Our review of the 2016 MotoGP riders continues with the championship runner up. Valentino Rossi ended 2015 just short of a tenth MotoGP title. Here is how he fared in 2016.
Today marks the real start of the 2017 Dakar Rally, with Stage 2 taking competitors on a 803km trip (275km on the timed special) through the Chaco region of Argentina. Navigation wasn’t too hard on the racers for this stage, though the heat and humidity persisted and road hazards abounded.
This allowed KTM’s Toby Price to pull out a small lead over the competition, which doesn’t mean much in the standings, but sets him up with clear road for tomorrow’s stage start, which could prove to be a strong advantage as the Dakar Rally gains in elevation.
Finishing behind Price was KTM teammate Matthias Walkner, who got caught speeding during the liaison section and suffered a five-minute penalty for it. This dropped Walkner to 15th for the day, and put Paulo Gonçalves into the day’s #2 spot – a good position for the Honda rider.
Yamaha’s Xaiver de Soultrait has another strong day, as he rounded out the third-place position on Stage 2. KTM’s Sam Sunderland finished the day fourth, and Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla finished fifth.
In the overall standings, there is less than five minutes covering the Top 7 riders, showing that there is still some sifting left to do, in order to separate the wheat from the chaff. Tomorrow’s 364km special stage should do just that.
The new year has officially started, the real world of contracts finally lining up with the world of motorcycle racing.
Riders who swapped factories are now free of their old contracts, their new contracts having commenced as the world greeted 2017.
If the riders are excited, that gives fans reason to be excited too. Here are 10 reasons to look forward to 2017.
With just ten days to go until the winter test ban comes in to force, on December 1st, teams in both world championships are busy doing their last tests and collecting as much data as possible to take into the winter break.
Testing is already happening on Monday, with some of the World Superbike teams gathering in Jerez. Kawasaki, the SMR Aprilia squad, Althea BMW, and Ten Kate (soon to be Red Bull) Honda are at the Jerez circuit, though the wet weather means there is little going on on track.
Ten Kate are without Nicky Hayden, who has twisted his knee while practice dirt track. The WorldSBK teams are due to stay for a couple more days, and will hope that the better weather forecast for later in the week arrives sooner rather than later.
So much happened at the MotoGP test at Valencia that it is hard to take it all in and cover it in one go. Time offers a little bit of hindsight and perspective, and a chance to digest everything that came at you so fast over the two days at Valencia. So here are a few notes and thoughts looking back.
It is attractive to judge performance in testing just by casting a cursory glance at the timesheets and drawing conclusions from that. But the headline times tell very little of the story.
A more complete analysis means examining every lap, and seeing the kind of consistency and speed each rider can maintain. It is all very well posting a 1’30.0, but if every other lap is a 1’32, then the actual pace is not particularly good.
So I extracted the laps of four of the main title contenders for 2017 from the analysis PDF files on the MotoGP.com website, placed them into a spreadsheet and sorted them from fastest to slowest.
Discarding the properly slow laps (slower than around 1’34.5) allowed some clear patterns to emerge from the two days, especially once I charted them visually.
It has been the most exciting first day of testing for many years. It was reminiscent of the year Valentino Rossi switched to Ducati, and Casey Stoner went to Ducati.
But Tuesday was 2011 on steroids: Jorge Lorenzo to Ducati, Maverick Viñales to Yamaha, Andrea Iannone to Suzuki, KTM entering the class, and four fascinating rookies.
Add in the GP14.2 being replaced by a bevy of GP15s and GP16s, significantly more competitive motorcycles, and you have a test so fascinating and intriguing that it is hard to know where to start.
So let’s start with the timesheets. Maverick Viñales ends the day as fastest, on his first day on the Yamaha, pushing for a quick lap towards the end of the day.
Valentino Rossi was second fastest, his quickest lap set on the 2016 bike he raced on Sunday early in the day. Jorge Lorenzo set the third quickest time on the Ducati, stepping up late in the day to come very close to topping the timesheets.
Marc Márquez was fourth quickest on the 2017 Repsol Honda, though he claimed he would have gone even faster on the 2016 bike. Andrea Dovizioso was fifth, the Ducati rider working with the GP17, while Cal Crutchlow ended the day as sixth on the LCR Honda.
Andrea Iannone made a strong debut on the Suzuki, finishing as seventh, ahead of the Ducatis of Scott Redding and Hector Barbera. Dani Pedrosa rounded out the top ten.
Valencia is supposed to be an emotionally charged race. The last round of the season, the grand finale. The last chance for riders to lay it all on the line, in pursuit of glory. The bowl in which the Ricardo Tormo circuit is set focuses and amplifies the cheers of the crowd, carrying the racing to new levels of intensity.
There was an extra layer of emotion at Valencia this year. The excitement is tinged with the bittersweet taste of parting. There is the largest group of riders moving from one garage to another that I can remember in a very long time.
Riders and their crew become very close, a tight unit that works intensely together. They celebrate success together, and share their despair during the bad times. These men and women have been through a lot together, forging bonds that are not easily broken.
Riders may only be moving a couple of garages away, the parting is no less painful for that.
Those departing felt compelled to put on a good show for the people they leave behind, and they did not disappoint. In Moto3 and Moto2, the departing champions put on brave fights to reprise their title-winning ways, with supporting stars offering fierce opposition to add some luster to their victories.
In the MotoGP class, all the factory riders switching garages dug a little deeper inside themselves, and pulled some outstanding performances out of the bag. The extra emotion of the final weekend of the season produced three great races at Valencia, with three truly deserving winners.
Two down, one to go. The last of the flyaways is always the hardest, in many ways. Three races on three consecutive weekends means that riders never have time to heal from even the small injuries they receive each weekend, from minor falls, or the blisters on their hands.
Spending many hours cloistered in aircraft flying long distance makes catching colds, flu, or other respiratory diseases inevitable. Team members being cooped up together for nearly four weeks means relationships are at best strained, at worst verging on violent.
Then there’s the contrast in climate. Even at its best, Phillip Island can be chilly, so traveling from there to the sweltering tropical heat of Malaysia is a physical shock. To step on a plane in the freezing cold, then step off it to be drenched in sweat is tough for people already drained from so much travel and racing.
Then to race for 45 minutes in punishing heat and humidity, at a track which is physically very challenging, because of the heavy braking zones around the track. The stress, mental and physical, is enormous.
Perhaps it was that stress that caused the MotoGP series to explode at Sepang last year.
Smarting from being beaten into fourth place at Phillip Island by Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo, and Andrea Iannone, Valentino Rossi seized upon the theory apparently put forward by his friend and business partner Alessio ‘Uccio’ Salucci, that Márquez had decided to conspire against Rossi to hand Jorge Lorenzo the 2015 MotoGP title.
Márquez had attempted to accomplish this by beating Lorenzo in Australia. And in the press conference at Sepang, he launched his accusations against the Repsol Honda rider.
Though I am not one to blow my own trumpet, my Phillip Island preview turned out to be prophetic – of course, it helped that my prediction was written just a few hours before the start of practice in Australia.
The Southern Ocean imposed its will on the Australian Grand Prix, and heavy rain and strong winds hampered morning practice, then caused the afternoon practice to be called off.
All three classes used their sessions in the morning, and the Moto3 class set off boldly for FP2, despite worsening conditions. They battled through to an increasingly damp finish, but the rain intensified, postponing MotoGP FP2 for some 40 minutes.
Eventually, the session was given the green light, but only a few riders went out to attempt a few laps. After thirteen minutes, Race Direction decided it was too dangerous. FP2 was red-flagged, and all action canceled for the rest of the day.
The poor weather made most of the day’s action meaningless, but it also had an upside. Hector Barbera finished the red-flagged FP2 session as fastest, while Mike Jones, his replacement in the Avintia team ending in second.
Whatever the circumstances of the session, that goes down in the record books forever. Just as Josh Hayes timed his fast lap in morning warm up at Valencia in 2011 to perfection, and ended up quickest, Mike Jones can say he was second fastest in a MotoGP practice.