Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa, looking like the 2012 version of himself, won today’s Spanish Grand Prix, leading wire to wire for his first win since Misano last year. Teammate and defending champion Marc Marquez gave chase for most of the race, but never seemed to have quite enough to mount a serious challenge to Pedrosa on one of those days…
The reversal of fortune in Austin, Repsol Honda’s Maximum Marc Marquez winning while young savant Maverick Viñales kissed the tarmac for the first time in Yamaha blue, has produced an early three-man race for the top of the 2017 heap. Valentino Rossi, teammate Viñales and Marquez now stand separated by 18 points with a lot of season left. Six races in the next eight weeks means the offshore shakedown cruises are over. There’s a title to be won. In Europe.
The run-up to the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas set the stage for a much-anticipated cage match between Yamaha phenom Maverick Viñales and Honda triple world champion Marc Marquez. All day long, the British announcing crew was breathlessly prancing about the broadcast booth, pondering the sheer wonder of it all, going absolutely hyperbolic. Showing no sense of the moment, Viñales crashed out of fourth place on Lap 2, letting the air out of the balloon and ceding, at least for the moment, the lead in the world championship to teammate Valentino Rossi, with Marquez suddenly back in the game.
As the checkered flag fell in Argentina, the shape of the 2017 season changed. Suddenly, Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales and partner Valentino Rossi, the Boys in Blue, sit on top of the world looking down. Those looking up, WAY up, include defending champion Marc Marquez of Honda and the factory Ducati team, currently residing on the other side of the proverbial tracks. Marquez has never lost, deep in the heart of Texas, which makes Sunday’s contest what my wife (eyebrows raised) refers to as “critical?”
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.
When it comes to AGV helmets, it doesn’t get any higher than the Pista GP R and Corsa R helmets. AGV bills the former as the MotoGP helmet – the exact same one Valentino Rossi wears – while the latter is considered the company’s “Ultimate Track Helmet.” Of course, when you’re talking about flagship products from premier brands, you’re also talking mega bucks. So let’s get that out of the way now: The Pista GP R starts at a staggering $1,399.95, ramping up to an even more jaw dropping $1,599.95 for the Rossi and Andrea Iannone replica colorways. The Corsa R is just a smidge more reasonable, its starting price is $799.95, capped off with the $999.95 price tag for the Rossi Goodwood replica.
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.
The 26th running of the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix on the newly refurbished Sepang International Circuit went especially well for several combatants, and not so well for a few others. For factory Ducati veteran Andrea Dovizioso, his skills, his bike, the track and the weather came together in the best possible way, allowing him the relief of a second premier class win, his first since 2009’s British Grand Prix. Contenders Cal Crutchlow, Marc Marquez and Andrea Iannone all crashed within a minute of one another mid-race, to the delight of those following them. The denouement of the 2016 season concludes in two weeks at the finale in Valencia.
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?”