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.

 

 

Advertisements

2018 Australian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

Marc Márquez at the age of 25 years and 246 days became the youngest rider to win five world championships after winning the Japanese Grand Prix last weekend, surpassing the record that was held by Valentino Rossi, who was 26 years, 221 days when he claimed his fifth premier class world championship after finishing second at the Malaysian Grand Prix back in 2005, and joining Giacomo Agostini, Rossi, and Mick Doohan as the only riders to win at least five premier class world championships.

Márquez also became the youngest rider in history to win seven world championships across all classes, surpassing Mike Hailwood, who was 26 years and 140 days old when he claimed his seventh world championship across all classes back in 1966, and joins John Surtees (7), Phil Read (7), Carlo Ubbiali (9), Hailwood (9), Rossi (9), Angel Nieto (13) and Agostini (15) as the only riders to have won at least seven world championships across all classes.

So, with three races to go in the 2018 FIM MotoGP World Championship, the title may have already been decided in favour of Márquez, but the battle for second (and third) in the world championship is starting to heat up with six riders mathematically in contention for the title of “best of the rest” behind Márquez as the field heads to the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, about 140 kilometres south-east of Melbourne for the 2018 Australian Grand Prix.

For the record, Márquez (296 points) leads the championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 102 points over Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso (194 points), with Rossi (185 points) only nine points behind Dovizioso in third for the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team, and is realistically the only rider who can take second in the world championship away from Dovizioso.

Behind the top three, Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (155 points) leads a group of five riders separated by 25 points, with LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow (148 points), Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (133 points), Alma Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci (133 points), and Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (130 points) all in the realistic battle for fourth in the world championship.

However, Lorenzo is the only rider out of the five who is unable to challenge for a top three finish in the championship after being ruled out of the Australian Grand Prix due to a wrist injury, and will be replaced by Ángel Nieto Team rider Álvaro Bautista (83 points), who will be joining the factory Ducati team in the World Superbikes Championship next year, and currently sits in 12th in the world championship. Bautista’s seat at the Ángel Nieto Team for the Australian Grand Prix will be filled by Australian Mike Jones.

However, the two riders behind Lorenzo in the championship, the two Team SUZUKI ECSTAR riders in Álex Rins (118 points) and Andrea Iannone (113 points) still have a mathematical chance of finishing third in the championship.

So, who will win the 2018 Australian Grand Prix?

Looking at the surface of the battle, and considering the race we saw last year, where the top seven riders finished within six seconds of each other, we could potentially have a 12-rider fight for the victory at Phillip Island when you count in the top 10 in the championship (minus Lorenzo), the teammate of Marc Márquez in Dani Pedrosa (95 points), who sits in 11th in his final season in the MotoGP World Championship, Bautista, and Petrucci’s Australian teammate Jack Miller (74 points), who has slipped to 13th in the championship, but is capable of a big performance in front of his home crowd.

Under normal circumstances, I would tip Márquez to win the Australian Grand Prix, but on both occasions when he has secured the world championship at the Twin Ring Motegi, he has crashed out in the following race, which on both occasions were at Phillip Island, crashing out at Turn 10 in 2014, and at Turn Four (Honda Corner) in 2016, and was leading comfortably on both occasions.

So, if it is not to be Márquez who wins the 2018 Australian Grand Prix, who will?

When you look at the last 29 MotoGP races, the two men that have stood out have been Márquez, who has claimed 13 victories within those 29, and Andrea Dovizioso, who has claimed nine wins within those 29. However, the Ducati strengths don’t necessarily suit the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, and if that is the case, does it suit the strengths of the Yamaha?

Maybe it does, but Yamaha have generally been not in good form in 2018, with no wins and only 11 podiums (five for Rossi, four for Viñales, and two for Zarco), so you couldn’t tip a Yamaha to win with any realistic confidence, so if you take Márquez out of the picture, I feel the only two riders that can take the Australian Grand Prix are Cal Crutchlow and Dani Pedrosa, and I don’t think they will have the consistent pace of the great Spaniard.

So, in my opinion, if Márquez can stay upright, he will win the 2018 Australian Grand Prix, but it will be a thrilling race!

2018 Austrian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After a sensational race in the Czech Republic, with the top three of Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, and Marc Márquez covered by just 0.368 seconds in the race, and the top six covered by just 3.768 seconds, the MotoGP grid back up quickly, and they head to the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg in Austria for the Austrian Grand Prix, Round 11 in the 2018 MotoGP World Championship, with Márquez having a healthy and strong cushion in the championship.

Márquez (181 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 49 points over Valentino Rossi (132 points) for the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team. Márquez got his 71st MotoGP podium in his 100th MotoGP race in Brno in the Czech Republic, showing a level of maturity that hasn’t been needed to be displayed, mostly because he has been faster than anyone else, not willing to risk his large championship lead just to win in the Czech Republic as he didn’t quite (all relative) have the bike underneath him to win the race. If Márquez continues in the vain of form he is currently in, it is inevitable he will win his fifth MotoGP World Championship.

While for Rossi, he is slowly slipping out of championship contention after finishing fourth in Brno, and it appears like his main aim will be to finish the championship in second-place, but the good news for Rossi is that he has a 19-point gap over third-place in the championship Andrea Dovizioso (113 points) for the Ducati Team.

Dovizioso moved up from fourth to third in the championship after his victory in the Czech Republic, his second of the season, and on the Ducati, should be even stronger at the Red Bull Ring, a circuit suited to the engine power and straight-line performance of the Ducati. Dovizioso leads a six-way battle for third championship with Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (109 points), Dovizioso’s teammate Lorenzo (105 points), Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (97 points), Alma Pramac Racing rider Danilo Petrucci (94 points), and LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow (90 points).

Completing the top 10 in the championship is Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Andrea Iannone (81 points), and Petrucci’s teammate Jack Miller (61 points), both of whom have struggled in the last four to five races, with Iannone’s teammate Álex Rins (58 points) and Márquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa (57 points) just outside the top 10.

So, who will win in Austria?

You sense that both of the factory Ducati riders in Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo will be strong at the Red Bull Ring, but you cannot rule out Marc Márquez, especially after almost winning last year in Austria, so you get the feeling he will be the biggest challengers to Dovizioso and Lorenzo, but this weekend will be huge for Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales, and Yamaha as far as their championship bid is concerned.

You feel that Rossi or Viñales must win this weekend to keep their slim championship hopes alive, but you just can’t see them winning any race at the moment, but are certainly a strong podium hope.

 

2018 Czech Republic GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After a three-week break, the entire MotoGP grid is ready to return to action to commence the second half of the 2018 FIM MotoGP World Championship, which begins this weekend at the Czech Republic Grand Prix at the Automotodrom Brno in Brno, and Marc Márquez, after winning five of the opening nine races, including the last two, has a firm stranglehold of the championship race heading into the final 10 races of the season as he looks to win his fifth MotoGP World Championship, and his seventh across all categories.

Márquez (165 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 46 points ahead of Valentino Rossi (119 points) from Movistar Yamaha MotoGP. Rossi hasn’t achieved a single win in 2018, but he has got five podiums, including a second-place finish last time out in Germany, but really needs to start winning if he wants to keep hopes of winning an eighth MotoGP World Championship in 2018 alive.

Same can be said of Maverick Viñales (109 points), Rossi’s teammate, who sits 56 points behind Márquez in the championship with only three podiums, including two third-place finishes in the last two races, but like Rossi, Viñales needs to start winning some races in order to keep his chances alive of winning a first MotoGP World Championship.

Behind the top three in the world championship, we have a tight battle for fourth between Andrea Dovizioso (88 points), Johann Zarco (88 points), Jorge Lorenzo (85 points), Danilo Petrucci (84 points), Cal Crutchlow (79 points), and Andrea Iannone (75 points).

Dovizioso has had an odd season with flashes of the speed and promise that we saw last year when he finished a close second in the world championship for the Ducati Team, getting himself two podiums, including a win, but it has been punctuated with mistakes, leading to retirements in three of the first four European races of 2018.

Zarco has been consistent for Monster Yamaha Tech 3 with two podiums, and top 10 finishes in eight of the first nine races, but the retirement at his home race in Le Mans, just his second retirement in his premier class career, was a huge blow in his quest for a top three finish in the championship.

Lorenzo is starting to come on strong you sense with back-to-back wins at Mugello and Barcelona, but the last two races, in particular the last race in Germany that you have got to make the right tyre decisions for you (the rider), and not necessarily the bike. I believe Lorenzo should be using harder, more durable tyres in races in order to maximise his potential on that Ducati, something which he started to do, resulting in two wins, but has slipped away from that again, and you sense the dynamic within the Ducati Team is not right.

Petrucci has been very consistent, and performing superbly for Alma Pramac Racing, while Crutchlow has underachieved for LCR Honda despite grabbing a win in Argentina earlier in the season. While for Iannone, the general speed of Team Suzuki Ecstar has slipped away of late, and it will need to be found again to challenge for a top five, or perhaps a top three finish in the championship.

Behind the top nine, we have a four-way battle for 10th between Jack Miller (57 points), who has struggled in the last four races due to one thing or another for Alma Pramac Racing, Álex Rins (53 points), who has made too many mistakes in 2018, but despite the general competitiveness of Team Suzuki Ecstar declining, he is still capable of a shock win, Dani Pedrosa (49 points), who seems content to be heading to the sunset right now for the Repsol Honda Team, and Álvaro Bautista (44 points), who has finished five of the last six races inside the top 10 for the Ángel Nieto Team.

So, who will win in the Czech Republic?

While it has been generally a tight grid where most have a chance of winning on any given day, there is one rider who is heads and shoulders above the rest, and that is Marc Márquez.

He is riding probably at his best level since 2014, where he won the opening 10 races on-route to winning his second MotoGP World Championship, and while the 2018 Honda isn’t as good as the 2014 bike, you sense that Márquez could ride away with this championship in the way that he dominated the opening 10 races of 2014.

 

 

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.

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 .