2019 Australian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

It was another well-managed race by Marc Márquez at Motegi to claim the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix, and in the process helped Honda to their fourth-consecutive Constructors’ Championship, their eighth in nine seasons, and their 25th overall in the premier class.

However, with Márquez just 33 points behind the record for most points scored in a season, a record incidentally held by his current teammate Jorge Lorenzo (383 points), which was set back in 2010, and the Teams’ Championship very much up for grabs for the Repsol Honda Team, and Mission Winnow Ducati, there is still a lot to play for as the grid heads to Australia, and to the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for the 2019 Australian Grand Prix, Round 17 of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.

Márquez (350 points) leads by 119 points for the Repsol Honda Team over Andrea Dovizioso (231 points) from Mission Winnow Ducati, who looks as if he has got second in the championship under complete control, and can officially secure second in the standings for the third-straight season if he can not be outscored by Álex Rins and Maverick Viñales by five points or more, by Danilo Petrucci by 12 points or more, and by Fabio Quartararo by 18 points or more.

Behind the Top Two in the standings, there is a four-way battle developing for third in the championship between Rins, Viñales, Petrucci, and Quartararo.

Rins (176 points) is third in the world championship for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, level on points with Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider Viñales (176 points), but ahead of Viñales on the basis of having two wins to the lone race victory that Viñales had at Assen.

Petrucci (169 points) is fifth in the championship for Mission Winnow Ducati after a seventh-straight finish outside of the Top Five, while the rapidly-rising Quartararo (163 points) is sixth in the standings for Petronas Yamaha SRT after a second-straight podium finish, his fourth in six races, including three in his last four.

Valentino Rossi (145 points) is seventh in the world championship for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP after suffering his fourth Did Not Finish (DNF) result of the season, the most DNF results he has had in a season in the premier class, with Jack Miller (125 points) in eighth for Alma Pramac Racing, Cal Crutchlow (113 points) in ninth for LCR Honda, and Franco Morbidelli (100 points) completing the Top 10 in the championship for Petronas Yamaha SRT.

As far as the Teams’ Championship is concerned, the Repsol Honda Team (383 points) is remarkably 17 points behind Mission Winnow Ducati (400 points) with three races remaining in a battle which will surely go down to the final race in Valencia.

So, who is going to win the 2019 Australian Grand Prix?

On paper, Phillip Island should suit Marc Márquez perfectly, but has only won twice at Phillip Island in the premier class, and despite the fact it should suit him, the track characteristics of Phillip Island tend to bring the grid closer together, and make it such a tight fight.

Outside of Márquez, the rider that is deserving of a race victory in 2019 is Fabio Quartararo, especially after claiming the Rookie of the Year award last weekend in Motegi, and if Márquez isn’t the one to claim victory this weekend, I think Quartararo will claim his first premier class race victory.

2019 Japanese GP (MotoGP) – Preview

Marc Márquez claimed his sixth MotoGP World Championship, and his eighth across all classes after winning the 2019 Thailand Grand Prix over Fabio Quartararo in what was a thrilling race at the Buriram International Circuit, and is now only behind Valentino Rossi (seven) and Giacomo Agostini (eight) in terms of premier class world championships.

Márquez also has the opportunity now (during the last four races) to not only equal the amount of race victories he had back in 2014 of 13, if he wins all of the remaining four races, but also to surpass the points-scoring tally of Jorge Lorenzo back in 2010 (383 points) for most points scored in a premier class season.

However, despite the dominance of Márquez this season, the grid remains as competitive as ever as we head into the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix at the Twin Ring Motegi, Round 16 of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.

Márquez (325 points) leads the championship for the Repsol Honda Team by an unassailable 110 points over Mission Winnow Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso (215 points) heading into Honda’s home race, while Dovizioso’s aim now after being knocked out of the title race will be to secure second in the world championship for the third-straight season, and barring any disaster, should be able to do this.

Behind the Top Two in the championship, there is a massive five-way battle for third in the standings with Álex Rins (167 points) from Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, Maverick Viñales (163 points) from Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci (162 points), Viñales’ teammate Valentino Rossi (145 points), and Quartararo (143 points) from Petronas Yamaha SRT are within 24 points of each other as we head into the final four races of the season!

Jack Miller (119 points) has slipped away from the battle for third for Alma Pramac Racing after his bike stopped running on the grid in Thailand, causing him to start from the pit-lane, but managed to fight his way back through the field to finish in 14th, while Cal Crutchlow (102 points), and Franco Morbidelli (90 points) complete the Top 10 in the standings for LCR Honda and Petronas Yamaha SRT respectively.

So, who is going to win the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix?

Marc Márquez is searching for his fourth-straight win, which would be the first time he has done this since winning the opening 10 races of 2014, and it will be remarkably just the third time since he joined the premier class back in 2013 that he has won four races in a row should he win this weeekend in Motegi.

The biggest danger for Márquez, other than the opposition, may well be himself, because when he has secured the world championship in the premier class before the final race of the season (2014, 2016, 2018), he has crashed or had issues in the following race, which was on all three occasions the Australian Grand Prix, that have forced him to retire from those races early.

However, you get the strong sense that Márquez is as strong a rider mentally than he ever has been, and given some of the things he could achieve in the rest of 2019, it would be wise to continue the approach that he has been using throughout this year so far.

It has been a remarkable season from Márquez, especially given the intense struggles of the other Honda riders, with Cal Crutchlow the highest-placed Honda rider in the standings (other than Márquez) in ninth, Takaaki Nakagami in 12th, and Jorge Lorenzo in a truly embarrassing 19th in the championship, and to make things worse for Lorenzo, he hasn’t finished a race inside the Top 10 in over a year!

Honda will hope the form of Márquez will continue, and that the other three will improve during the last four races of 2019. However, it is more likely that the current form trend will continue, and given that, I think Márquez will make it four wins in a row this weekend, and claim a third MotoGP victory in Japan, and his fifth across all classes.

2019 Japanese Grand Prix – Preview

Mercedes rebounded in Russia, a place which they have always won at, with Lewis Hamilton winning in Sochi for the fourth time, claiming his ninth race victory of the season in a Mercedes one-two finish.

However, with Ferrari once again showing great speed in Sochi, and Red Bull Racing-Honda wanting to perform well in Honda’s own backyard, the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, Round 17 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, is going to be interesting!

Hamilton (322 points) leads the championship by 73 points over teammate Valtteri Bottas (249 points) after taking advantage of the mechanical issues for Sebastian Vettel, and getting lucky with the virtual safety car (which turned into a full safety car) to overtake Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc to take his 82nd career victory, with Bottas also finishing ahead of Leclerc.

Bottas needs to win the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend you feel to keep his slim championship hopes alive.

Leclerc (215 points) for Ferrari, and Max Verstappen (212 points) for Red Bull Racing-Honda are still in mathematical contention for the world championship, but are likely to be knocked out of contention this weekend, but Leclerc will be looking to continue Ferrari’s general upturn in form, while Verstappen will be looking to show off the brand new Honda power-unit, and take victory at the home circuit of Honda, which would be the first win for a Honda-powered car in Japan since Gerhard Berger for McLaren-Honda in 1991.

Meanwhile, Vettel (194 points) is out of contention for the 2019 championship, but will be looking to rebound after losing power with his power-unit in Russia, and challenge Leclerc and Verstappen for third in the standings.

Behind the Top Five, Pierre Gasly (69 points) is sixth in the championship for Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda after starting the first 12 races of 2019 with Red Bull Racing-Honda, three points ahead of McLaren-Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (66 points), with Alexander Albon (52 points) closing quickly in eighth since joining Red Bull Racing-Honda from Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, ahead of Lando Norris (35 points), the teammate of Sainz, while Daniel Ricciardo (34 points) remains inside the Top 10, just ahead of his Renault teammate Nico Hülkenberg (34 points) based on finishing fourth ahead of Hülkenberg at the Italian Grand Prix.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (571 points) lead by 162 points over Ferrari (409 points), and have a chance of clinching their sixth-straight Constructors’ Championship this weekend, which would equal Ferrari’s record for most consecutive Constructors’ Championships from 1999 to 2004 by out-scoring Ferrari by 14 points or more.

Red Bull Racing-Honda (311 points) have secured at worst third in the Constructors’ Championship, but are still a chance of claiming second, with McLaren-Renault (101 points) in a clear and comfortable fourth behind them.

Renault (68 points) are leading the battle for fifth ahead of Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (55 points) and Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (52 points), with Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (35 points) and Haas-Ferrari (28 points) battling for eighth, with Williams-Mercedes (one point) still in 10th and last.

So, who will win the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix?

The weekend looks set to be affected by adverse weather conditions, and while Suzuka not in the direct path of Typhoon Hagibis at the moment, Saturday in particular looks set to be wet, and there could be a chance that qualifying might have to be postponed until Sunday morning, but regardless of whether that happens or not, Sunday looks set to be fine and sunny at Suzuka.

So, in terms of my prediction, I think Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will be the ones to beat as he searches for his sixth victory in Japan to equal Michael Schumacher’s record at the Japanese Grand Prix, and his fifth at Suzuka, but it is set to be a tight fight between the Top Three teams on the grid.

2019 Bathurst 1000 – Preview

It is Australia’s Great Race, 161 Laps, 1000 kilometres, it is the Bathurst 1000, and with it being the start of the endurance season in 2019, it is set to be dramatic once again!

And with that comes a myriad of storylines!

Defending Bathurst 1000 winner Craig Lowndes partnering up with Jamie Whincup, who he won the great race with three times from 2006 to 2008, also finishing fifth together back in 2009 despite serving a drive-through penalty early in the race due to an unsafe release in the first pit stop. Lowndes is attempting to win his eighth to get within one victory of Peter Brock at Mount Panorama, Whincup looking to become the seventh driver to win the Bathurst 1000 at least five times.

Then we have Shane Van Gisbergen and Garth Tander together in tandem in what is set to a fabulous combination throughout the endurance season. Then we have Steven Richards, a five-time winner and defending champion reuniting with Mark Winterbottom, who he won the great race with back in 2013.

David Reynolds, along with Luke Youlden, will be searching for redemption in 2019 after Reynolds suffered from heavy fatigue throughout the 2018 Bathurst 1000, surrendering the lead to Craig Lowndes, and preventing the pair from defending their 2017 crown.

And while I could talk about many other storylines, including the wildcard pair from Walkinshaw Andretti United of former Formula One driver and 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion Alexander Rossi, and six-time IndyCar race winner James Hinchcliffe, the ultimate story of the 2019 Bathurst 1000 will likely centre around six Ford Mustangs, in particular Car No.17 led by defending Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin, with Alexandre Prémat partnering up with him as the endurance season begins in earnest at Round 12 of the 2019 Supercars Championship.

McLaughlin (3008 points) leads the championship by a massive 598 points with four rounds remaining after dominating the field like few have done before, and certainly not in recent years, winning at every circuit on the calendar in 2019, achieving 17 wins, 14 pole positions, and 10 fastest laps from 24 races (23 starts), and with a car that should be mighty around Mount Panorama, McLaughlin knows, along with Prémat, that this is their best chance of claiming their first win at The Great Race, and give DJR Team Penske, formerly known as Dick Johnson Racing, their fourth victory at Bathurst.

Van Gisbergen (2410 points) is second in the standings for Triple Eight Race Engineering, followed by 2014 Bathurst 1000 champion Chaz Mostert (2327 points) for Tickford Racing, who will be partnering with James Moffat for the endurance races, and McLaughlin’s teammate Fabian Coulthard (2317 points), with Coulthard partnering with Tony D’Alberto for the next three rounds.

Whincup (2140 points) is fifth in the championship for Triple Eight Race Engineering, with Reynolds (2084 points) in sixth for Erebus Motorsport. They are followed by Cameron Waters (1975 points) from Tickford Racing, partnering with Michael Caruso, Nick Percat (1894 points) from Brad Jones Racing, who will be partnered by Tim Blanchard, with 23Red Racing (Tickford Racing) driver Will Davison (1811 points), and fellow Tickford Racing driver Lee Holdsworth (1704 points) completing the Top 10 in the standings, and will be competing in the endurance season with Alex Davison and Thomas Randle respectively.

So, who is going to win the 2019 Bathurst 1000?

The favourites have to be Scott McLaughlin and Alexandre Prémat from DJR Team Penske, and given the form that both the team and McLaughlin have shown in 2019 with the Ford Mustang, they could be close to untouchable this weekend!

You sense that the last round in Pukekohe in New Zealand was one of the weaker circuits for the Ford Mustang, along with Symmons Plains, Queensland Raceway (to a lesser extent), and quite possibly Sandown, which will be the third of the endurance events, while Bathurst is arguably on paper the strongest circuit for the Ford Mustang, so despite the ongoing parity adjustments for the Ford, Holden, and Nissan, I still feel like the Ford Mustang, especially in the hands of McLaughlin, will have a huge advantage over their rivals.

I cannot see anyone other than McLaughlin taking pole position for The Great Race, unless McLaughlin makes a massive mistake, and that will be the perfect platform for both McLaughlin and Prémat to surge to victory at Mount Panorama.

2019 Thailand GP (MotoGP) – Preview

It was a completely dominant performance at Motorland Aragón from Marc Márquez to claim his 78th race victory across all classes, his 52nd in the premier class, and his eighth for the season to give himself the perfect opportunity to claim his sixth MotoGP World Championship, and his eighth across all classes as the grid heads to the Buriram International Circuit for the 2019 Thailand Grand Prix, Round 15 of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.

Márquez (300 points) leads the championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 98 points over Mission Winnow Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso (202 points) after dominating the Aragon Grand Prix, winning by a very comfortable 4.836 seconds over Dovizioso to make a sixth premier class world championship seemingly just a mere formality, if not in Thailand, certainly at the next round at Motegi in Japan.

For Márquez to claim the championship this weekend in Thailand, he must finish ahead of Dovizioso by two points, which means if Márquez is inside the Top Four, and ahead of Dovizioso, he will win his fourth-straight world championship. However, if Márquez is fifth or lower, Dovizioso must finish two spots (or more) behind Márquez for the Spaniard to claim the championship this weekend.

However, if Márquez suffers a retirement, or finishes outside the point-scoring positions, the championship battle will continue onto the Japanese Grand Prix in a fortnight’s time.

Behind the Top Two in the world championship, there is a great battle developing for third in the standings between Álex Rins (156 points) from Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, Danilo Petrucci (155 points) from Mission Winnow Ducati, and the two Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP riders in Maverick Viñales (147 points) and Valentino Rossi (137 points), while Fabio Quartararo (123 points) from Petronas Yamaha SRT, and Jack Miller (117 points) from Alma Pramac Racing remain outside chances of claiming third-place in the championship after relatively strong results at Motorland Aragón, with Miller claiming his third podium of 2019, and Quartararo finishing in fifth.

Both Rins and Petrucci struggled at Aragon, finishing ninth and 12th respectively, with Rossi also being below par in eighth, while Viñales is the form rider at the moment when you take out the Top Two in the world championship with four-consecutive Top Five finishes.

Cal Crutchlow (98 points) is ninth in the championship for LCR Honda after finishing the Aragon Grand Prix in sixth, while Petronas Yamaha SRT rider Franco Morbidelli (80 points) remains in 10th position in the standings despite being taken out of the Aragon Grand Prix by Rins after Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Pol Espargaró (77 points) was ruled out of the race due to a broken wrist.

So, who is going to win the 2019 Thailand Grand Prix?

It is sure to be a tight battle between about eight or nine riders you sense this weekend when it comes to the race, but you feel like the one to beat is Marc Márquez, and I feel he will claim his sixth premier class world championship this weekend, but he won’t have it all his own way.