Roadracing season is here!
While our Canadian tracks are still a bit under the weather, the global roadracing series are getting into gear, with World Supersport launching last weekend, and MotoGP seeing its first race two weeks from this Sunday (March 18, Qatar).
There’s one more test before that race, and MotoGP has already had tests in Sepang and Buriram this year. Here’s a quick rundown of the factory teams, a look at their performance so far this year, and what to expect from them this season … and of course, a look at the 2018 livery.
Marc Marquez is the defending MotoGP champion, winning his fourth title in five years in 2017. Dani Pedrosa finished in fourth in his usual support role. In the last test session at the Buririram track, Marquez finished in fourth and Pedrosa was in first. Who’s going to upset the Honda applecart this season? So far, it looks like nobody. Maybe.
For the past few years, Yamaha has been Honda’s foil, with the rider’s championship in 2015, and generally being the team that gave Big Red the most trouble. But so far this year, Yamaha’s factory team hasn’t seen hoped-for results in pre-season testing. At Buriram’s final session, Yamaha’s highest-placed rider was veteran Valentino Rossi, in 10th; Maverick Vinales, who seemed to have lots of promise after coming in to replace Jorge Lorenzo last year, finished in 12th. The team will have to come a long way before it’s able to challenge Honda for the title this year.
Andrea Iannone didn’t make quite the impact Suzuki hoped he would last year, ending in 13th, with teammate Alex Rins in 16th. But, that was still early days for the Suzuki factory team, which returned in 2015 after a hiatus. This season, excuses are going to get more and more thin, as the team gains experience. Seeing that Rins placed fifth at Buriram’s final day of testing, and sixth at the Sepang test in January, it looks like we might indeed see the team become more of a threat.
Red Bull KTM
KTM has been involved with the MotoGP feeder classes for years, but this is only the second full year for the factory team in the Big Show. This year, they’ve got Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro onboard the machines. Miko Kallio has been testing KTM’s GP bike for years, and he made four wildcard appearances last summer, most notably at the Austrian round, where he finished 10th. But despite that, he’s still on wildcard duty again this year. Espargaro and Smith will be holding down the regular jobs, at least as long as Easpargaro’s back hernia heals. Espargaro crashed hard at the January test, his bike hitting a wall at 250 km/h, but he escaped relatively unscathed; before that, he was ahead of Smith. Espargaro is expected back at Qatar, and Kallio replaced him at the Buriram test. Meanwhile, in testing, Smith hasn’t finished above 16th this year.
Ducati’s long-anemic factory race program was revitalized last season, with Andrea Dovizioso finishing second overall, the best result the factory team has seen in years. Jorge Lorenzo, who came over from Yamaha, was seventh overall. So far this year, with only one exception, neither rider has finished out of the top 10 in a test, with Lorenzo finishing on top the final day of the Sepang test. So far, Ducati is looking like it might be the biggest contender to unseat Honda this year.
Unless something wacky happens, Aprilia won’t be a contender for any wins this year, let alone a title. Scott Redding and Aleix Espargaro both beat out other factory riders in testing, but the Aprilia effort just doesn’t have the budget to compete with the front runners.