2019 Australian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 Japanese GP (MotoGP) – Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 Dutch TT (MotoGP) – Preview

The 2019 Catalan Grand Prix was a championship-defining race in the 2019 MotoGP World Championship after Jorge Lorenzo, who showed much improved form at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, took out Maverick Viñales, Valentino Rossi, and Andrea Dovizioso like a bowling ball on Lap Two of the race, while Marc Márquez managed to just avoid the incident and took the lead on his way to his 74th Grand Prix victory across all classes, and his 48th in the premier class to move into outright fourth for most premier class wins ahead of Lorenzo, and is now just two wins away from moving to equal-fourth alongside Mike Hailwood for most race victories across all classes.

However, most importantly, Márquez extends his lead in the championship to 37 points over Dovizioso as MotoGP heads to Assen for the 2019 Dutch TT, Round Eight of the 2019 season.

Márquez (140 points) leads the way for the Repsol Honda Team over Dovizioso (103 points) for Mission Winnow Ducati, and right now, given the way Márquez is riding right now, Dovizioso (and others) are firmly out of championship contention, unless Márquez has two or probably three retirements, or misses two or three races, or has a combination of each, and although Márquez does have a tendency for taking a few risks, the possibility of others getting back into world championship appears highly unlikely.

And, what’s worse for the rivals of Márquez is that it could have been a lot worse if the defending world champion had not crashed out of the Grand Prix of the Americas, a race where Márquez was previously undefeated at. It is going take a miracle, perhaps beyond that, for someone other than Márquez to win the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.

Álex Rins (101 points) is third in the championship for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR after finishing fourth in Barcelona, and remains just ahead of Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci (98 points) who finished third.

Valentino Rossi (72 points) is fifth in the world championship for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP after a second-straight retirement, the first time that has happened since the final three completed races of 2011 when he was at Ducati (NOTE: Does not include the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix), while Jack Miller (53 points) leads the battle from behind for Alma Pramac Racing after his fourth points finish of 2019 (all Top Fives).

Fabio Quartararo (51 points) moves up into seventh in the championship for Petronas Yamaha SRT after claiming his first premier class podium in Barcelona, finishing second, and looks likely to challenge for a race victory before the season comes to an end.

Behind him, Takaaki Nakagami (48 points) is eighth for LCR Honda, and Pol Espargaró (47 points) is ninth for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing after strong points finishes, while Cal Crutchlow (42 points) slips to 10th in the standings for LCR Honda after failing to finish for the second time in 2019.

So, who will win the 2019 Dutch TT?

The race at Assen is always a good race that always tends to suit most bikes on the grid, and is loved by all of the riders. I am going to tip Marc Márquez to continue to extend his championship lead, ahead of Fabio Quartararo and Jack Miller in what will be a thrilling race!

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.

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.

 

 

2019 Qatar GP (MotoGP) – Preview

It has been an interesting off-season in MotoGP, and with many changes within teams, in particular Jorge Lorenzo leaving Ducati to become the teammate of five-time MotoGP world champion, and seven-time world champion across all classes Marc Márquez at the Repsol Honda Team, and Tech 3 changing from Yamaha machinery to KTM machinery after a 20 year relationship with the Japanese manufacturer, leaving us with many questions as to how the 2019 MotoGP World Championship will pan out, a 19-race championship that begins in earnest this weekend at the Losail International Circuit in Lusail in Qatar, which is about 23 kilometres north of the capital Doha.

So, who are the championship contenders?

Looking at the entire field, their form during pre-season testing, and their reputations, I believe there are six riders from four teams who are capable of winning the 2019 world championship.

The obvious ones are the two Repsol Honda Team riders in Marc Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo, but how are they physically coming into the 2019 season?

Márquez is coming into the new season off the back of off-season surgery on his left shoulder after suffering multiple dislocations towards the back end of 2018, but after topping the opening day of testing at the Sepang International Circuit at the start of February, the reigning world champion has been rather low-key throughout testing until the final two days of the Qatar test at the end of last month, finishing fifth on the penultimate day, and third on the final day as he started to find full fitness.

If Márquez (or any other Spaniard in the field) can win the championship, Spain will become the first country to win eight-straight premier class world championships, and when Márquez has won the opening race of the season in the grand prix motorcycle career across all classes, he has gone onto win the world championship, and both times he was under injury clouds.

In 2012, his career was in serious threat of being ended prematurely after vision problems stemming from a Moto2 practice crash the previous year in Malaysia, the same weekend that Marco Simoncelli was tragically killed in the MotoGP race, which was later declared as a cancelled race, but thankfully, Márquez had his vision problems rectified, and went onto win the 2012 Moto2 World Championship.

In 2014, Márquez broke his right leg in a dirt-bike training accident after topping all three days of the opening test in Malaysia, forcing him to miss the second Malaysian test, and the Phillip Island test in Australia, but Márquez managed to win the opening race in Qatar over Valentino Rossi on-route to winning the opening 10 races, and 11 of the first 12 to claim his second premier class crown in as many years.

So, will history repeat itself for Marc Márquez?

Well, new teammate Jorge Lorenzo might have something to say about this, but he too has been under an injury cloud, perhaps more so than Márquez to be truthful after fracturing his wrist in a training accident in January, forcing him to miss the opening test in Malaysia, and after struggling on the opening two days of the Qatar test, Lorenzo managed to finish fifth on the final day of testing, finishing within half a tenth of his teammate.

If Lorenzo were to win the Qatar Grand Prix, he would become the third rider after Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi to win the MotoGP race in Qatar on four occasions, and if he were to win, it would be his seventh victory in Qatar overall across all classes.

The next obvious ones are the two Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP riders in Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales, but have Yamaha fixed the problems that they had with their bike last year?

Looking at the evidence from testing, the answer seems to be Yes!

Rossi, who turned 40 in February, endured his first winless year for a Japanese manufacturer last year, and despite finishing third in the 2018 championship, he has not been on the podium in his last nine races, and won’t want to endure a run like that in 2019, regardless of the competitiveness of the bike, but the signs are looking positive for Yamaha, but perhaps much more positive for Viñales, who topped three of the six days of testing, and finishing inside the top five on all six days.

At this stage, Viñales may well be the favourite to take out the Qatar Grand Prix, but I don’t think you cannot rule out Mission Winnow Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso and Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Álex Rins.

Dovizioso is coming off the back of finishing second in the championship for the second-straight year, but made a number of uncharacteristic mistakes in 2018, which cost him any chance of challenging Marc Márquez for the world championship on a bike which has improved significantly over the last two years. The question is whether he can win his first MotoGP World Championship in 2019, or whether that opportunity has passed?

The bike is well-suited to circuits with long-straights and big braking zones, the whole team will essentially be behind Dovizioso, and you wouldn’t expect his teammate Danilo Petrucci to challenge for the championship, so you would have to think that this may well be his last chance to win a premier class world championship.

As for Álex Rins, he is very much the dark horse in the 2019 championship, and if Team Suzuki Ecstar can deliver him a good bike on a consistent basis, and Rins can have a better start to the season than he did in 2018, he has the ability to surprise the entire motorcycle world, and perhaps win his first world championship across all classes.

However, who will win the opening race in Qatar, and who is my tip to win the 2019 MotoGP World Championship?

I think given his form in pre-season testing that Maverick Viñales will be the one to beat in Qatar, just ahead of Andrea Dovizioso and defending world champion Marc Márquez, but as far as the world championship is concerned, it is going to take something special to defeat Márquez over the course of a full season, something which I cannot see anyone doing at the moment.