2018 British GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After another wonderful race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, where Jorge Lorenzo managed to reel in Marc Márquez on his Ducati to claim a scintillating victory, his third of the season, the 2018 MotoGP World Championship heads to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix for Round 12 of the championship that is heading even further in the direction of the defending world champion.

Despite finishing second at the Austrian Grand Prix, Márquez (201 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 59 points over Valentino Rossi (142 points) for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP.

Márquez has finished all bar two races on the podium, only failing to finish in the points in the crazy race that was Argentina, where if all things were normal, Márquez would have won by a country mile, and in Italy, where he suffered a crash early in the race, and looks almost certain (barring injury) that he will win his fifth MotoGP World Championship, and his seventh world championship across all classes.

While for Rossi, his championship ambitions are becoming non-existent after another lacklustre race, finishing sixth in Austria, and has only finished ahead of Márquez in one race this year (Italy), where he finished third, and is about to be swamped by the Ducati’s in Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso in the championship standings.

Lorenzo (130 points) is third in the championship after his win in Austria, and is just 12 points behind Rossi, while his fellow Ducati Team rider Dovizioso (129 points) is fourth in the championship just a further point behind after completing the podium at the Red Bull Ring.

Behind them in the championship is Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (113 points), who just can’t seem to get comfortable and confident with his machinery, and has rarely looked a threat for a race victory in 2018, while Alma Pramac Racing rider Danilo Petrucci (105 points), Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (104 points), and LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow (103 points) are separated by just two points in their battle for 6th in the championship.

Completing the top 10 in the world championship is Team Suzuki Ecstar riders Andrea Iannone (84 points) and Álex Rins (66 points), while the teammate of Márquez in Dani Pedrosa (66 points) is tied on the same amount of points as Rins heading into the British Grand Prix.

So, who will win the British Grand Prix?

I am expecting on a high speed circuit, where there are plenty of fast corners, and a heavy reliance on power, that it will be another battle royale between the two Ducati’s of Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso, as well as the Honda of Marc Márquez firmly in the thick of things, but if the weather gods play their part in proceedings, then anything can, and will most likely happen!

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2018 Austrian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After a sensational race in the Czech Republic, with the top three of Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, and Marc Márquez covered by just 0.368 seconds in the race, and the top six covered by just 3.768 seconds, the MotoGP grid back up quickly, and they head to the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg in Austria for the Austrian Grand Prix, Round 11 in the 2018 MotoGP World Championship, with Márquez having a healthy and strong cushion in the championship.

Márquez (181 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 49 points over Valentino Rossi (132 points) for the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. Márquez got his 71st MotoGP podium in his 100th MotoGP race in Brno in the Czech Republic, showing a level of maturity that hasn’t been needed to be displayed, mostly because he has been faster than anyone else, not willing to risk his large championship lead just to win in the Czech Republic as he didn’t quite (all relative) have the bike underneath him to win the race. If Márquez continues in the vain of form he is currently in, it is inevitable he will win his fifth MotoGP World Championship.

While for Rossi, he is slowly slipping out of championship contention after finishing fourth in Brno, and it appears like his main aim will be to finish the championship in second-place, but the good news for Rossi is that he has a 19-point gap over third-place in the championship Andrea Dovizioso (113 points) for the Ducati Team.

Dovizioso moved up from fourth to third in the championship after his victory in the Czech Republic, his second of the season, and on the Ducati, should be even stronger at the Red Bull Ring, a circuit suited to the engine power and straight-line performance of the Ducati. Dovizioso leads a six-way battle for third championship with Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (109 points), Dovizioso’s teammate Lorenzo (105 points), Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (97 points), Alma Pramac Racing rider Danilo Petrucci (94 points), and LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow (90 points).

Completing the top 10 in the championship is Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Andrea Iannone (81 points), and Petrucci’s teammate Jack Miller (61 points), both of whom have struggled in the last four to five races, with Iannone’s teammate Álex Rins (58 points) and Márquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa (57 points) just outside the top 10.

So, who will win in Austria?

You sense that both of the factory Ducati riders in Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo will be strong at the Red Bull Ring, but you cannot rule out Marc Márquez, especially after almost winning last year in Austria, so you get the feeling he will be the biggest challengers to Dovizioso and Lorenzo, but this weekend will be huge for Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales, and Yamaha as far as their championship bid is concerned.

You feel that Rossi or Viñales must win this weekend to keep their slim championship hopes alive, but you just can’t see them winning any race at the moment, but are certainly a strong podium hope.

 

2018 Czech Republic GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After a three-week break, the entire MotoGP grid is ready to return to action to commence the second half of the 2018 FIM MotoGP World Championship, which begins this weekend at the Czech Republic Grand Prix at the Automotodrom Brno in Brno, and Marc Márquez, after winning five of the opening nine races, including the last two, has a firm stranglehold of the championship race heading into the final 10 races of the season as he looks to win his fifth MotoGP World Championship, and his seventh across all categories.

Márquez (165 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 46 points ahead of Valentino Rossi (119 points) from Movistar Yamaha MotoGP. Rossi hasn’t achieved a single win in 2018, but he has got five podiums, including a second-place finish last time out in Germany, but really needs to start winning if he wants to keep hopes of winning an eighth MotoGP World Championship in 2018 alive.

Same can be said of Maverick Viñales (109 points), Rossi’s teammate, who sits 56 points behind Márquez in the championship with only three podiums, including two third-place finishes in the last two races, but like Rossi, Viñales needs to start winning some races in order to keep his chances alive of winning a first MotoGP World Championship.

Behind the top three in the world championship, we have a tight battle for fourth between Andrea Dovizioso (88 points), Johann Zarco (88 points), Jorge Lorenzo (85 points), Danilo Petrucci (84 points), Cal Crutchlow (79 points), and Andrea Iannone (75 points).

Dovizioso has had an odd season with flashes of the speed and promise that we saw last year when he finished a close second in the world championship for the Ducati Team, getting himself two podiums, including a win, but it has been punctuated with mistakes, leading to retirements in three of the first four European races of 2018.

Zarco has been consistent for Monster Yamaha Tech 3 with two podiums, and top 10 finishes in eight of the first nine races, but the retirement at his home race in Le Mans, just his second retirement in his premier class career, was a huge blow in his quest for a top three finish in the championship.

Lorenzo is starting to come on strong you sense with back-to-back wins at Mugello and Barcelona, but the last two races, in particular the last race in Germany that you have got to make the right tyre decisions for you (the rider), and not necessarily the bike. I believe Lorenzo should be using harder, more durable tyres in races in order to maximise his potential on that Ducati, something which he started to do, resulting in two wins, but has slipped away from that again, and you sense the dynamic within the Ducati Team is not right.

Petrucci has been very consistent, and performing superbly for Alma Pramac Racing, while Crutchlow has underachieved for LCR Honda despite grabbing a win in Argentina earlier in the season. While for Iannone, the general speed of Team Suzuki Ecstar has slipped away of late, and it will need to be found again to challenge for a top five, or perhaps a top three finish in the championship.

Behind the top nine, we have a four-way battle for 10th between Jack Miller (57 points), who has struggled in the last four races due to one thing or another for Alma Pramac Racing, Álex Rins (53 points), who has made too many mistakes in 2018, but despite the general competitiveness of Team Suzuki Ecstar declining, he is still capable of a shock win, Dani Pedrosa (49 points), who seems content to be heading to the sunset right now for the Repsol Honda Team, and Álvaro Bautista (44 points), who has finished five of the last six races inside the top 10 for the Ángel Nieto Team.

So, who will win in the Czech Republic?

While it has been generally a tight grid where most have a chance of winning on any given day, there is one rider who is heads and shoulders above the rest, and that is Marc Márquez.

He is riding probably at his best level since 2014, where he won the opening 10 races on-route to winning his second MotoGP World Championship, and while the 2018 Honda isn’t as good as the 2014 bike, you sense that Márquez could ride away with this championship in the way that he dominated the opening 10 races of 2014.

 

 

2018 German GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After an extraordinary, and entertaining race at the TT Circuit Assen with Marc Márquez claiming his fourth victory of the season to extend his lead in the world championship, and his second Dutch TT success in MotoGP, Round Nine of the 2018 FIM MotoGP World Championship takes place at a venue where Márquez has won at for the last eight years across all classes (all from pole position), including the last five MotoGP races there, it is of course the Sachsenring, and it is the German Grand Prix.

Márquez (140 points) leads the championship by 41 points for the Repsol Honda Team ahead of Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi (99 points) after his fifth-place finish in Assen, and is ahead of his teammate Maverick Viñales (93 points), who claimed just his second podium finish of the season at the Dutch TT, finishing third. Both Rossi and Viñales are the only two riders within two wins of Márquez in the championship, and slowly look like slipping out of title contention.

Johann Zarco (81 points) is fourth in the world championship for Monster Yamaha Tech 3, and leads a group of six riders separated by just 10 points, including Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso (79 points), LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow (79 points), Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (75 points), Alma Pramac Racing rider Danilo Petrucci (71 points), and Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Andrea Iannone (71 points) after all of them with the exception of Petrucci, who crashed out on Lap 17, finished inside the points in an exciting race.

Behind this group, Jack Miller (55 points) completes the top 10 in the championship for Alma Pramac Racing after finishing 10th in Assen, a race which he won famously in extremely wet and tricky conditions back in 2016, while Alex Rins (53 points), who finished a superb second behind Márquez for Team Suzuki Ecstar, the best result of his premier class career to date, is 11th in the standings, but the biggest talking point in MotoGP is the future of Dani Pedrosa.

Pedrosa (41 points) sits 12th in the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team after finishing 15th in Assen, continuing his annus horribilis in 2018, and is set to announce to the motorsport world his future in MotoGP going forward, with some signs pointing towards retirement, and other signs pointing towards him signing for the new satellite Yamaha team for 2019 called the SIC(Sepang International Circuit)-Ángel Nieto Team.

In my view, I feel Pedrosa may not have his mind into top-level motorcycle racing, or in other words MotoGP racing anymore due to  the accumulation of injuries suffered over the years taking its toll on his ability to ride a motorcycle to the absolute limit, and I think he may well announce his retirement from MotoGP at the end of this year.

However, I believe Pedrosa would have been better suited to have left the Repsol Honda Team years ago, and going to either Yamaha, or if it had happened more recently, Ducati because I felt he would have been able to get that one thing that was missing on his career CV, and that is the MotoGP World Championship.

I believe if he was onboard the factory Ducati last year, and had been fit for the entire season, he would have beaten Marc Márquez to the 2017 world championship, instead of falling short like Andrea Dovizioso did last year.

In my opinion, he has wasted a number of his prime years on a bike not entirely suited to his riding style, continuing to sign contracts with the Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) and the Repsol Honda Team blindly without really working out what was best for him. Now, with Pedrosa leaving the Repsol Honda Team at the end of the year, he can finally (for himself) work out what is best for him.

Sadly, the chances of him winning the MotoGP World Championship may have sailed by for good!

As for my predictions for the Sachsenring, I think Marc Márquez will win for the ninth year in a row, and for the sixth time there in MotoGP in an entirely dominant weekend.

2018 Dutch TT (MotoGP) – Preview

After a second-straight victory for Jorge Lorenzo in Barcelona to continue his form resurgence for the Ducati Team before his move to the Repsol Honda Team next year, the grid heads to Assen in the Netherlands, and the TT Circuit Assen for Round Eight of the 2018 FIM MotoGP World Championship with a very familiar face, as it will be for Lorenzo next year, leading the championship.

Marc Márquez (115 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 27 points over Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi (88 points) after finishing second at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, bouncing back from the crash at Mugello, but despite putting in an impressive performance, Márquez and his Honda couldn’t match the pace of Lorenzo and his Ducati, something he will be hoping that changes this weekend at a circuit which should be better on paper for Márquez and Honda.

While for Rossi, it was another third-place finish, his third in a row, and his fourth of the season, and despite another strong performance, you sense that Yamaha may struggle to win a race this season, and that Assen might be their best chance to win a race. Right now, Rossi is not a serious championship, and he would know this because the bike hasn’t seriously looked like winning a race in 2018, with the exception of Johann Zarco in the madness of the race in Argentina back in Round Two.

Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (77 points) is third in the championship after finishing sixth in Barcelona, 38 points behind Márquez, and other than his second-place finish at the Circuit of the Americas back in Round Three, the story of his season has been his failure to get a strong start off the line. In every race, except at the Circuit of the Americas, he has been 10th or lower after the opening lap, with his two worst starts of the season coming in the last two races in Italy and Catalunya, losing eight and six places respectively, with many people explaining that his starting woes are due to dealing with a heavy-fuel tank, but I don’t think this is the case.

It is more likely that the problems for Viñales are being caused by either a failure to set-up the bike well enough, which is why Yamaha are struggling in 2018, as well as the inability for Viñales to ride around the problems of his bike to get a good result compared to Rossi and Zarco.

Talking about Zarco (73 points), he is fourth in the championship after finishing just behind Viñales in seventh at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and is ahead of Alma Pramac Racing rider Danilo Petrucci (71 points), who has been really consistent in 2018, and is currently the leading Ducati in the championship after finishing eighth in Barcelona.

Behind them in the championship is LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow (69 points), who finished a solid fourth in Barcelona, ahead of Lorenzo (66 points), who has of course won the last two races. Lorenzo’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso (66 points), and Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Andrea Iannone (66 points) are on the same amount of points as Lorenzo after disappointing races in Catalunya, with Dovizioso crashing out, and Iannone finishing in 10th position.

Jack Miller (49 points) completes the top ten in the championship despite crashes and technical issues forcing him to retire from the last two races, with Márquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa (40 points), and Iannone’s teammate Alex Rins (33 points) looking like the strongest contenders from outside of the top 10 to challenge for podiums, and perhaps victories.

So, who will win the Dutch TT at Assen?

I think all 12 of these riders could contend for the victory, and it always produces a great race, but I am going to tip Marc Márquez to win in a titanic struggle with Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.

Catalan GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After another dramatic round in Italy, where Jorge Lorenzo ended his victory drought, and won for the first time on a Ducati after championship leader Marc Márquez crashed out of the race, the 2018 FIM MotoGP World Championship heads to the Spanish city of Barcelona for Round Seven of the championship after an interesting couple of weeks.

Márquez (95 points), despite not scoring a point at Mugello, leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 23 points over Valentino Rossi (72 points) from the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, who managed to pick up a third podium of the season after starting from pole position at a venue where he has won at seven times in the premier class from 2002 to 2008.

However, the pace over race distance remains a concern for Yamaha, as shown by Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (67 points), who slipped to third in the championship after an eighth-place, which is his worst result of the season so far, and with a second-place finish in Austin, and a distant second at that, the best finish he has finished in 2018, it doesn’t seem likely, barring any sort of divine intervention, that either Viñales or Rossi will win a race in 2018 based on the current state of play.

Someone who has already won a race in 2018 is the Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso (66 points), who has moved up to fourth position in the championship after a second place finish at Mugello behind teammate Lorenzo, completing a Ducati one-two. However, he knows that won’t be enough if he wants to genuinely compete for the championship with Márquez, and will be keen to win at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend.

Johann Zarco (64 points) is fifth in the championship for Monster Yamaha Tech3 after a disappointing 10th place finish in Italy, and will be looking to rebound this weekend in Barcelona to keep his slim championship hopes alive. Like Rossi and Viñales, he have struggled to get on terms with Márquez, and at the moment, it is very hard at the moment to see Zarco winning a race.

Behind Zarco in the championship is Danilo Petrucci (63 points) in sixth position in the championship for Alma Pramac Racing after finishing seventh at Mugello, but the big news in regards to him is that Petrucci will be joining the Ducati Team next year, while Andrea Iannone (60 points), who sits in seventh position in the championship for Team Suzuki Ecstar after finishing fourth in his home race, announced that he would be heading to Aprilla Racing Team Gresini in 2019.

Completing the top 10 in the championship are Cal Crutchlow (56 points) for LCR Honda, Petrucci’s teammate Jack Miller (49 points), and Jorge Lorenzo (41 points), with the huge announcement that Lorenzo would be leaving the Ducati Team at the end of 2018 to join the Repsol Honda Team to partner up with Márquez in 2019, a move that not many people predicted, but I certainly did! As former MotoGP commentator Nick Harris use to say, “Never Say Never in MotoGP”.

While behind Lorenzo in the championship, Iannone’s teammate Alex Rins (33 points) is 11th in the championship after a strong fifth place finish at Mugello, while Dani Pedrosa (29 points), who will be leaving the Repsol Honda Team at the end of the year is currently 12th in the championship after a crash on the opening lap of the Italian Grand Prix.

So, who is going to win the Catalan Grand Prix?

Despite his crash, and subsequent non-pointscoring finish at Mugello, I am predicting Marc Márquez to bounce back to take victory in Barcelona, with a tight battle in behind between a number of riders who won’t be wanting .

 

 

 

 

2018 Italian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After a third-straight victory for Marc Márquez, and a race where three of his main rivals (Johann Zarco, Andrea Iannone, and Andrea Dovizioso) all came tumbling down in Le Mans, the grid heads to Italy, and to a heartland of motorcycle racing in Italy, and to arguably the most enjoyable and exciting circuit on the MotoGP calendar, Mugello, for Round Six of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship.

Márquez (95 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 36 points over Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Maverick Viñales (59 points) in a season which could have been a whole lot worse for the rivals of the current championship leader and four-time MotoGP World Champion.

In Qatar, Márquez, despite having the better bike through the corners, had to settle for second-place after being unable to pass the slippery Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso, while in Argentina, he almost won the race twice over before a third penalty sent Márquez all the way back in the field to finish 18th after crossing the line in fifth-place after the first two penalties.

After this, Márquez was dominant as he always has been at the Circuit of the Americas to take his sixth victory in as many races in Austin, before dominating at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez, before winning comfortably in the end at the French Grand Prix in Le Mans.

Meanwhile, it has been much harder for Maverick Viñales on his Yamaha, with only one podium, which was a second-place finish behind the current championship leader in Austin, and only one other top five finish in a season where Yamaha have really struggled to match their competitors for outright speed.

To be quite honest, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (58 points) and Viñales’ teammate Valentino Rossi (56 points), who sit in third and fourth in the world championship respectively, have been in better form than Viñales, but have had one non-scoring finish each compared to Viñales who has finished every race in the points so far.

Yamaha must find their top form quickly otherwise Márquez could run away with the championship.

However, the story of the season so far has been the two riders from Alma Pramac Racing in Danilo Petrucci (54 points) and Jack Miller (49 points), who are fifth and sixth in the championship respectively. Petrucci has been superb in riding this year’s Ducati, finishing all five races, four of them in the top 10, and three of them in the top five, claiming a podium last time out in France, while Miller, who has been riding last year’s Ducati, has arguably been even better with five top 10 finishes, with a best finish of fourth in Argentina, where he started from pole position, as well as fourth-place finish last time out in France.

Andrea Iannone (47 points) sits in seventh position in the world championship for Team Suzuki Ecstar after missing out on a possible third-successive podium finish after crashing out at Le Mans, but the speed from the factory Suzuki is certainly encouraging to challenge perhaps for a top three finish in the championship.

Cal Crutchlow (46 points) is eighth in the championship for LCR Honda, but has struggled since winning in Argentina, suffering crashes in the race in Austin and Jerez, as well as a massive crash in qualifying in France, which left him sore and sorry before the race, a race where he fought hard to finish in eighth, but he has got to learn to stay on the bike if he wants to be a strong championship contender in the future.

Andrea Dovizioso (46 points) is ninth in the championship for the Ducati Team after two-successive retirements in Jerez and Le Mans, the first time that has happened for Dovizioso since retiring from three-straight races in 2016, and with his championship hopes in tatters, must hit back at Mugello, a track predicted to be a strong one for Ducati, if he harbours any hope of catching Márquez in the championship.

While Dani Pedrosa (29 points), the teammate of Márquez, is 10th in the championship after a start to the season affected by injury, and he, along with Álex Rins (22 points), the teammate of Andrea Iannone, and Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (16 points), will believe they can get into the battle behind Márquez for second in the championship.

However, before I get to my predictions for the Italian Grand Prix, I want to say a few words about Lorenzo, and his inability to find success on the Ducati.

Lorenzo must realise and understand that how hard you inherently push the tyres doesn’t change whether you are on a Yamaha, or whether you are on a Ducati, and he must change his thought process on this immediately!

It is not Formula One, where the car characteristics usually dominate who is good and bad at managing their tyres, it is MotoGP, and the riders always have more of a say as to whether their tyres last in a race, and riders who have been historically harder on their tyres have usually used harder tyres!

Lorenzo must stop trying to find a direction on what tyres to use from Dovizioso, who has always been kinder to his tyres, and start going for tyre choices generally a step harder than what he has been! It is not rocket science, and if he does that, Lorenzo might suddenly find much greater success on a Ducati!

However, will he listen to people like me saying this, or will he keep on listening to his team, who are simply running out of ideas and following the opposition because they are?

Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure is that Marc Márquez, despite his lack of success at Mugello, with his only win there in the premier class coming back in 2014, the sixth win of his 10-race winning streak at the start of 2014, in a gripping battle with Jorge Lorenzo, and if Lorenzo and Ducati take heed of my advice, it might be another titanic struggle!

However, other than Márquez making a mistake, I can see only the straight-line speed and power of the Ducati stopping the Spaniard from a fourth win in a row, and right now, I can see Márquez potentially winning all of the remaining races in 2018, and as I said earlier, it could have been a whole lot worse for his rivals!