2018 German GP (MotoGP) – Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2018 Dutch TT (MotoGP) – Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, who will win the Dutch TT at Assen?

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

Catalan GP (MotoGP) – Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

2018 Italian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 French GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After a dramatic Spanish Grand Prix, whereby Marc Márquez took what was a dominant victory in the end, the biggest talking point was the remarkable racing incident which took out Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, and Andrea Dovizioso, which has changed the complexion of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship, which now heads to the home of French motorsport Le Mans to race on the shorter Circuit Bugatti.

Márquez (70 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 12 points over Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (58 points) heading into Zarco’s home race.

Márquez was dominant in the race at Jerez, but has been down just a touch on his normal performance over a qualifying lap, but overall, Márquez is heading towards the form that won him the first 10 races of the season back in 2014, and I sense he could go on a winning streak!

However, Zarco will be keen to stop him at his home race, where he picked up his first MotoGP podium last year, and at the moment, Zarco looks to be the only Yamaha that is genuinely capable of winning races!

This might be a disservice to the winner of last year’s French Grand Prix, Maverick Viñales (50 points), who sits in third in the championship for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP after finishing a satisfying, but ultimately disappointing seventh at the Spanish Grand Prix. However, after almost 12 months since his last victory in MotoGP, you don’t get the sense that the winless run for Viñales is going to end this weekend.

It is more likely though that either Andrea Iannone (47 points) for Team Suzuki Ecstar, or Dovizioso (46 points) for the Ducati Team will challenge for the win after their recent performances, particularly Iannone after two-straight podiums, but also Dovizioso after challenging for the podium in Jerez before the spectacular end to his race.

However, Valentino Rossi (40 points) will be in the same boat as his teammate Viñales, with the chances of victory being unlikely at Le Mans, while Cal Crutchlow (38 points), who took pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix will be hoping to stay on his bike after failing to score in the last two races. He cannot afford another mistake if he wants to remain in championship contention, because at the moment, he is wasting the potential of the bike, and himself!

Meanwhile, Jack Miller (36 points) is making good use of last year’s Ducati Desmosedici GP17 for Alma Pramac Racing with four top 10 finishes, and is just ahead of his teammate Danilo Petrucci (34 points), who is riding the newer Ducati Desmosedici GP18.

Tito Rabat (24 points) completes the top 10 in the championship for Reale Avintia Racing after four-straight points-scoring finishes.

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

At the moment, you cannot go past Marc Márquez winning his third race in a row, but I think it is going to be competitive behind, with Jorge Lorenzo to show the form that he showed in Jerez before the crash to take second-place, with Johann Zarco to finish in third in front of his home crowd in a huge battle pack!

2018 Argentina GP (MotoGP) – Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Qatar GP (MotoGP) – Preview

The wait is almost over, and it is time for the new season to finally commence! It is Round One of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship coming to you from the Losail International Circuit, which is about 30 kilometres north of Doha, the capital of Qatar, and it will begin what promises to be a great season, and it will be the longest season in the history of the sport, with 19 races for all to enjoy!

Four-time MotoGP World Champion and defending champion Marc Márquez, who has recently re-signed with Honda, will start the 2018 season as the favourite to win his fifth premier class title, and join Mick Doohan in equal-third for most premier class world championships, but will have to get past a number of contenders wanting to snatch the crown off him.

They include Andrea Dovizioso, who pushed Márquez all the way in 2017, winning six races, which was the same amount won by Márquez.

Maverick Viñales will also be a strong contender for the championship, despite a difficult second-half to his first season with the factory Yamaha team. Viñales won three of the first five races, but was unable to win any of the last 13 as he fell away to finish third in the 2017 championship.

Márquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa should also be in the thick of things after winning twice in 2017, although he hasn’t been able to beat Márquez on a consistent basis, as should Valentino Rossi, who has re-signed with Yamaha, and is looking to defy age and perhaps the critics to equal Giacomo Agostini’s record of eight premier class world championships.

Three-time MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo will be looking to return to top form in 2018 after a tough first year with the factory Ducati team, being thrashed by his teammate, and rarely coming close to challenging for a race victory, only picking up three podiums, while Johann Zarco will be looking to back up his sensational rookie year last year, where he finished sixth in the championship with three podiums, with a strong season in 2018.

There will also be other contenders looking for race victories or podium finishes in 2018, including Danilo Petrucci, Cal Crutchlow, Alex Rins,  Andrea Iannone, and even Australian Jack Miller.

The only disappointing news heading into the season is that German rider Jonas Folger will not take part in the 2018 season after missing the last four races of 2017, a season where he got a podium at his home race, after being diagonosed with a rare strain of Gilbert Syndrome, which is a common genetic disorder where the liver is unable to process toxins effectively, and it affects around two to five percent of the world’s population.

Overall, looking at the season as a whole, you would have to tip Marc Márquez to win his seventh world championship across all classes, as you sense that when he has the bike he wants underneath him, and is at his favourite circuits, he will win all of those races, but has the ability to finish on the podium when the bike isn’t quite there more often than his opposition.

However, in terms of the opening race of 2018, I am thinking that either Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo will be very hard to beat on their factory Ducati bikes on that long front straight at the Losail International Circuit.

So, I am tipping a Ducati one-two, with Márquez to start his quest for a fifth MotoGP World Championship with a strong third-place finish at one of his least-favourite tracks.

Yamaha will also be strong, but not as strong as this time last year, while Suzuki could be a surprise packet with Alex Rins and Andrea Iannone.

So, I cannot wait for the season to begin! It should be a classic!