2016 has been a strange year. New tires have made teams have to gamble much more on setup. New electronics have drawn the teeth of Honda and Yamaha, making it easier for Ducati, Suzuki, and to a lesser extent, Aprilia to catch up.
The wet and wild weather has made it even more difficult to get setup right, with session after session lost to the rain. A wider range of competitive bikes has upped the level of competition even further. So we enter the final race of the year having already seen nine winners, and with dreams of a tenth.
That seems vanishingly unlikely. The three riders on the front row at Valencia have won ten of the seventeen rounds, with two more winners on the second row, and other two on the third row.
At a track like Valencia, with so few passing opportunities, it is hard to see how a rider who hasn’t won yet can make their way past the previous winners to claim victory.
They will not get any assistance from the weather – the forecast looks steady and constant, not particularly warm, but dry and sunny. The only way to win the Valencia round of MotoGP is the hard way. And then there’s Jorge Lorenzo.
The Spaniard has been up and down all season, at the tender mercies of available grip levels and the nature of the tires Michelin have brought to the races. At Valencia, everything has fallen into place.
The rear tire Michelin has brought uses the more pliable carcass that was also available at Brno and Misano. The new profile front tire the French tire maker has brought is stronger in the middle of the corner, which plays to Lorenzo’s strengths. And boy, is Lorenzo strong at Valencia.
The media is a fickle beast. Normally, journalists and TV only have eyes for the top half of the timesheets. Or more realistically, the top half of the top half of the timesheets.
As Valentino Rossi once joked one weekend during his time at Ducati, when only four or five journalists turned up to speak to him, rather than the thirty or forty he used to see at Yamaha, “So this is what it’s like to finish seventh.”
If media interest beyond tenth place is sparse, it is absolutely nonexistent for last place. Normally, the rider who finishes last has no visits from journalists, nor will anyone come to speak to their crew chief. But Friday at Valencia was anything but normal.
A brand new manufacturer joining the grid is anything but normal, however. And even when the rider on the new bike finishes last, the media crowd waiting outside the garage is seriously impressive.
The back of the KTM garage was thronged with journalists, first to speak to Mika Kallio about his day on the RC16, and then to grill Kallio’s crew chief Paul Trevathan about the bike, and the problems they encountered.
When you watch the Valencia GP this weekend, keep an eye out for a pair of strikingly red motorcycles on the track, piloted by Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl.
A disease that once generated massive headlines in the United States in the 1980s, now for many in the western world, AIDS is no longer the specter it once was.
Modern antiviral treatments can reduce the presence of AIDS in affected patients to below detectable levels, thus making AIDS a chronic instead of terminal disease, and which allows patients to lead mostly full and normal lives.
However in other countries, AIDS is still very much a death sentence once it is contracted, with access to life-saving medication incredibly more difficult to acquire, and prevention efforts woefully inadequate.
Over 37 million people worldwide are currently infected with AIDS, with 2 million more contracting the disease with each passing year – many of them in Africa. (RED) aims to change that epidemic, and has contributed $360 million to the stop of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in the region.
Hopefully with the help of Aprilia and the MotoGP Championship this weekend, even more support can be channeled to this worthy cause.
And so the 2016 MotoGP season is nearly at an end. Though the major honors have been awarded, there are still the final few t’s to cross and i’s to dot. We have our three champions – Johann Zarco the last to wrap up the title in Moto2 at Sepang.
Honda are hot favorites to win the constructors’ championship, while Movistar Yamaha hold a narrow lead in the team championship. Cal Crutchlow has a commanding 17-point lead in the battle for top independent rider. Second place in both Moto2 and Moto3 is still up for grabs.
In reality, these don’t matter all that much. Once the championship is settled, the riders on the grid race for pride. And given that we are talking about the best professional motorcycle racers in the world, there is an awful lot of pride at stake.
So the battle at Valencia will be just as fierce as anything that has come before. If anything, it will be even more fierce, given that nobody has very much to lose.
They will need an extra dash of abandon at Valencia. The circuit is pushed up against a hillside, and encircled by grandstands, cramming a serpentine four kilometer track into a very tight space. Reaching the required Grand Prix length requires a lot of corners, and that drops the average speed.
Valencia is the slowest circuit on the calendar, and with so many tight corners, passing spots are few and far between.
Turn 1 is an obvious candidate, a hard-braking left turn at the end of a long straight. Turn 6, another sharp left hander after a short straight. And a final dive up the inside into Turn 14, after the long and glorious left at Turn 13.
Jonathan Rea stands on the verge of defending his World Superbike title, after finishing second at Jerez in Race 2. The Northern Irishman came out on top of a tussle with his Kawasaki teammate, Tom Sykes, and will enter the final round of the season with an almost unassailable 48-point lead.
Rea and Sykes had a typically spirited fight for second, but once the champion was in front, it was difficult to see him being beaten. Sykes, despite having a faster bike in different areas of the track, was consistently unable to get past his teammate.
As has been the case so often in the past, when the Kawasaki riders fought on track, it was Rea who gained the upper hand, and in doing so he has almost certainly claimed the title.