2019 Catalan GP (MotoGP) – Preview

What a race at Mugello! It was the race of the year so far, and it delivered a well-deserved first time Grand Prix winner in Italian Danilo Petrucci in front of his home crowd on the Ducati in a nailbiter ahead of Marc Márquez, who extended his championship lead ahead of Petrucci’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso, and Álex Rins, with the Top Four covered by just 0.535 seconds!

However, the MotoGP grid heads to Spain, and to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for Round Seven of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship, the 2019 Catalan Grand Prix as Grand Prix motorcycle racing celebrates its 70th birthday!

Márquez (115 points) leads the championship by 12 points for the Repsol Honda Team, ahead of Dovizioso (103 points) for Mission Winnow Ducati.

Márquez set up his weekend at Mugello very well by taking an amazing pole position, the 56th of his premier class career, moving ahead of Valentino Rossi into outright-second on the list of most pole positions in the premier class, and is now just two behind Mick Doohan’s record of 58 premier class pole positions.

However, it wasn’t an easy weekend for Dovizioso, only qualifying ninth after having to go through the first part of qualifying, but did extremely well to recover and finish third in the race, but has lost ground on Márquez, and you sense Dovizioso needs to win the Catalan Grand Prix to give himself a fighting chance in the 2019 championship battle.

Rins (88 points) is third in the world championship for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR after coming back from 13th on the grid to finish a close fourth. Unless there is a problem with the actual Suzuki bike itself over one lap that doesn’t exist over long race runs, which is plausible given Rins has consistently not qualified well in 2019 so far, Rins has got to qualify way better than he has if he is going to challenge consistently for race wins.

Petrucci (82 points) moves up into fourth in the championship after claiming his first MotoGP race victory at Mugello in Italy, and while I don’t think he is a serious championship contender, he will need to help his teammate Dovizioso steal points off Márquez consistently to give Dovizioso a great chance of winning his first premier class world championship.

Valentino Rossi (72 points) drops to fifth in the standings for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP after having an absolute shocker at Mugello, qualifying in 18th (his equal-worst qualifying performance) after failing to get to the finish line in time to start one more flying lap, and then was unusually lacklustre in the race, crashing out of the Italian Grand Prix on Lap Eight, and it wasn’t because of a lack of performance from the bike, but in my opinion because of a lack of performance from the great man himself, almost a sign that his time in MotoGP, at least as a competitve force, may well be coming to an end, sadly!

Behind the Top Five in the world championship, Jack Miller (42 points) is sixth for Alma Pramac Racing after performing well at Mugello before crashing out on Lap 16, and is level on points with Cal Crutchlow (42 points) for LCR Honda, but ahead of Crutchlow due better race results, with Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (40 points) struggling in eighth in the standings after finishing sixth in Italy, while Crutchlow’s teammate Takaaki Nakagami (40 points), and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Pol Espargaró (38 points) complete the Top 10 in the standings after strong performances at the Italian Grand Prix.

However, the struggles for Jorge Lorenzo (19 points) at Repsol Honda Team are continuing after another race finish outside of the Top 10, and down in 14th in the championship, and you feel like there is no way out of this shocking form slump, and drastic changes are required from him to return to the form we know he can produce!

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

With five Top Two finishes from six races, Marc Márquez is the obvious choice to win at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but who finishes behind him gets a bit more complicated with the varying strengths of the bikes, and varying form of the riders, but I think Andrea Dovizioso, who has finished inside the Top Four in all six races in 2019, is the safest choice to finish second, while I think Álex Rins will finish third if he can qualify well, just ahead of Jack Miller.

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2019 Italian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

Marc Márquez took control of the French Grand Prix, and claimed his third race victory of the season, and his second in as many races to equal his current teammate Jorge Lorenzo in fourth on the all-time list for most premier class wins. However, with three Ducati bikes behind him at Le Mans, the threat to the defending world champion is ever real as the grid heads to the Mugello Circuit in Italy for Round Six of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.

Márquez (95 points) leads the championship by eight points over Mission Winnow Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso (87 points), with Dovizioso looking primed for success at Mugello after winning there back in 2017, especially after finishing inside the Top Four after each of the opening five races of 2019, but still faces a tall order given the form Márquez has been in so far this year, despite the strengths of the Ducati being well-suited to Mugello.

Álex Rins (75 points) is third in the world championship for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, 20 points behind Márquez after a shocking French Grand Prix, qualifying only in 19th, and finishing the race only in 10th, his worst result of the season, and his his worst result since last year’s Czech Republic Grand Prix, where he finished in 11th. Rins will need to better in Italy if he wants to stay in the championship fight.

Valentino Rossi (72 points) is three points behind Rins in fourth after finishing fifth at Le Mans, but he knows that Mugello is a great opportunity to score some big points, and with the exception of his first year in the premier class back in 2000, every time he has started and finished the Italian Grand Prix, he has finished inside the Top Six, winning at Mugello seven times (2002-2008) in the premier class. You feel though he really needs to win this weekend if he is to keep his hopes of winning an eighth premier class world championship alive.

Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci (57 points) is fifth in the championship, and will be aiming for a podium, if not his first race victory of his career this weekend after finishing third at the French Grand Prix, while Jack Miller (42 points) will be looking continue his good form this weekend for Alma Pramac Racing as he aims to claim what would be the second win of his MotoGP career.

Behind the Top Six in the world championship, Cal Crutchlow (34 points) is seventh for LCR Honda after finishing ninth at Le Mans, followed by Franco Morbidelli (34 points) for Petronas Yamaha SRT, who finished in seventh, just behind Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Pol Espargaró (31 points), who finished the French Grand Prix in sixth in what was the team’s best-ever dry weather performance, while Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (30 points) is in 10th in the championship as his inconsistent season so far continues.

Looking beyond the Top 10, we find Lorenzo (16 points) in 14th position in the standings, and without a Top 10 race finish in 2019, and it is now beyond bewildering as to why he is where he is right now! You have to wonder whether physically he is right, or whether the bike is being set-up right for him, or more specifically whether the set-up of the bike, which may be alright for someone like Márquez, isn’t the right set-up for Lorenzo, because when everything is right, Lorenzo is certainly not this far behind Márquez on a consistent basis. However, we all know he has a great record at Mugello, finishing inside the Top Two in nine of his last 10 races at Mugello, so if he is nowhere near this level this weekend, it will officially be a crisis, and a potentially hopeless situation for Lorenzo to lift himself from.

So, who will win the 2019 Italian Grand Prix?

This is a great opportunity for Ducati to claim a race victory, and although most people will favour either Andrea Dovizioso or Danilo Petrucci this weekend, I am going to predict a surprise race win for Jack Miller, despite his poor record at Mugello, just ahead of Marc Márquez, while Valentino Rossi will claim his 12th premier class podium at Mugello in third position in what will be an exciting race!

2019 French GP (MotoGP) – Preview

Marc Márquez got the swift redemption that he was looking for after crashing out of the Grand Prix of the Americas by winning the Spanish Grand Prix for the second-straight year, and for just the third time in his career, Álex Rins backed up his first MotoGP victory, which he achieved at the Circuit of the Americas by finishing second behind his fellow Spaniard at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto, while Maverick Viñales got his first podium of the season, and his first since winning in Australia last year as he attempts to bounce back after his awful start to 2019.

However, the struggles continued for Jorge Lorenzo at home, finishing only 12th, and he will be desperate to change his fortunes very quickly as the 2019 MotoGP World Championship heads to the Circuit Bugatti in Le Mans in France for Round Five of the championship, the 2019 French Grand Prix.

Márquez (70 points) re-takes the lead of the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by a single point over Team SUZUKI ECSTAR rider Rins (69 points) after claiming his 46th MotoGP victory, and his 72nd race victory across all classes. Márquez is just one win away from moving into equal-fourth for most premier class victories alongside his current teammate Lorenzo.

Meanwhile, Rins extended his streak of Top Five finishes to eight after claiming his second podium of the season. Rins has now achieved Top Five finishes in 10 of his last 11 races, but needs to qualify a little bit closer to the front if he is to challenge Márquez on a consistent basis.

Andrea Dovizioso (67 points) is third in the championship for Mission Winnow Ducati after a second-straight fourth-place finish in 2019 at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto, but will be feeling optimistic about his chances over the course of the next three races, maybe not necessarily at Le Mans, but certainly at Mugello and Barcelona, circuits which should suit the characteristics of the Ducati extremely well.

Valentino Rossi (61 points) is fourth in the championship for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP after finishing a difficult race in sixth after starting the Spanish Grand Prix in 13th after failing to qualify into the second part (Q2) of qualifying. He is 20 points ahead of Dovizioso’s teammate in Danilo Petrucci (41 points) in the standings after the Ducati rider continued his consistent run in 2019 by finishing in fifth-place in Jerez de la Frontera after finishing in sixth in each of the opening three races.

Rossi’s teammate Viñales (30 points) is just 11 points behind Petrucci after finishing third in Spain, but is already 40 points behind Márquez, and his hopes of claiming his first MotoGP World Championship in 2019 almost gone. However, Viñales is certainly capable of winning in France just like he did back in 2017, but he needs to qualify well, and most importantly start well to give himself the best possible chance.

Jack Miller (29 points) is seventh in the world championship for Alma Pramac Racing despite crashing out of the Spanish Grand Prix, and is ahead of Takaaki Nakagami (29 points) in the standings by virtue of his third-place finish at the Grand Prix of the Americas.

Nakagami’s LCR Honda teammate Cal Crutchlow (27 points) is ninth in the championship just two points behind his teammate after finishing eighth at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto, while Franco Morbidelli (25 points) completes the Top 10 in the standings by finishing the Spanish Grand Prix in seventh for Petronas Yamaha SRT.

However, it was heartbreak for Morbidelli’s teammate Fabio Quartararo (17 points), who after becoming the youngest rider to claim pole position in the history of the premier class, was running in a comfortable second behind Márquez before a gearbox issue struck on Lap 14, ending his chances of a first MotoGP podium and leaving him in 13th position in the world championship.

Immediately behind Quartararo in the standings, it is Lorenzo (11 points), who had an absolutely awful race in Jerez de la Frontera, finishing 12th and 18.473 behind his teammate and race winner Márquez, and looking like a shadow of the rider that has won five world championships, including three in the premier class, and really needs to do some serious soul searching if he wants to return to the level of rider we all know that he can be!

However, Lorenzo has finished inside the Top Seven in all of his MotoGP races at the Circuit Bugatti, and has finished inside the Top Two in nine of his last 10 races at Mugello, so if he doesn’t perform well at either, if not both, of those two races, there will be some serious question marks regarding Lorenzo’s future.

So, who will win the 2019 French Grand Prix?

I think the safest bet will be Marc Márquez, but I think Álex Rins on the Suzuki, Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales on the Yamaha, as well as Andrea Dovizioso on the Ducati will be his closest challengers in Le Mans.

2019 Spanish GP (MotoGP) – Preview

The domination by Marc Márquez at the Circuit of the Americas came to an end on Lap 9 at Turn 12 after leading the race by almost four seconds, crashing out of the lead inexplicably after having the race completely under his control. However, this opened the door for Álex Rins, who managed to hold off Valentino Rossi on his Suzuki to claim his first-ever MotoGP race victory, and as a result, there are only nine points separating four riders as the 2019 MotoGP World Championship heads back to Europe, and to the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto for the fourth race of the season.

Andrea Dovizioso (54 points) leads the championship by three points for Mission Winnow Ducati over Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi (51 points) after finishing fourth in the Grand Prix of the Americas after starting 13th in what was a brilliant ride, with Rins (49 points) for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR a further two points behind after claiming his first premier class win, becoming just the second rider not only to win a MotoGP race at the Circuit of the Americas, but to claim their first MotoGP win in Austin.

Marc Márquez (45 points) is fourth in the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team, on exactly the same amount of points he scored after the opening three rounds of last year, but after failing to finish a race that he has won on each of the previous six occasions before 2019. The reigning world champion will be looking to bounce back big time with a race victory in the south of Spain, but Márquez has opened the door, albeit slightly, for his rivals to maybe take away his crown by the end of the season.

Behind the Top 4 in the championship, Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci (30 points) sits fifth, one point ahead of Jack Miller (29 points), who claimed his second premier class podium after finishing third for Alma Pramac Racing, followed by Takaaki Nakagami (22 points) and Cal Crutchlow (19 points) for LCR Honda. It was a disappointing race for Crutchlow, who along with Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo, failed to finish the race on his Honda, with only Nakagami managing to finish the race at the Circuit of the Americas for Honda.

The Top 10 in the championship is completed by Pol Espargaró (18 points) for the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, and Fabio Quartararo (17 points) for Petronas Yamaha SRT, but there are two big name riders, who were thought of as championship contenders before the start of the season, languishing outside of the Top 10 in the championship.

Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (14 points) is currently 12th in the championship, 40 points behind championship leader Dovizioso, while the teammate of Márquez, Lorenzo, sits in 17th position in the standings on just seven points!

We all know that Lorenzo has been struggling with injury and physical ailments throughout the start of 2019 to date, but it is a mystery as to why Viñales, other than the fact he continues to start races poorly, is unable to go with the pace of the leaders during races, and it seems to be a phenomena that just affects him out of all the Yamaha riders, and it has been effecting his performance in races, not only in the first three races of 2019, but also throughout 2018 as well.

In my opinion, Viñales needs to have a good long look at himself in the mirror, and work out how he can adapt his riding style to suit the Yamaha, rather than expecting that he can ride in what ever way that he wants, and then find out that it is not delivering the results that he expects on a consistent basis.

It is a crucial race for both Viñales and Lorenzo, and really both of them need to win at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto if they are to realistically keep their championship hopes alive!

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

I expect, given his strong record in Jerez de la Frontera, for Marc Márquez to bounce back and gain swift redemption for his shock result in the Grand Prix of the Americas, and win in Spain, ahead of both his teammate Jorge Lorenzo, and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider Maverick Viñales in an all-Spanish podium, with Álex Rins, Andrea Dovizioso, and Valentino Rossi close behind!

 

2019 Americas GP (MotoGP) – Preview

Marc Márquez blew the entire field away in Argentina to take the lead in the 2019 MotoGP World Championship, the question is whether the reigning world champion can extend his narrow four point lead in the standings at the third round of the championship at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas?

Very likely given that Márquez (45 points) has won every MotoGP race (six) at the Circuit of the Americas, and being credited with every MotoGP pole position at the circuit, although not starting from pole position last year due to blocking Maverick Viñales in qualifying, but is there anyone that can stop the Repsol Honda Team from winning for a seventh time in Austin?

The contenders are not exactly lining up, but Andrea Dovizioso (41 points), who sits second in the championship for Mission Winnow Ducati is the most obvious contender after backing up his win in Qatar by finishing third in Argentina after a great battle with Valentino Rossi, and has finished on the podium twice at the Circuit of the Americas, along with Rossi (31 points), who sits third in the world championship for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP.

Maybe Álex Rins (24 points) can stop Márquez for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, if he can qualify well, while Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci (20 points) and LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow (19 points) are certainly dark horses if everything goes to plan, and they receive a slice of luck.

Crutchlow’s teammate Takaaki Nakagami (16 points) is less likely to challenge, but Alma Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller (13 points) is certainly a chance if things are thrown up out of the ordinary, while Aleix Espargaró (13 points) for Aprilia Factory Racing, and Pol Espargaró (10 points) for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing complete the Top 10 in the world championship.

However, two of the greatest challengers for Márquez this weekend sit outside of the Top 10 in the standings in Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (nine points), and his own teammate in Jorge Lorenzo (seven points).

Viñales has had a disappointing start to the season, struggling badly off the start line after claiming pole position in Qatar, and could only finish seventh, while in Argentina, he was taken out by Franco Morbidelli on the final lap of the race when he was in seventh position, while Lorenzo has struggled in recovering from injury, finishing 13th and 12th in the opening two races of the season respectively.

However, Viñales has been on the podium once at the Circuit of the Americas in the premier class last year, and won the Moto2 race in Austin back in 2014, the year after finishing second in the Moto3 race back in 2013, while Lorenzo has finished on the podium twice at the Circuit of the Americas back in 2013 and 2016.

So, if they can hit their best form this weekend, they could give Márquez a run for his money.

However, in the Lone Star state of the United States, at arguably his favourite MotoGP venue, I am predicting Marc Márquez to make it seven from seven at the Circuit of the Americas, which would be the 46th race victory in his premier class career, and his 80th podium finish in MotoGP.

 

 

2019 Argentina GP (MotoGP) – Preview

It was another nail-biting classic in Qatar with Andrea Dovizioso once again defeating Marc Márquez in a dash to the line, and after the Top 15 were covered by just 15.093 seconds, the closest in premier class history, the grid heads to the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo in Santiago del Estero for the Argentina Grand Prix, Round Two of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.

Dovizioso (25 points) leads the championship for Mission Winnow Ducati by five points over five-time MotoGP World Champion, and defending champion Márquez (20 points) after the opening race thriller at the Losail International Circuit, with Cal Crutchlow (16 points) finishing third to be third in the standings for LCR Honda Castrol about four and a half months after suffering a badly broken ankle at Phillip Island during practice for the 2018 Australian Grand Prix in a remarkable return to competition after struggling in pre-season testing.

Álex Rins (13 points), one of the riders I earmarked in my preview for the Qatar Grand Prix as one of six potential championship contenders, finished fourth in the opening race of the season for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, ahead of Valentino Rossi (11 points) for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, who came from 14th on the grid to finish in fifth, with Rossi finishing ahead of Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci (10 points), and his own teammate Maverick Viñales (nine points).

Viñales, who had topped three of the six days of pre-season testing, and finished inside the top two on all three days of the Qatar pre-season test, was fast throughout the race weekend in Qatar, and claimed pole position for the opening race of the season, but once again, he didn’t get off the line well, and all that he could manage was a seventh-place finish. The Spaniard though will be hoping that this was just a one-off, and not the continuation of a trend that we saw throughout 2018.

Joan Mir (eight points), the teammate of Rins, was eighth on his MotoGP debut, and looked reasonably close to the pace of Rins throughout the weekend at the Losail International Circuit, while LCR Honda Idemitsu rider, and teammate of Crutchlow, Takaaki Nakagami (seven points), finished ninth in Qatar, ahead of Aprilia Factory Racing’s Aleix Espargaró (six points), who completed the Top 10 at the opening race of 2019.

However, the main headline of the first race of the season was the disappointing performance in his first race with the Repsol Honda Team, although hindered by a wrist injury, for Jorge Lorenzo (three points), who finished the 2019 Qatar Grand Prix in 13th. Lorenzo finished the opening practice session in second, behind Rossi, and head of his new teammate Márquez, but by the end of the first three practice sessions, he was 11th on the combined standings and had to go through Qualifying One (Q1).

However, he wasn’t able to qualify into Qualifying Two (Q2), and started the opening race of the season only in 15th, and from there, he found it difficult to move through the field, finishing only in 13th, making it the third year in a row that Lorenzo has either crashed out (2018), or finished 11th or lower (2017 and 2019). Lorenzo will be wanting to turn his form around quickly in Argentina at the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo, a place where he has only finished on the podium once (2014).

So, who is going to win in Argentina?

If Marc Márquez can show the blistering speed that he showed last year, and stay on the bike, and not run into any of the problems that he ran into last year, then he will be clearly the one to beat at the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo, but if he does run into issues, the entire race could be a complete lottery, especially given the predicted weather conditions of rain and thunderstorms, particularly for Saturday and Sunday.

 

 

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.