2018 MotoGP Preview
For most motorcycle road-racing fans, MotoGP is the superior sport, ranking high above other domestic sports such as the NFL. Each MotoGP weekend provides more energy than the Super Bowl itself. Speaking on football terms, MotoGP fans will actually get 19 Super Bowls in 2018.
And it all begins this weekend under the floodlights of Losail International Circuit in Qatar. But before we head into 2018 World Championship racing, which began in 1949, let’s take a quick preview of the season with some essential fast facts.
1. The 19-round season will feature a 24-rider lineup that includes 10 factory riders, and 14 Independent Rider Team pilots.
2. Five rookies join the 2018 MotoGP grid, all on Independent Rider Teams. Four have won races in either Moto3 or Moto2: Franco Morbidelli (8 wins), Tom Lüthi (16), Xavier Siméon (1) and Takaaki Nakagami (2). Hafizh Syahrin has a number of podium finishes in the intermediate category.
3. The reigning World Champion, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, has taken four of five premier-class titles over the past five seasons, but only one win at Qatar. The Repsol Honda RC213V pilot claimed the win from pole in 2014. The 25-year-old Spaniard recently renewed his contract with Repsol Honda through 2020 MotoGP.
4. When predicting his largest rivals in 2018, Marquez chose Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso and Monster Yamaha Tech3 pilot Johann Zarco. Last season, Dovizioso finished runner-up, 37 points behind Marquez after taking the title fight to the season finale at Valencia. As for Zarco, he finished sixth overall.
5. The other factory Repsol Honda pilot, Dani Pedrosa, will make his 200th premier-class start at Losail International Circuit. He has five podium MotoGP finishes in Qatar, but never won there.
6. The big news in the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP paddock is that Valentino Rossi has re-signed his contract, and will compete through 2020. He suffered some injuries in 2017, but has four wins at Losail. His teammate, Maverick Viñales, will be looking for redemption after last season. Viñales began his debut year with Yamaha with a win at the opening round and round two in Argentina. From there he would only claim one additional win in France, and struggled to finish on the podium.
7. Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso is expected to once again dominate the podium as he chases his debut MotoGP title, and a second for the Ducati brand (first was taken by Casey Stoner in 2007). His teammate Jorge Lorenzo will begin his second year with the Italian brand. The five-time World Champion struggled in 2017, but was showing much strength aboard the GP18 at preseason testing, which included top time in the Sepang MotoGP test.
8. Team Suzuki Ecstar will once again field Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins. The two riders struggled in 2017 MotoGP, finishing 13th and 16th, respectively. But they showed quicker speeds throughout preseason testing.
9. The final two factory teams – Aprilia Racing Team Grisini and Red Bull KTM – will focus on better results as they continue to refine their respective prototypes. The big battle will be between the brothers Pol Espargaró on the KTM RC16, and Aleix Espargaró on the Aprilia RS-GP; Pol is back after suffering some injuries in 2017, and will seek redemption and better results on the Aprilia.
10. In regards to the Independent Team Riders, all eyes will be on the 2017 Rookie of the Year, Johann Zarco. The Frenchman, who claimed three podiums in 2017, was also quickest during the Qatar MotoGP preseason test. The other ITR rider to watch is LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow, who claimed two wins in 2016 aboard the satellite Honda RC213V, but only one podium in 2017, when he finished ninth overall.
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