MotoGP Mid-Season Report Card

Bruce Allen
by Bruce Allen
Photos by Getty Images; lead photo by Honda

Here we compare the championship standings at the midpoint of the season to our MotoGP pre-season projections, team by team. Those projections, posted back in March, were surprisingly good. A few riders were overrated, a few underrated, but overall things have proceeded in a fairly orderly manner. Those of you who disagree should post your own predictions, keeping in mind that hindsight is almost always 20/20.

Aprilia Racing Team Gresini

Aleix Espargaro, waiting for his teammate Sam Lowes to catch up.

Expectations for Fausto Gresini’s 2017 MotoGP team were pretty low coming into the season; the advice “bring a book” comes to mind. I expected Aleix Espargaro to be the #1 rider and Sad Sam Lowes a distant #2. Few surprises here. Espargaro has gotten more from the Aprilia RS-GP than has Lowes, who may become unemployed on Nov. 13. The Aprilia continues to have pneumatic-valve issues which have hampered Espargaro’s results.

Espargaro has enjoyed his best outings at Qatar, Catalunya and the Sachsenring, three different layouts, suggesting he can produce in all kinds of conditions. He could be a top-10 threat next year on an improved bike. For now, he’s just making me look good.

Ducati Factory Team

Andrea Dovizioso has consistently been one of the top riders in MotoGP since his debut in 2008. Having doubled his premier-class career wins total with back-to-back wins in Mugello and Catalunya, Dovi is on pace for a career year.

One of the good news/bad news teams this year. Andrea Dovizioso, the underpaid #1 rider, has assumed Alien status and is toiling at the heart of the championship race, with Brno and Red Bull Ring, two friendly tracks, in his immediate future. Jorge Lorenzo, on the other hand, has found the transition from the Yamaha more than a little difficult. He has a Wicked Witch of the West-sized hole in his game — when it rains, he melts to the bottom of the grid. He currently occupies ninth position for the year in a dog-eat-dog fight for eighth. Ho hum. Management, I hear, expected something more for their mega-euros when they hired the triple world champion.

Like his former teammate Valentino Rossi experienced years earlier, switching from Yamaha to Ducati has proven to be a difficult transition for Jorge Lorenzo.

The Lorenzo- Ducati marriage, it seems, was not made in heaven. Presuming he runs away at the end of 2018, it’s anybody’s guess where he may end up thereafter; retirement is not beyond reason. As for our preview, the salient observation was “…the odds favor (Dovi) to finish ahead of Lorenzo this season.”

LCR Honda

Cal Crutchlow, owner of one of the most expressive faces in MotoGP, with a rare neutral expression.

Cal Crutchlow, my whipping boy, who upped his game in 2016, apparently out of spite, won twice last year (Brno, Phillip Island) and finished the season in seventh position, despite bookending his efforts with two DNFs to start the year and two more to finish it. Sitting tenth this season, with two front-row starts and no wins, he has been punked by the precocious Yamaha Tech 3 rookie duo of Jonas Folger and Johann Zarco. I expected more production from Cal this season (although in 2016 his second half was way better than the first), despite having observed, “With Viñales added to the mix at the top, I don’t expect Cal to win two races again” in 2017. I still don’t.

Marc VDS Racing Team

Tito Rabat gets help back to the pits from Pol Espargaro after suffering a failure during qualifying at Catalunya.

This team has performed about as expected. Terribly. Tito Rabat, #2 to Jack Miller on the satellite Hondas, was at some point deemed a bust. Finally. As for Miller, the Australian Unguided Missile has worn out his welcome with Honda and will join Danilo Petrucci on the #2 Pramac Ducati next year, sending Scott Redding packing. Having met Miller, he has a Trojan spirit, he adores the sport and the trappings that go with it; he lives life at high revs. Despite five top-10 finishes, his two DNFs and assorted maladies put him solidly in 12th place at the turn, the exact midpoint where he deserves to stand. A fluky win at Assen in 2016 was, in the end, all that stood between him and ritual hari-kiri at headquarters. His signing by the #2 Ducati team portends plenty more casts and titanium plates for the young Aussie.

The boss, Marc van der Straten gives Jack Miller some encouragement ahead of the Assen race.

My prediction for the team’s 2017 campaign, which has been distinguished only by its utter lack of distinction, suggested Miller is over-rated and that the MotoGP team might go out of business sooner than had been hoped. Mostly wrong, but the piece ended well:

This team could be out of existence in a year or two, providing an opportunity for the moon and the sun and the stars to align in such a way that, as Dani Pedrosa’s contract on the factory Honda team expires, young Miller is standing at the door, kindly showing him the way out. A national day of celebration will follow in Australia, one in which Livio Suppo, team boss at Repsol Honda, having been out-voted by marketing folks seeking an Australian Alien, may not be participating.

The team is going into 2018 with Franco Morbidelli, coming up rock solid from Moto2, assured, and a second rider to be named later. Meanwhile, the Estrella Galicia Moto2 team will feature Alex Marquez and Joan Mir, currently leading the Moto3 series, in 2018, which will be great fun, too.

Where was I?

Monster Yamaha Tech 3

Johann Zarco is the front-runner for Rookie of the Year honors, but his teammate Jonas Folger is not far behind.

By far, the best and biggest surprise of the season. Expectations were minimal — two Moto2 grads on satellite Yamahas – despite positive off-season testing. But Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger are making the affable Herve Poncharal look brilliant and are already signed for 2018. The team has accumulated front-row starts and podiums, with wins narrowly evading them at their home cribs in France and Germany.

I had Zarco and Alex Rins on the factory Suzuki battling for Rookie of the Year honors. Instead, Rins keeps getting banged up – despite having the reliable Iannone as his wingman – and hasn’t been able to show anything. (I thought Rins was brilliant in Moto2, but so was Toni Elias.) Instead, the Yamaha teammates are going mano-a-mano for Alien consideration in the foreseeable future.

Jonas Folger delivered a podium for his home fans at Sachsenring.

The Tech 3 rookies stand sixth and seventh at the turn. Zarco’s season has had a great start, while Folger, on a steeper learning curve, has become utterly impudent as the season progressed, with a second at Sachsenring to close out his front nine. Despite trailing his teammate by 13 points, he has, as my old friend used to say, Mo Mentum on his side. Many people think the 2016 Yamaha outperforms the 2017 Honda RC213V.

This is just great stuff.

MoviStar Yamaha Factory Team

Maverick: “Talk to me, Goose.” Rossi: “Why do you keep calling me ‘Goose’?” Maverick: “Never mind.”

No big surprises here. Maverick Viñales, The Annointed One, sits second. Valentino Rossi, The Legend Himself, sits fourth in an airtight four-man race. A number of publications conceded the 2017 title to Viñales on the basis of his impressive offseason. I remember when young hotshot Jorge Lorenzo joined the Fiat Yamaha factory team in 2008, seeing him flying over the handlebars in China. Rossi, as per usual, defies most lucid projections and continues to appear on the podium – four times, with a win at Assen allowing him to stay in the hunt at the turn. Spain and France have been unkind to him this season, but he is most definitely in the hunt. Again.

Valentino Rossi remains competitive in his 18th 500cc/MotoGP season.

Say you’re leading a race you’re not expected to win, you being you and them being them, and you see a rider coming up hard behind you, half a lap to go. Would Rossi, Marquez, Viñales or Dovizioso cause you to foul your leathers most quickly? For most of the past decade, it has been Rossi. As we said in February, “He will undoubtedly win some races this year, but may lose the season contest with his teammate, effectively ending their friendship for all time.”

Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati

Danilo Petrucci has been punching above his weight, currently the second-highest scoring Ducati rider with a single point ahead of Jorge Lorenzo.

Nailed it.

The #2 Ducati team. Danilo Petrucci, the burly ex-cop, may find himself in the mix once in a while (probably in the rain) this season onboard the GP17 he won fair and square in the intra-team competition with Scott Redding last year. Redding, sadly, will not be in the mix on his GP16, as he seems unable to get over the hump in the premier class after a glittering (?) run in Moto2. With three name sponsors, it seems likely the team will have plenty of frames and fairings to replace for Redding as he goes bumping around the tracks of the world, muttering about how it just isn’t fair.

After starting the season with two top-10 finishes, Scott Redding has fared poorer, scoring points in just four of the next seven races.

Petrucci currently sits eighth, exuding an aura that radiates his belief he could rank even higher but for some atrocious luck. Redding, as expected, is toast, his seat being taken by Jack Miller for 2018.

Pull & Bear Aspar Team Ducati

Alvaro Bautista has been competitive when he stays on his bike. He has four top-10 finishes and as many DNFs.

The Aspar team has recently re-signed Alvaro Bautista for 2018 who has performed, at times, better than expected in his inimitable win-or-bin style on the GP16. Four DNFs and four top tens. As we said in February, “Bautista has, over the years, shown moments of great skill and moments of sheer stupidity. This year… he has a chance to peek at a podium or two after two grinding years with Aprilia. This may also be the best bike he has ever ridden, although the Honda back in 2012-2013 was badass.”

The highlight for Karel Abraham came in Argentina where he somehow found himself qualifying on the front row. Abraham brings tons of sponsorship money and little else. He is, however, the only rider of which I’m familiar who has completed a MotoGP-to-WSBK-to-MotoGP switch. Marco Melandri? That’s saying something, I’m sure.

Reale Avintia Racing

Hector Barbera trails Loris Baz by 10 points but it would have been much closer had he not been disqualified at Sachsenring for failing to do a ride-through penalty.

Two ordinary peas in a pod, back-markers both. Hector Barbera had an encouraging off-season but started the season injured and has never seemed to recover. Loris “Too Tall” Baz has had a disappointing front nine on the Desmosedici GP15.

Plenty to contend with in the second half for these two. Lots of guys want to ride these beasts.

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

Expectations were low for the KTM team in its debut MotoGP season.

Our pre-season preview ended the review of this team with the words, “Patience, grasshopper.” Which seems to be in vogue this year, as KTM appears determined to invest what it needs to become a force in MotoGP the way it has been in the underclasses. (It may also be true that a diversion of R&D resources to the MotoGP project has contributed to the team’s dismal performance in Moto2 of late.)

Pol Espargaro has had the better of Bradley Smith this season, as expected, although both are wallerin’ at the bottom of the food chain. Which, in this crazy sport, amounts to two seconds per lap, give or take.

Gotta love it.

Repsol Honda Team

Despite a slow start, Marc Marquez sits atop the championship standings at the break.

Marc Marquez leads the series at the break, perhaps a mild surprise after a slow start. Dani Pedrosa has morphed into late-career Colin Edwards, a reliable fifth place guy, sometimes above on the podium, sometimes below. He copped a surprising win at Jerez, and sits, well, fifth in the standings, trailing Rossi in fourth by 16 points. I hate to say it, but Pedrosa gets hurt almost every year. The prediction of him ending the year in seventh or eighth place is still good. IMO.

Dani Pedrosa’s time as a championship contender may be waning but he remains a consistent podium threat.

I said Marquez would have to beat the contenders on an inferior machine. He is doing so. Viñales is in his first year on the Yamaha, while #93 is in year five. Put them on the same machine in a series of 10-lap match races and Marquez would win six out of 10. A mature Marquez has learned to accept those days where he’s not going to win the race. Heart-stopping saves are his stock in trade. When he spins the ass end of the bike out entering the turns you just know somethin’s up.

Waiting for the chin slider.

Team Suzuki Ecstar

We had high hopes for Alex Rins at the start of the year.

Walk-off winner of the Biggest Disappointment of the Year award, the program has seen Moto2 honors grad Alex Rins suffer several crash-related injuries, while transfer Andrea Iannone, the Italian Unguided Missile, has clearly called it a year on the Suzuki. He has been accused of simply going through the motions of racing. He has hot protested those accusations forcefully.

I predicted Rins would challenge Zarco for Rookie of the Year. Right. As for Iannone: “Thus far in his premier class career, Iannone has been unable to harness his impossible speed, his temperament and aggressiveness often getting the better of him. It would be loads of fun to see him battle with the front group this season, and it could happen. Unless The Maniac is still, well, a maniac.”

After finishing ninth overall last season with Ducati, Andrea Iannone has been a disappointment for Suzuki, scoring points in just four rounds.

I would guess it is difficult being Andrea Iannone these days. His is a bad bike/rider fit. He would do better on something faster, a satellite Ducati or Honda. As things stand, Rins is still healing while Iannone is imploding. This for a team that carried Viñales to a fourth-place finish just last season, whose future was rapidly brightening.

A setback first half for the factory Suzuki project. Rins likely has a free pass for the rest of the year. It’s Iannone who must put up or shut up. He and Lorenzo are having to learn how to hit fastballs and curves from the opposite side of the plate. At 200 miles per hour.

Ain’t no cryin’ in MotoGP.

Just Sayin’

So, How were Our Pre-season Predictions?

From the 2017 season preview summary:

There you have it. Due to incessant demand, and for those of you interested in going into debt with your bookies, here’s my prediction for the Top 10 finishers, in order, for the 2017 season. Bookmark this article so you can rub it in my face in November. Expect a “404 Error Page Not Found” at that time, especially if I’m way off:

  • Marc Marquez
  • Maverick Viñales
  • Valentino Rossi
  • Andrea Dovizioso
  • Cal Crutchlow
  • Jorge Lorenzo
  • Dani Pedrosa
  • Alex Rins
  • Andrea Iannone
  • Alvaro Bautista

I had actually predicted the top 10, but the second five are now scrambled eggs I don’t feel like re-posting. Not what I expected. For the record, and completely out of order, the names included Iannone, Rins, Pedrosa, Bautista and, ahem, Lorenzo. Viñales was not picked to win the 2017 title because, somewhere, I predicted he would crash out of four races. Who knew the 2016 Yamaha would be such a beast?

So far so good here at in 2017. Looking forward to Brno and a raging second half. MotoGP needs some kind of phrase that people around the world can shout to support the universal hope that Round 18 in Valencia will be for all the marbles, that it will all come down to one Sunday, one race, one turn. I am happy to suggest: Let Valencia Decide

If your favorite rider is in the mix that day, so much the better. No other sport offers competition like this. These guys are other-worldly.

Let Valencia Decide. Meanwhile, on to Brno.

2017 MotoGP Top 10 Standings at the Halfway Point




Marc MarquezHonda129


Maverick ViñalesYamaha124


Andrea DoviziosoDucati123


Valentino RossiYamaha119


Dani PedrosaHonda103


Johann ZarcoYamaha84


Jonas FolgerYamaha71


Danilo PetrucciDucati66


Jorge LorenzoDucati65


Cal CrutchlowHonda64


Alvaro BautistaDucati44


Jack MillerHonda41


Scott ReddingDucati33


Aleix EspargaroAprilia32


Loris BazDucati31


Andrea IannoneSuzuki28


Tito RabatHonda31


Hector BarberaDucati21


Karel AbrahamDucati20


Pol EspargaroKTM14


Bradley SmithKTM8


Alex RinsSuzuki7


Michele PirroDucati7


Sam LowesAprilia2


Sylvain GuintoliSuzuki1


Mikka KallioKTM0


Takuya TsudaSuzuki0
Bruce Allen
Bruce Allen

More by Bruce Allen

Join the conversation
3 of 18 comments
  • Proheli Proheli on Jul 22, 2017

    Fun article. Though your use of the term alien is generous to a fault.

    Rossie, Marquez, Stoner, Jlo, Give or take, Pedrosa.

  • Mad4TheCrest Mad4TheCrest on Jul 23, 2017

    Geez - This article is so full of adds and links and such that it absolutely hung up my iPhone; forcing me after literally days of trying to give up and sit at my desktop computer (something I try to avoid except for work) to read it. Now that rant's over, I can tell you its my reluctant belief that Marquez will take the title with Rossi yet again second. Marc is just not as prone to the effects of tire choice as others and he seems to be able to ride at the edge but not way over it like some others (Maverick). I am thinking Dovi will battle Maverick for third, but likely drop to fourth unless Mav DNFs too much. Ross's second seems a safe bet, but he is an old dude compared to the rest, and continued poor qualifying could bounce him down a a rung or two. I would like to see this come down to Valencia. It probably will, but by then it may be just two riders - Marquez and Rossi, with the others having slipped back.

    • Old MOron Old MOron on Jul 23, 2017

      I wonder if MO could adopt a hybrid approach: offer an ad-free site for subscribers and the regular ad-hampered site for the rest of the world. Shouldn't be that hard.

      Now predicting who will win the championship, that's hard. I wouldn't mind a Marky-Valley showdown as you describe, but Bruce's Let Valencia Decide Battle Royale is the stuff of dreams.