2018 Grand Prix of the Americas (MotoGP) – Preview

After one of the most dramatic and strangest races in MotoGP history a couple of weeks ago in Argentina, Round Three of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship takes place this weekend from the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for the 2018 Grand Prix of the Americas, and the battle in terms of the championship is most certainly the widest that we have seen in some time!

Cal Crutchlow (38 points) is leading the championship for LCR Honda, becoming the first British rider since Barry Sheene in 1979 to lead the premier class world championship at any given time after his shock victory in Argentina, raising questions among many people as to whether he can win the world championship this year?

In my view, I don’t think Crutchlow against this field on his current machinery has what it takes over the course of a season to win the world championship in 2018, but if there are more crazy races like the last one, he could well be a chance!

Andrea Dovizioso (35 points) is second in the championship on his Ducati after finishing sixth in Argentina, a weekend where Ducati simply had no pace, with Johann Zarco (28 points) after his brilliant second-place finish on his Tech3 Yamaha in Argentina sitting third in the championship, ahead of factory Yamaha rider Maverick Viñales (21 points), who finished fifth at the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo.

Then we get to Marc Márquez (20 points) who sits in fifth in the championship on his factory Honda after his trials and tribulations in Argentina, in which he was penalised in the race three times!

He was given a ride-through penalty for failing to adhere to the instructions of marshals/stewards after stalling his bike after the warm-up lap after the start of the race was delayed. However, after looking at the 2018 FIM World Championship Grand Prix Regulations, I raise the pertinent question of whether the start of the race should have actually have been delayed in the first place?

My answer to that question is No!

In my opinion, if the conditions are improving, the conditions are getting safer! So, why would you (race direction) delay the start of the race? Would it be to get more suitable tyres onto the bike?

After the bikes/riders get to the grid, according to Article 1.18.6 of the 2018 FIM World Championship Grand Prix Regulations: “The Race Director will, at this stage, declare the race as “wet” or “dry” and will indicate this to the riders on the grid and those who may still be in the pit lane by the display of a board. If no board is displayed the race will automatically be “dry”.”

And, according to Article 1.18.7 of the 2018 FIM World Championship Grand Prix Regulations: “Riders on the grid may at this stage make adjustments to the machine or change tyres to suit the track conditions.

“Tyre warmers may be used on the grid.

“Riders may use a generator to power tyre warmers on the grid. Only one generator per machine may be used. The generator must be of the “hand carried” type and have a maximum output capacity of two kilowatts.

“Starter engines may also be used on the grid.

“Generator and starter engines should be located at the rear of the motorcycles.

“All adjustments must be completed by the display of the 3-Minute board. After this board is displayed, riders who still wish to make adjustments must push their machine to the pit lane. Such riders and their machines must be clear of the grid and in the pit lane before the display of the 1-Minute board, where they may continue to make adjustments, or change machine in MotoGP only. Such riders will start the warm up lap from the pit lane and will start the race from the back of the grid.”

So, the teams and the riders had ample opportunity to make a decision as to what tyres they should start the race on, and the race was declared WET, so why did race direction decide eight minutes and 20 seconds later that it was best to delay the start of the race?

The conditions were not dangerous! If your choose WET/RAIN weather tyres, but believe that they are going to overheat, but you aren’t confident the conditions are suitable for slicks, then you do the warm-up, start the race, and come into the pit-lane to change bikes when the suitable time arrives!

Adding to this, only one rider, that being Jack Miller (19 points), who is sixth in the championship after finishing fourth on his Pramac Ducati after starting from pole position, could follow the rules and regulations as stated, and yet doesn’t get to reap the rewards of his decision because of race direction making seemingly, according to the rules and regulations, the wrong decision!

The conditions were not dangerous, the conditions were consistent and improving! It wasn’t like there was a sudden torrential downpour, or one particular corner having significantly different conditions compared to everywhere else. So, why was the start of the race delayed?

I could go on all day about the race that Marc Márquez had, including the subsequent penalties for the incidents with Aleix Espargaró and Valentino Rossi after the first penalty, but really, in my opinion, the race wasn’t run properly, and the FIM, Dorna Sports, and MotoGP need to have a very good, hard, and long look at themselves!

Completing the top 10 in the championship are Danilo Petrucci (17 points), Rossi (16 points), Álex Rins (16 points), and Andrea Iannone (15 points).

So, looking ahead to Round Three at the Circuit of the Americas, I cannot go past Márquez to bounce back and win in Austin after the disappointment of Argentina. He is undefeated at the Circuit of the Americas, and I can see him making it six wins from six appearances in Austin.

 

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2018 Argentina GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After one of the closest races in recent memory to open up the season in Qatar, with the top seven covered by just five seconds, Round Two of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship takes place this weekend from the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo in Argentina, with the battle between Ducati, Honda, and Yamaha set to be fierce once again.

Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) leads the world championship by virtue of his victory in Qatar after a cracking battle with defending world champion Marc Márquez (Honda), with Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) also getting involved in the fight for the victory, with Cal Crutchlow (Honda), Danilo Petrucci (Ducati), Maverick Viñales (Yamaha), and Dani Pedrosa (Honda) completing the top seven, with Johann Zarco (Yamaha), who started the race from pole position, leading 16 out of the first 17 laps before dropping away late in the race to finish in eighth.

And while Andrea Iannone finished ninth aboard his Suzuki, he was probably overshadowed by the performance of his teammate Alex Rins for most of the weekend, before Rins sadly crashed out on lap 13 whilst in a very strong position, but the performance from Suzuki as a whole in Qatar showed that they could be a serious threat to Ducati, Honda, and Yamaha going forward.

Someone who won’t be happy with his performance in Qatar is Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo, crashing out on lap 13 after struggling to keep in touch with the front-runners, and after a season in 2017 where he failed to claim a single race victory, he was hoping to get on equal terms with Dovizioso pace wise, but at the moment, Lorenzo needs to find the sweet spot with his machinery, which for Lorenzo doesn’t seem to be in a consistent place, especially in comparison with his teammate.

Overall, Márquez has always been fast in Argentina, claiming pole position in each year since the Grand Prix of Argentina re-joined the championship back in 2014, but it has been a win or bin it mentality from the Spaniard at the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo, and while others have been solid, no one consistently has had an answer, pace wise at least, to stop Márquez in Argentina.

And, with the Honda seemingly in a much better position compared to this time last year, the defending world champion will be a very hard man to beat!

2018 Qatar GP (MotoGP) – Preview

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!

 

 

 

 

MotoGP Czech Republic GP – Preview

The 10th round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship takes place this weekend from the Brno Circuit in the Czech Republic, and after a mid-season break that seems to have gone on forever, it is time to get back to racing to start the second half of the season to continue an amazing championship battle.

And what a battle we have! The top five riders in the world championship are separated by 26 points heading into the final nine races of 2017, and have all won at least one race during the opening nine rounds of the season.

Marc Márquez leads the world championship on 129 points on his factory Honda, which is the lowest points score by a rider leading the world championship after the opening nine rounds since the current points-scoring system was introduced back in 1993, five points ahead of factory Yamaha rider Maverick Viñales, who is on 124 points.

However, Viñales has won more races so far in 2017 than his fellow Spaniard with three victories (Qatar, Argentina, and France), compared to Márquez, who has achieved two victories (Americas, and Germany).

Behind the two pre-season favourites after the halfway mark of the season is factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso on 123 points, six points behind Márquez in the world championship after winning two races (Italy, and Catalunya), and becoming the first Ducati rider since Casey Stoner back in 2010 to win consecutive races for the manufacturer.

Valentino Rossi is fourth in the championship on his factory Yamaha on 119 points, 10 points behind Márquez after achieving one victory during the opening half of the season, at the eighth round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship at Assen.

Behind Rossi is Dani Pedrosa, who is fifth in the world championship on 103 points, 26 points behind his factory Honda teammate Márquez after winning the Spanish Grand Prix earlier this year at Jerez, and is still well and truly in championship contention.

However, behind the battle for the championship is a great scrap for sixth in the championship standings between Johann Zarco (84 points), Jonas Folger (71 points), Danilo Petrucci (66 points), Jorge Lorenzo (65 points), and Cal Crutchlow (64 points).

All five of these riders have been on the podium at least once this season, and in the case of Petrucci, twice. As well as this, the three riders of those five (Zarco, Folger, and Petrucci) who haven’t won a race in the premier class in their careers to date have shown that they can challenge the very best on their day, and could possibly claim their first MotoGP race victories during the second-half of the season.

The two out of those five (Lorenzo and Crutchlow) who have won races in the premier class, and in the case of Lorenzo, world championships, have struggled to put together a string of good results so far in 2017, and need to find some consistency in the second-half to have any hope of achieving a top five finish in the championship.

So, MotoGP heads to the Czech Republic with at least ten riders who have shown that they are capable of winning a race in 2017, and with the conditions set to be fine, but hotter than normal, it leaves this race wide open.

However, especially given Honda have won five of the last six races at the Brno Circuit, if the track conditions are slippery, it will suit the Japanese manufacturer extremely well.

However, if the track has a lot of grip in its asphalt, it will bring it more in the favour of Yamaha, and in particular Ducati.

So, who am I tipping to win the Czech Republic Grand Prix?

Well, no rider has won at the Brno Circuit in consecutive years in MotoGP since Valentino Rossi won the races in 2008 and 2009, and suspect this record will still be standing at the end of the weekend.

So, I am going to tip Marc Márquez to win the tenth round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship in a fantastic battle with Dani Pedrosa.

 

MotoGP Practice on Friday at 9:55am, and 2:05pm local time (5:55pm, and 10:05pm AEST). MotoGP FP3 on Saturday at 9:55am local time (5:55pm AEST), FP4 on Saturday at 1:30pm local time (9:30pm AEST), Q1 and Q2 on Saturday at 2:10pm and 2:35pm local time (10:10pm and 10:35pm AEST). MotoGP Warm Up on Sunday at 9:40am local time (5:40pm AEST), and MotoGP race on Sunday at 2:00pm local time (10:00pm AEST).

 

 

2017 MotoGP German GP – Preview

This weekend, the ninth round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship will take place at the Sachsenring in the town of Hohenstein-Ernstthal near the German city of Chemnitz, and with the mid-season break fast approaching, a number of riders will be looking to achieve good results to consolidate or improve their position in the world championship.

The MotoGP field heads into the ninth round of 2017 with a new championship leader with Andrea Dovizioso leading on 115 points, which is the lowest for a world championship leader in the premier class after eight rounds since the current points-scoring system was introduced back in 1993.

Dovizioso leads by four points over Maverick Viñales (111 points), with Valentino Rossi (108 points), and Marc Márquez (104 points) all within 11 points of the championship leader, and is unsurprisingly the smallest margin covering the top four riders in the premier class after eight rounds since the current points-scoring system was introduced back in 1993.

Dovizioso will be looking to secure his third victory of the season this weekend, but has never won at the Sachsenring across any of the classes. His best performance at the German Grand Prix has been two third-place finishes back in 2012 and 2016 respectively.

Viñales too has never won the Sachsenring in his career to date, with his best performance at the German Grand Prix being two third-place finishes 2011 and 2013 in the beginner’s class (125cc/Moto3). However, Viñales will be desperate to grab his fourth victory of the season after crashing out of the Dutch TT under a week ago.

Rossi, unlike Dovizioso and Viñales, has had plenty of success at the Sachsenring, winning five times across all classes, although his last race victory at the German Grand Prix came back in 2009. However, if Rossi won for the seventh time at the Sachsenring, he would become the second-oldest rider to win back-to-back races in the premier class after winning the Dutch TT last week.

Márquez has also had plenty of success at the German Grand Prix, the most successful rider in fact, taking pole position and winning the race in the last seven years across all classes at the Sachsenring. However, he hasn’t got a pole position in the last five races, which is his longest streak without a pole position since joining the premier class back in 2013.

This weekend would seem like the perfect time and place to end that record, but other than Dovizioso, Viñales and Rossi, Márquez will be facing stiff competition from his teammate Dani Pedrosa, who too has a fantastic record at the German Grand Prix, winning it six times across all classes.

However, Pedrosa, who is currently fifth in the championship on 87 points, 28 points behind championship leader Dovizioso will be desperate to achieve his seventh victory at the Sachsenring as he looks to keep in touch with his championship rivals at a track where the Repsol Honda Team have won for the past seven years.

Other riders to look out for this weekend to challenge for the podium and possibly a race win include Johann Zarco (77 points), Danilo Petrucci (62 points), Jorge Lorenzo (60 points), and Cal Crutchlow (58 points).

Zarco won the Moto2 race last year at the Sachsenring, but Petrucci, who has never won a race, Crutchlow, and more surprisingly Lorenzo have never won at the Sachsenring across any class.

The German Grand Prix is a particularly big weekend for Lorenzo if he wants to get back into the world championship battle, trailing his teammate Andrea Dovizioso by 55 points heading into the last 10 races of the season.

He has had a real struggle to adapt to his factory Ducati, and has been rather inconsistent, finishing in the top six on only three occasions in 2017, with his only podium of the season so far coming at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez.

If Lorenzo can improve his form on the factory Ducati, he can still be a major player in the 2017 MotoGP World Championship, but you feel it has to start this weekend by claiming his first victory at the Sachsenring, a track where he has claimed six podiums across all classes.

However, I am tipping a resurgent run by Marc Márquez at arguably his favourite circuit on the calendar, and I believe he will dominate at the Sachsenring once again to win for the eighth time.

 

MotoGP Practice on Friday at 9:50am, and 2:00pm local time (5:50pm, and 10:00pm AEST). MotoGP FP3 on Saturday at 9:55am local time (5:55pm AEST), FP4 on Saturday at 1:30pm local time (9:30pm AEST), Q1 and Q2 on Saturday at 2:10pm and 2:35pm local time (10:10pm and 10:35pm AEST). MotoGP Warm Up on Sunday at 9:40am local time (5:40pm AEST), and MotoGP race on Sunday at 2:00pm local time (10:00pm AEST).