The return of grand prix motorcycle racing! The return of another global sporting competition! The return of MotoGP!
COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the world, with many events of social significance and importance either cancelled or postponed as a result, and many, many people around the world losing their lives as a result of COVID-19!
However, MotoGP returns this weekend, becoming the second global sporting competition, after Formula One, to return to action, with the first of what at this stage is a 13-round season (although it could possibly extend to 16 rounds) taking place at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto to start the 2020 MotoGP World Championship at the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix, and can anybody beat Marc Márquez?
On Wednesday, Márquez looked strong for the Repsol Honda Team, topping the time-sheets in the morning test sesssion, before finishing third in the afternoon test session, proving to everyone that the defending world champion is fully fit after the shoulder surgery he had during the off-season, and that his team have fixed the aerodynamic issues surrounding the bike!
In my mind, Márquez is still the man to beat, and after finishing first or second in 18 of the 19 races in 2019, the legendary Spaniard will be looking to become the MotoGP World Champion for the seventh time in 2020, and win his ninth world championship across all classes, which would equal the record of Valentino Rossi across both departments in terms of premier class world championships, and world championships across all classes overall!
So, who can challenge Márquez, and deny him of this milestone?
Álex Rins put his hand up on Wednesday as a potential contender for Team Suzuki Ecstar, and although he didn’t set the fastest time in either test session, he finished a strong second and fourth in both the morning and afternoon sessions respectively. Rins will looking to improve on finishing fourth in the 2019 championship, and finish at worst inside the Top Three in the shortened 2020 world championship.
Fabio Quartararo has taken off from where he finished 2019, showing plenty of speed in finishing fifth and second in testing for Petronas Yamaha SRT, and will be aiming not only to improve on his fifth-place finish in the 2019 world championship, but also to claim his first MotoGP victory before moving to Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP in 2021.
And, the other genuine championship contender in my view is Maverick Viñales for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP. The Spaniard claimed two race victories and a further five podiums in 2019, and although he only finished 13th in the morning test session, he was the fastest in the afternoon test session, and was consistently the fastest in original pre-season testing before the COVID-19 hiatus. The question is whether he can be consistently on the pace of Márquez, something which he struggled to do in 2019, but was the only rider in 2019 to be able to win without Márquez challenging him on the final lap (when Márquez was still in the race), so if he can be consistently on the pace with Márquez, then possibly Viñales is the man to end his reign!
And, while there could be surprises and upsets throughout the field, the four championship contenders, and therefore regular challengers, for race wins in 2020 in my view are Marc Márquez, Álex Rins, Fabio Quartararo, and Maverick Viñales!
So, who is going to win the opening race of 2020?
In my mind, Marc Márquez is the man to beat this weekend for the Repsol Honda Team, and while I think Fabio Quartararo for Petronas Yamaha SRT, and Maverick Viñales for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP could be slightly quicker over one lap, although I don’t think there is much between those three over one lap on their current machinery, I think Márquez will start the shortened 2020 MotoGP World Championship in the best way possible, with Quartararo and Viñales completing the podium, and Rins in a close fourth for Team Suzuki Ecstar.