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.

 

 

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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.