In a perfect world, Maverick Viñales and Marc Marquez, the two brightest young stars in the MotoGP firmament, would have squared off for a thrilling fight to the flag here at the Middle of Nowhere Grand Prix. Marquez, starting from pole, took the hole shot and led the field by almost two seconds when he carelessly lost the front in Turn 2 of Lap 4. Viñales, running second at the time, assumed the lead, laid down 21 1:40 or better laps, and won easily, hardly breaking a sweat.
Having left the wide-open spaces of the Persian Gulf, The Greatest Show on Two Wheels heads south of the equator to Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina. Round Two of the tantalizing 2017 season, The Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina, promises to answer a few questions that popped up in the desert two weeks ago. The various and sundry Honda teams, especially, have a few things to prove at this very RC213V-friendly circuit. But is the 2017 bike up to it?
Movistar Yamaha’s new kid on the block, Maverick Viñales, did to the field of the 2017 Grand Prix of Qatar what he’s done ever since he first placed his bum on the saddle of the YZR-M1 last November. He ended the day at the top of the timesheets, having outdueled factory Ducati #1 Andrea Dovizioso over the last eight laps of the race. In the process, he took the lead in the 2017 championship and initiated what is likely to become known as The Viñales Years.
Welcome, everyone, to the 2017 presentation of MotoGP, The Greatest Show on Earth now that the circus has folded. The first year of six manufacturers, three of which have an honest shot at the title. And the year fans will likely remember not for the debut of an upstart KTM team, but for the introduction of Yamaha’s Apparent Next Great Modern Rider, Maverick Viñales, to polite society.
If you think the competition in MotoGP is fierce, then you haven’t seen what it’s like to race CBR250Rs in Japan. In this video, shot during the Honda Racing Thanks Day 2016, Repsol Honda MotoGP stars Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa line up alongside some of the best CBR250R Dream Cup racers Japan has to offer, at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit.
Heading into the finale of the 2016 season, the atmosphere in Valencia was mostly celebratory. The title had been decided, the silly season was well over, and most of the riders were competing for pride alone. The Ricardo Tormo circuit here is one of the top venues in this sport, loved by the Spanish riders and most of the others, too. Bragging rights during the offseason are nice and all, but pale in comparison to a season finale with a title on the line such as we saw in 2013 and last year.
2016 MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez, he of the “win or bin” countenance, crashed out of the lead in Australia on Lap 10, his testing session cut short by a crash he later graciously conceded as being completely his fault. In the process he handed a big win to Brit Cal Crutchlow, providing yet another example, as if we need it, that in order to finish first one must first finish. Round 17, the Malaysian Grand Prix, offers fans another opportunity to see Marquez climb aboard a $1 million motorcycle on Sunday afternoon and say, “WTF?”
For the third time in four seasons, Repsol Honda supernova Marc Marquez claimed the MotoGP world championship. He did it by winning the Japanese Grand Prix while the Bruise Brothers of the factory Yamaha team – Jorge Lorenzo and the legend Valentino Rossi – choked on their own bile, both riders crashing out of a race in which neither could afford the slightest error. This unlikely confluence of events is responsible for, among other things, the very pedestrian championship celebration prior to the podium. Nothing like the Bushido spectacle we watched in 2014.
Round 15 of the 2016 MotoGP championship is the first leg of the annual Pacific flyaway, three races in three weeks during which the title will be decided. Unlike 2013 and last year, this year’s finale at Valencia will not be the dramatic season-decider they love hosting in Spain in November. A question gaining traction in the paddock raises the issue of whether it’s the Honda winning the title or the Yamahas losing it. Big Blue hasn’t had a win this year since Valentino Rossi’s win over Marc Marquez at Catalunya back in early June.
Repsol Honda’s suddenly cerebral Marc Marquez took a big step toward seizing the 2016 MotoGP title with a formidable win on the Spanish plain. By thumping the factory Yamaha Bruise Brothers, he increased his margin from 43 to 52 points with four rounds left. A mistake on Lap 3 took him from first to fifth, but he remained patient, kept his powder dry, and went through, all stealthy-like, on Andrea Dovizioso, Maverick Vinales, Jorge Lorenzo and, finally, Valentino Rossi on the way to his first win on Spanish soil since 2014.
If Motorland Aragon were located roughly 50 miles west of its current location, it would sit in the exact middle of nowhere. In 2010, the dusty outlier was to be a temporary emergency replacement for the ill-fated Hungarian GP track at Balatonring, which never got finished. It has since become a fixture on the calendar, dreaded by journalists, a fourth Spanish round seeming to be exactly what the sport, with its international ambitions, doesn’t need, what with so many countries and venues banging on the door to get in. Nonetheless, here we, or they, actually, are.
The picturesque Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli welcomes the 2016 round at a critical point in the season. Repsol Honda phenom Marc Marquez sits on the cusp of clinching his third premier class title, with the Movistar Yamahas of Vale Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo in desperate pursuit. Four non-Aliens have won the last four rounds. Parity has set in. The Suzuki, factory Ducati and LCR Honda teams are legit. The Aliens finally have company – the premier class is no longer just their sandbox.
A red flag on Lap 1 lead to a 19-lap race on Sunday in the British midlands. For the first time since 2007, a Suzuki won a premier class race, Maverick Vinales ending his day standing on the top step of the podium. He was joined there by Cal Crutchlow, who kept another streak alive, and a desperate Valentino Rossi, who fought Marc Marquez tooth and nail for the final podium spot. Despite this, Marquez leaves Britain leading the season by 50 points, having gotten some angry juju out of his system.
After getting schooled by the Dueling Andreas of the factory Ducati team in Austria, the fast movers at Movistar Yamaha and Repsol Honda look to get even this week in The Czech Republic. These ambitions appear justified, in that the Automotodrom Brno has a healthy number of what are called “turns,” whereas the Red Bull Ring is more of a long straight with a couple of kinks in it. It will take a heroic effort from the Ducs to convince the racing world that Sunday’s historic result wasn’t an outlier.