2018 Valencian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After 18 rounds (17 races after the British Grand Prix didn’t get underway), and countless races that we will remember for a long time, the 2018 MotoGP World Championship comes to a conclusion at the final round (Round 19) at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, a chance to celebrate the season, and farewell a number of riders that will be leaving the MotoGP grid, including Scott Redding, Bradley Smith, Álvaro Bautista, Xavier Simeon, and the retiring Dani Pedrosa.

Pedrosa is the biggest name from this group of riders to be moving on from MotoGP after 54 wins (31 in MotoGP), 153 podiums (112 in MotoGP), 49 pole positions (31 in MotoGP), and 64 fastest laps (44 in MotoGP), claiming the 125cc World Championship in 2003, as well as the 250cc World Championship in 2004 and 2005, with a best championship finish in the MotoGP World Championship of second in 2007, 2010, and 2012, falling 18 points short of Jorge Lorenzo in 2012 after becoming the Repsol Honda Team’s main championship contender after the ankle injury suffered by Casey Stoner at Indianapolis.

Overall, Pedrosa has scored 4151 points across all classes (2959 points in MotoGP), and will start for the 295th and final time across all classes on Sunday (217th time in MotoGP).

However, that won’t be the only focal point in Valencia, and while Marc Márquez (321 points) and Andrea Dovizioso (220 points) have secured first and second in the world championship respectively, the battle for third is still alive between the two Movistar Yamaha MotoGP teammates in Valentino Rossi (195 points) and Maverick Viñales (193 points) in what is a “winner takes all” scenario in terms of finishing third in the championship in very simplistic terms, although it could be more complicated than that should they finish the race in Valencia down the field.

In addition to this, the fight for fifth in the world championship is still alive in what is also a “winner takes all” scenario between Álex Rins (149 points), Johann Zarco (149 points), and Danilo Petrucci (144 points). Cal Crutchlow (148 points) is in-between Zarco and Petrucci in the standings, but is out of Valencia after breaking his right ankle in Friday practice at Phillip Island.

Andrea Iannone (133 points) could also finish fifth in the world championship, as can Jorge Lorenzo (130 points), but both would need results to go their way to achieve that, while Dani Pedrosa (106 points) can still finish his final MotoGP season in 10th-place in the championship should he win in Valencia, and Lorenzo scores no points.

So, who will take out the final race of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship?

Judging by recent form, and his four wins from his last five races, it has to be Marc Márquez to claim what would be his 10th race victory of the season, and it would be just the second time in his premier class career, third across all classes, that he would have won 10 races or more in a single season.

I think on the podium with Márquez will be Andrea Dovizioso, while Dani Pedrosa will claim his first podium of 2018 in his final MotoGP race.

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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 Thailand GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After a breathtaking race in Aragon, and an absolutely brilliant performance by Marc Márquez to take his fourth MotoGP victory in Aragon (his fifth across all classes), and his sixth victory of the season to place one hand on his fifth MotoGP World Championship, the grid heads to Buriram for the first time for the inaugural Thailand Grand Prix, Round 15 of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship.

Márquez (246 points) leads the championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 72 points over Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso (174 points) with just five rounds remaining in the season. Dovizioso was also fantastic in Aragon last time out, giving Márquez a really hard time, but all things being considered, Dovizioso is the only rider that can stop Márquez from winning another world championship, but he will need things to go his way to stop the great Spaniard.

Valentino Rossi (159 points) is somehow still third in the championship for the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team despite finishing in what was a good 8th after starting in 17th position on the grid, but the speed is not there from the Yamaha, and it is very hard to see it appearing anytime soon.

Jorge Lorenzo (130 points) is fourth in the world championship, but could have been second in the standings after two crashes, including one at the opening corner of the opening lap in Aragon, cost him two probable podium finishes, and perhaps a race win in Aragon, and is equal on points with Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (130 points), who like Rossi, is struggling to find strong pace on his Yamaha, but the Ducati rider is ahead on the standings due to achieving three race wins to the Yamaha rider’s zero.

Cal Crutchlow (119 points) is sixth in the championship for LCR Honda after crashing out in Aragon, and is tied on points with Alma Pramac Racing rider Danilo Petrucci (119 points), who finished in seventh at Aragon, but Crutchlow remains ahead in the standings due to his win in Argentina back in Round Two.

Johann Zarco (112 points) is eighth in the championship despite finishing in 14th-place at Aragon for Monster Yamaha Tech 3, while the two Team Suzuki Ecstar riders in Andrea Iannone (108 points) and Álex Rins (92 points) complete the top 10 in the standings, with Repsol Honda Team rider Dani Pedrosa (87 points) close behind in his final season in MotoGP.

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

Despite the recent dominance of Ducati since the mid-season break, I think this one of the races in the flyaway sequence that is about to start that Marc Márquez marked down as a huge opportunity to win, and extend his championship, considering his good record at adapting to new circuits, and if he does win, you sense that the 2018 MotoGP World Championship will be his.

2018 Aragon GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After a wonderful, fine, and sunny weekend at Misano, where Andrea Dovizioso took victory to help Ducati, and the Ducati Team, complete the “Italian double”, winning at both Mugello and Misano in the same season for the very first time, the MotoGP grid left the Adriatic coast of Italy to head to the desert-like surrounds of Motorland Aragón in Alcañiz in Spain for Round 14 of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship, and with six rounds remaining, you sense that something unfortunate would need to happen to deny Marc Márquez his fifth MotoGP World Championship, and his seventh world championship across all classes.

Márquez (221 points) leads the championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 67 points over Dovizioso (154 points) after finishing a safe second after sitting behind Jorge Lorenzo for the majority of the race, following his fellow Spaniard as he tried to chase down his teammate, before watching Lorenzo crash out with only a few laps to go to secure second-place, but Márquez couldn’t chase down Dovizioso, who was well out of sight by that point.

Valentino Rossi (151 points) slipped to third in the championship after struggling once again on his Yamaha, finishing in seventh as the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, and Yamaha as a manufacturer, now on their longest winless streak (22 races) in their history, with no win since the 2017 Dutch TT.

Lorenzo (130 points) is fourth in the world championship despite crashing out while trying to chase down his teammate Dovizioso, remounting to finish in 17th, while Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (124 points) is fifth in the championship after finishing fifth at Misano as the struggles of Yamaha continued.

Closing in on Viñales is LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow (119 points), taking advantage of Lorenzo’s crash to take a well-deserved third, while Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (110 points) and Alma Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci (110 points) are starting to slip back in the championship after poor results in Misano. Zarco’s struggles are particularly evident with no top six finishes in the last eight completed MotoGP races.

The two Team Suzuki Ecstar riders in Andrea Iannone (92 points) and Álex Rins (79 points) completes the Top 10 in the championship, and with some luck, should be capable of achieving a podium in one of the last six races of the season, with Dani Pedrosa (76 points), the teammate of Márquez, just outside of the Top 10 in his final season in MotoGP.

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

This circuit in the recent past has been a favourite for Marc Márquez, and is one of the few anti-clockwise circuits on the calendar, with Márquez winning at least three races in each of his seasons since joining the premier class on anti-clockwise circuits, and will most certainly be the one to beat.

Outside of Márquez, the two Ducati’s of Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso will be his closest challengers, with Dovizioso perhaps the only rider who could snatch the world championship away from the defending champion, but you sense last season was his best chance of winning a MotoGP World Championship.

Right now, you sense Marc Márquez is a win away from having one hand on a third-straight world championship.

 

2018 San Marino GP (MotoGP) – Preview

It was a difficult weekend for MotoGP. It was a disastrous weekend for Silverstone, and for the organisers of the British Grand Prix. However, it was most of all, an awful weekend for the fans and supporters of MotoGP, who waited either in their homes, or at the track, hoping for a normally great event to get underway, a moment that sadly never came.

Torrential heavy rain, combined with the poor drainage (relatively speaking) at the Silverstone Circuit meant that the races from all three classes could not get underway, and after hours of desperate and relentless toil, they had to make the heartbreaking to cancel the British Grand Prix, with no points being awarded, leaving the championship in exactly the same scenario, but with one race less to go, seven races to be precise, in the 2018 MotoGP World Championship, which heads to the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli for the San Marino Grand Prix.

Marc Márquez (201 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 59 points over Valentino Rossi (142 points) for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP. Lorenzo (130 points) is third in the championship and has been leading the charge for the Ducati Team in the last two races before the cancelled British Grand Prix, and looks the most likely to challenge Márquez until the end of the season.

Lorenzo 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, and like Lorenzo, will be looking to challenge Márquez in the final seven races of the season, although it is very unlikely (barring injury) that either Lorenzo or Dovizioso could steal the world championship away from Márquez.

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.

So who win at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli?

That is difficult to say given the recent form of both Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso, and the form and consistency throughout the entire year of Marc Márquez.

However, when Márquez has won both of his MotoGP races at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, it has been in either changeable conditions or in the wet, and with the forecast set to be sunny and warm for most of the weekend, you sense tyre management will be key, which should mean both Lorenzo and Dovizioso should have the advantage this weekend over Márquez.

If I had to pick one rider to win, it would be Lorenzo to claim his fourth MotoGP victory at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.

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!

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.