The next rider to go under the microscope in our retrospective of 2016 is one of the most interesting of the year. Cal Crutchlow had a season of two halves, but up and down. Here’s how we rate the LCR Honda rider’s performance last year:
On Tuesday, November 15th, the 2017 season starts in earnest. The biannual session of bike swapping commences two days after the final MotoGP round at Valencia, as riders, crew chiefs, mechanics, press officers and many others swap garages to join their 2017 teams.
It is often something of a disappointment, with only a few riders moving from team to team, but the coming season sees some big names switching bikes, as well as an important new arrival, in the shape of KTM.
So to help you keep track, here is who will be testing what at Valencia on Tuesday.
2016 has been a weird season. Eight different winners in MotoGP, in eight consecutive races.
Tire issues in Argentina caused the race to be split into two parts; a mass false start in Moto2 at the first race of the year in Qatar; torrential rain at Assen causing the race to be abandoned; bike-swap shenanigans at the Sachsenring; and wet tire degradation at Brno.
With all that happening, why would anyone expect the Sepang round of MotoGP to be any less weird?
The expectation of weirdness has also meant that everyone has half expected there to be a ninth winner in MotoGP. Fans and journalists have come to accept this as the new normal, that every race throws up a new surprise.
A ninth winner would fit in perfectly with the string of surprises we have seen this year. The question is, of course, who might it be?
With six of the ten factory riders on the grid already having won a race, and the Aprilia RS-GP still too far off the pace to compete for victory, it came down to two realistic candidates: Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro, and Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso.
With the Ducati being the faster bike, and already having racked up a win and several podiums, Dovizioso was the betting favorite. But both were regarded as long shots.
Is there such a thing as an Alien? The provenance of the term is uncertain, though most people believe that it was coined by Colin Edwards in 2009, after he kept finishing in fifth place behind Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa.
Whatever he tried, he could not stay with them. “They are riding out of this world,” he said.
The term has stuck. Since then, the term Alien has been applied to the top four riders, the only difference being that Marc Márquez has been swapped for Casey Stoner now that the Australian has retired.
The reality is that since Jorge Lorenzo entered the class until the start of the 2016 season, the five MotoGP Aliens had accounted for all but two of the 143 MotoGP races held.
The two non-Alien wins were by Andrea Dovizioso (Donington 2009) and Ben Spies (Assen 2011). Both of those races came in unusual conditions. The five Aliens dominated the podiums throughout that period as well.
2016 looks like becoming the year the Alien died. Or perhaps more realistically (and less dramatically) the year we had to readjust the concept of a MotoGP Alien. The season was going very much to plan up until Assen, when Jack Miller won an interrupted race in the driving rain.
Then in Austria, Andrea Iannone finally did what everyone has been waiting for, won a race with a Ducati. Cal Crutchlow used a drying surface to his advantage to win at Brno, and then Maverick Viñales won at a dry but cold Silverstone. Questions were asked whether Maverick Viñales was the next Alien.
There are plenty of ways of explaining the results of qualifying at Phillip Island. Lack of setup time in consistent conditions make the qualifying order a bit of a lottery.
Rain and wind coming in off the Bass Strait, and the weather changing every minute or so, meant getting your timing and strategy right was crucial.
Changing track conditions and unpredictable weather meant that some teams gambled right on whether to have their bikes in a wet set up, on intermediates, or on slicks. Or even on the correct mixture of tires front and rear.
In reality, though, the main factor in determining the qualifying order was this: the temperature in the front tire. Riders who could generate it had confidence in the front and could push hard in the sketchy and cold conditions.
Riders who couldn’t, languished well down the order, unable to feel the front and unable to lap with any confidence or feedback from the tires.
That explains why Marc Márquez and Cal Crutchlow are on the front row of the grid at Phillip Island, while the factory Yamahas languish back in twelfth and fifteenth place – or “on the fourth and fifth row of the grid” as it is known in press release speak.
The Hondas have a tendency to overheat the tires due to the way they brake and their geometry. The Yamahas lean heavily on the front tire to generate corner speed, and on the edge of the rear tire to maintain it. At Phillip Island, it was too cold and too windy to do either.
Episode 37 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and covers the fantastic racing at the British GP in Silverstone. Helping us dissect through all the racing news, we have Neil Morrison, Scott Jones, Steve English, and David Emmett on the mics, giving their great insights from their trackside perspective.
Obviously a good bit of time is spent on the show talking about Maverick Vinales and Suzuki Racing’s first win back in the MotoGP Championship. The guys also talk about Cal Crutchlow’s new-found form on the LCR Honda, giving an insight into how both of these racing machines have evolved over the season.
We also can’t talk about the British GP without discussing the hard racing between Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi, with the embers between the two riders clearly getting fanned into some flames at Silverstone.
The show wraps up with some talk from the Moto2 and Moto3 classes, which were just as eventful as what was happening in MotoGP. All in all, we think you will find it a very interesting show.
As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!
This is truly a golden age of motorcycle racing. The Silverstone race was proof of that. A stunning contest, with positions fiercely fought over. A new winner added to MotoGP’s pantheon.
Five riders doing battle over second place, including some of the greatest riders of their respective generations. Bikes from four different factories in the top six.
And Silverstone is hardly unique this season. 2016 has seen two different satellite riders win races. It has seen seven different winners this season, and the last seven races each won by a different rider.
It has seen relative newcomers win, and seasoned veterans win. 2016 is the culmination of a long period of rich results, with four riders all capable of winning on any given day over the past four or five years. Margins of victory have never been tighter, nor has the gap between the front and the back of the grid.
This cornucopia is not just in the premier class. Racing is returning to Moto2, after a drought of processional contests. Moto3 is overflowing with young talent, with rookies quickly challenging the older guard, who are in turn off to fatten the field in Moto2 next year.
At Silverstone, the Moto2 race was hard fought between a small group of riders, with incidents that had serious long-term effects on the championship. The Moto3 class produced a customary thriller, Silverstone’s long straights and high winds making escape impossible, but making staying out of trouble imperative.