2015 was a very good year for MotoGP. After years of one man dominating, Marc Marquez was put on the backburner as the two factory Yamaha riders fought it out for the title.
The battle between Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi went right down to the last race, taking every possible twist, turn and hijinks on the way, before the Italian went too far on one of his "acts of no mercy" and cost himself a shot at taking his tenth world title, gifting Lorenzo his fifth crown.
But, it’s a new year, and a new day. All the riders start on a level playing field – this year more than ever. There’s a legitimate chance that any one of twelve riders, if not more, could win a race this year, and a bigger chance that it won’t just be Yamaha or Honda dominating the table.
Let’s take a look.
The main difference is the introduction of DORNA-controlled software. Each bike will have the same on-board computer, meaning that a team can’t gain an advantage by tweaking a couple of lines of code. They’re going to have to put some manual work into the bike if they want to get ahead of their rivals. Oh, and have very good riders too.
There’s also a change in tyre supplier this year. Bridgestone are gone, and Michelin have stepped up in their place.
All this technical stuff means nothing without good riders, though.
The Usual Suspects
As has been tradition since Casey Stoner moved off the factory Ducati and made Honda his home, the four clear favourites in the title race are the factory Hondas of Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez, and the factory Yamaha pair of Lorenzo and Rossi. They have consistently been the best bikes, and this year should be no exception. There are, however, a couple of different faces that could find themselves at the front of the grid.
I try not to borrow from Formula One too much, but McLaren’s Ron Dennis makes a valid point: unless you are the main beneficiary of a factory’s work, you’re not going to win a world title. This unfortunately rules out the satellite bikes. Don’t discount the likes of Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), Bradley Smith or Pol Espargaro (both Tech 3 Yamaha) to win races, but will they win enough to mount a title challenge? Unlikely.
Instead, you need to look at factory-backed riders from a bit further down the field. While this time last year, everything looked slanted towards the Hondas and Yamahas, the standardised ECU’s are a gamechanger. If you’re on a factory bike, you’re in with a shot.
Instantly, you think of Ducati. Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner won world championships on the back of the red beasts, but since then, it’s been close but no cigar. Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone are exceptional riders who have been forced to play second fiddle to the more illustrious stars – Dovi is a one-time partner of Marquez at Honda, while Iannone had to settle many times last year for being faster than the satellites, but nowhere near the factory bikes. This could change with the standardised ECUs.
The biggest beneficiary could be the sky blue beauties that are Suzuki. Their two riders, Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales, are unreal. They are fantastic, but haven’t had the hardware to back it up, despite punching well above their weight in several races and even more qualifying sessions. That’s about to change though, as the pair have finally received their seamless gear box, which means smoother transitions and the ability to drop gears rather than having to step down. That, coupled with an improved engine and the standard ECU, could mean that Suzuki are in with a strong chance of taking home a trophy at the end of the year.
Only one new face in the premier class this year. Tito Rabat finally makes his long-touted step up from Moto2, taking Scott Redding’s place on the Marc VDS Honda.
Here’s a full run-down of the riders.
|Jorge Lorenzo (C)
|Estrella Galicia Marc VDS
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