forced him out of the rest of the weekend, ended all of his slim championship hopes, and will be racing to regain some pride in his final four races with Ducati before linking up with Honda in 2019.

Cal Crutchlow (128 points) is sixth in the championship for LCR Honda, ahead of Danilo Petrucci (126 points) for Alma Pramac Racing, and Johann Zarco (123 points) for Monster Yamaha Tech 3, while the two Team Suzuki Ecstar riders in Andrea Iannone (113 points) and Álex Rins (102 points) complete the top 10, with Rins in particular showing some great improvements, with (excluding the cancelled British Grand Prix) four-straight top 10 finishes in the last four races showing that on the right bike, Rins can be a force in the premier class in the coming years.

Looking at the permutations for this weekend, Marc Márquez can claim the 2018 MotoGP World Championship by:

  1. If Márquez finishes ahead of Dovizioso and Rossi.
  2. If Dovizioso finishes in 4th, Márquez must finish in 5th.
  3. If Dovizioso finishes in 5th, Márquez must finish in 7th or higher.
  4. If Dovizioso finishes in 6th, Márquez must finish in 8th or higher.
  5. If Dovizioso finishes in 7th, Márquez must finish in 9th or higher.
  6. If Dovizioso finishes in 8th, Márquez must finish in 10th or higher.
  7. If Dovizioso finishes in 9th, Márquez must finish in 11th or higher.
  8. If Dovizioso finishes in 10th, Márquez must finish in 12th or higher.
  9. If Dovizioso finishes in 11th, Márquez must finish in 13th or higher.
  10. If Dovizioso finishes in 12th, Márquez must finish in 14th or higher.
  11. If Dovizioso finishes in 13th, Márquez must finish in 15th or higher.
  12. If Dovizioso finishes in 14th or lower, Márquez is the WORLD CHAMPION.

So, who will win the Japanese Grand Prix?

Looking at the circuit demands, with long straights and plenty of hard braking zones, this should suit Ducati to a tee, and all of Ducati’s efforts will be geared to trying to get Andrea Dovizioso the victory to keep the championship alive, but even if that happens, you sense if Marc Márquez finishes on the podium, like he has in 12 of the 14 completed races in 2018, the championship will be a fait accompli at the Australian Grand Prix the following weekend.