2018 Valencian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2018 Malaysian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

Yamaha ended their worst losing run in their history at Phillip Island in Australia with  Maverick Viñales taking his first race victory since the 2017 French Grand Prix, and Yamaha’s first since the 2017 Dutch TT, ending a winless streak of 25-straight races, while Marc Márquez suffered yet another retirement at the Australian Grand Prix after clinching championship success in Japan, this time not of his own doing after Johann Zarco clattered into the back of his bike in what was a scary incident, and while only Zarco went down, Márquez was forced to retire from the race after sustaining significant damage to his Honda.

So, what are we install for as the grid heads to the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia for Round 18 of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship, the penultimate round of the season?

Márquez (296 points) leads the championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 86 points over Andrea Dovizioso (210 points) after the Ducati Team rider finished an impressive third, equalling his best result at Phillip Island in the premier class (2011), and solidifies a strong grip on second spot in the world championship.

Valentino Rossi (195 points) is third in the championship for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP after a slightly disappointing sixth-place finish in Australia, and has now gone seven completed races without a podium, while his teammate Viñales (180 points) closes up on him in the battle for third in the world championship.

Cal Crutchlow (148 points) is fifth in the championship at the moment for LCR Honda, but will likely miss the rest of the season after breaking his ankle during Friday practice at Phillip Island, meaning that he could potentially fall down the standings to 10th by the end of the season.

Behind the current top five in the championship, the five other riders inside the top 10 in the standings are covered by just eight points with Alma Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci (137 points), Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (133 points), Team SUZUKI ECSTAR rider Andrea Iannone (133 points), Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (130 points), who should be close to being fit for the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend, and Iannone’s teammate Álex Rins (129 points) all firmly in the battle for fifth in the world championship given Crutchlow’s injury.

With the world championship already wrapped up in favour of Marc Márquez, the battle for second in the 2018 MotoGP World Championship could be decided this weekend in favour of Andrea Dovizioso as long as he finishes inside the top six.

Dovizioso can claim second in the championship if:

  1. If Dovizioso wins, Rossi must finish 4th or lower.
  2. If Dovizioso finishes 2nd, Rossi must finish 6th or lower.
  3. If Dovizioso finishes 3rd, Rossi must finish 10th or lower, Viñales must finish 2nd or lower.
  4. If Dovizioso finishes 4th, Rossi must finish 13th or lower, Viñales must finish 3rd or lower.
  5. If Dovizioso finishes 5th, Rossi must finish 15th or lower, Viñales must finish 3rd or lower.
  6. If Dovizioso finishes 6th, Rossi must finish outside of the points, Viñales must finish 4th or lower.

So, who will win at Sepang International Circuit?

On paper it suits Ducati, and realistically, you know Marc Márquez is going to be right there with them on his Honda, and with some of the long, flowing corners around the track, you would expect Yamaha to be involved in the battle, but I don’t it is going to be that simple for them to be there at the very front and challenging the likes of Andrea Dovizioso, Márquez, and Jorge Lorenzo (if he is fit).

So, assuming Lorenzo is fit, it will be a battle between those three for the win, and if it is wet, I think Dovizioso may win, but if it is dry, I think Márquez may well claim his ninth victory of the season.

 

 

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 Japanese GP (MotoGP) – Preview

The inaugural edition of the Thailand Grand Prix was an epic to say the least, with three different leaders and tight racing throughout the field, with the top 15 finishers being separated by just 23.628 seconds over the course of a 26-lap race, with the top 10 separated by 11.077 seconds, the top six by 3.023 seconds, and the top three separated by just 0.270 seconds!

However, when it was all said and done, one man took control of the Thailand Grand Prix, and now has the opportunity to take his fifth MotoGP World Championship, and become the youngest rider in history to win five premier class world championships when the 2018 MotoGP World Championship resumes with Round 16 of the championship at the Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.

Marc Márquez (271 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 77 points over Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso (194 points), the man who Márquez defeated to take victory in Thailand, while Valentino Rossi (172 points), who was in the battle for the majority of the race before slipping to fourth, is still in mathematical contention for the championship, but is 99 points behind the Spaniard for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP.

Behind the top three in the championship, Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (146 points) leads the pack who cannot win the world championship in 2018, ahead of Dovizioso’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo (130 points), whose year has taken a nose-dive with three crashes, one in the race in Misano, one in the race at Aragon, which damaged his toe, and a massive highside in practice in Thailand, which forced him out of the rest of the weekend, ended all of his slim championship hopes, and will be racing to regain some pride in his final four races with Ducati before linking up with Honda in 2019.

Cal Crutchlow (128 points) is sixth in the championship for LCR Honda, ahead of Danilo Petrucci (126 points) for Alma Pramac Racing, and Johann Zarco (123 points) for Monster Yamaha Tech 3, while the two Team Suzuki Ecstar riders in Andrea Iannone (113 points) and Álex Rins (102 points) complete the top 10, with Rins in particular showing some great improvements, with (excluding the cancelled British Grand Prix) four-straight top 10 finishes in the last four races showing that on the right bike, Rins can be a force in the premier class in the coming years.

Looking at the permutations for this weekend, Marc Márquez can claim the 2018 MotoGP World Championship by:

  1. If Márquez finishes ahead of Dovizioso and Rossi.
  2. If Dovizioso finishes in 4th, Márquez must finish in 5th.
  3. If Dovizioso finishes in 5th, Márquez must finish in 7th or higher.
  4. If Dovizioso finishes in 6th, Márquez must finish in 8th or higher.
  5. If Dovizioso finishes in 7th, Márquez must finish in 9th or higher.
  6. If Dovizioso finishes in 8th, Márquez must finish in 10th or higher.
  7. If Dovizioso finishes in 9th, Márquez must finish in 11th or higher.
  8. If Dovizioso finishes in 10th, Márquez must finish in 12th or higher.
  9. If Dovizioso finishes in 11th, Márquez must finish in 13th or higher.
  10. If Dovizioso finishes in 12th, Márquez must finish in 14th or higher.
  11. If Dovizioso finishes in 13th, Márquez must finish in 15th or higher.
  12. If Dovizioso finishes in 14th or lower, Márquez is the WORLD CHAMPION.

So, who will win the Japanese Grand Prix?

Looking at the circuit demands, with long straights and plenty of hard braking zones, this should suit Ducati to a tee, and all of Ducati’s efforts will be geared to trying to get Andrea Dovizioso the victory to keep the championship alive, but even if that happens, you sense if Marc Márquez finishes on the podium, like he has in 12 of the 14 completed races in 2018, the championship will be a fait accompli at the Australian Grand Prix the following weekend.

 

2018 Thailand GP (MotoGP) – Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Aragon GP (MotoGP) – Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2018 San Marino GP (MotoGP) – Preview

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

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

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

Lorenzo is just 12 points behind Rossi, while his fellow Ducati Team rider Dovizioso (129 points) is fourth in the championship just a further point behind, and like Lorenzo, will be looking to challenge Márquez in the final seven races of the season, although it is very unlikely (barring injury) that either Lorenzo or Dovizioso could steal the world championship away from Márquez.

Behind them in the championship is Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (113 points), who just can’t seem to get comfortable and confident with his machinery, and has rarely looked a threat for a race victory in 2018, while Alma Pramac Racing rider Danilo Petrucci (105 points), Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (104 points), and LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow (103 points) are separated by just two points in their battle for 6th in the championship.

Completing the top 10 in the world championship is Team Suzuki Ecstar riders Andrea Iannone (84 points) and Álex Rins (66 points), while the teammate of Márquez in Dani Pedrosa (66 points) is tied on the same amount of points as Rins.

So who win at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli?

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

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

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